Hill East Intersection Emerges as Nuisance Hotspot: 15th & Independence Ave & A Street, SE
By Larry Janezich
ANC6B Commissioner Chander Jayaraman hosted a community meeting Monday night in the Community Action Group building on 15th Street, to give nearby residents a forum to discuss quality of life issues and more serious crimes which they say have gotten noticeably worse in the past six months. The list of concerns is long: drug dealing and use, gambling, littering, public drinking, late night block parties by non-residents, loud music from parked cars, abandoned vehicles, and thefts and robberies at the 7-11.
Neighbors say the situation has gotten out of control, alleging sale and use of heroin. Confronting transgressors, they say, invites curses and threats. Also, cars coming in from Maryland and Virginia carry occupants who contribute to the problem. One neighbor said it’s “absurd” there are no police techniques to address the problems. Another said he feels more fearful now in the neighborhood than he did 20 years ago.
MPD First District officials Captain Michael Pulliam and Lt. Daniel Dyn were on hand to talk about what can and cannot be done.
The bottom line is that MPD can’t do much. Pulliam agreed with ANC6B Commissioner Denise Krepp (15th Street divides her district from Jayaraman’s) who pointed out that arrests for drug sales or use are not prosecuted. He also said that undercover police have not been able to make purchases in the neighborhood, and that police officers have to witness a crime before they have probable cause to make a stop and search. The strategy police are pursuing is displacement and to that end, a light tower has been installed – admittedly a temporary fix – to provide relief. MPD also urges residents to take advantage of the city’s program to pay for security cameras for residents.
On one hand, residents feel the city that is not responding to their pleas for help. Numerous calls to 911, they say, are ineffective. On the other hand, some residents point to the absence of the Boys and Girls Club and lack of other social opportunities for youths. Many of those who some residents see as problematic have long standing ties to the neighborhood through parents or relatives.
Given the limited number of things the police can do, Jayaraman asked those in attendance, “What can we as a community do? How can we send a message?”
One 50 year resident in the audience urged greater engagement between the neighbors – the opening a dialogue through community meetings where neighbors could agree to standards of behavior based on mutual respect. MPD endorsed the value of community events as a way to get a conversation started.
Mayor Bowser’s Ward Six representative, Tyla Williams, offered to facilitate interaction with city agencies to address some of the nuisance problems outside of the purview of MPD.
For his part, Jayaraman – who says he engages with jobless neighbors on a weekly basis offering to help them find jobs (but you have to be clean) – pledged to follow up the meet-the-neighbor’s party he sponsored last summer with another party in July.
Asked to comment on the meeting, Jayaraman said, “The discussion last night was a microcosm of the challenges facing gentrifying neighborhoods across the city. My hope is that we can find a balance that enables residents to feel safe while allowing the peaceful congregation of those who grew up in our neighborhoods.”