CM Allen Urges Collective Action to Address Recent Hill East Shootings.
by Larry Janezich
Last night, CM Charles Allen told a community meeting on the August 28 double shooting in the 1400 block of A Street, SE, “We can’t think of this as only a police issue,” and urged that the community pull together in a collective effort to find meaningful solutions to violence in the neighborhood. One of the victims was Robert Chandler* (see below), a community activist, who was seriously wounded but is recovering and expected to be discharged from the hospital next week. The other victim was shot in the calf and was released from the hospital after being treated. Some 70 neighbors attended the meeting which was held at the Community Action Group Headquarters at 124 15th Street, SE, and organized by ANC6B Chair Chander Jayaraman.
Commander Morgan Kane of the MPD’s First District said police had minimal information on the shootings. So far, she said, the investigation has revealed that a “mixed group was hanging out when two individuals walked up – something was said – and there was gunfire.” There were two guns involved and six shell casings were recovered. “We don’t have a lot of information on who the shooters were,” she added.
Allen, who lives about five blocks away, pointed to actions he had taken in the immediate aftermath: DOT has changed lighting in an effort to create a safer space and he has received a commitment from the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement to insert violence interrupters into the neighborhood. In addition, he is supporting Jayaraman’s efforts to promote community engagement through social events. He stressed the need for residents to engage and get to know the police officers patrolling their streets.
One of the problems which appear to have defied enforcement attempts is the presence in the neighborhood of outsiders who deal drugs. Residents complained that they see a familiar pattern of narcotic unit arrests followed by displacement of the problem to a few blocks away. Often, violence is associated with illegal activity and meetings such as Wednesday night’s meeting results in a temporary increase in MPD activity. Kane explained that she has to deploy resources in a balanced way throughout the First District and urged residents to take advantage of the Mayor’s Private Security Camera Rebate Program, saying “If we can’t prevent crimes, we need the tools to bring justice to victims and victim’s families.” She said the First District Crime Suppression Unit would follow up on the work of the narcotics unit in the 14th Street hot spot.
ANC6B Commissioner Denise Krepp, a frequent critic of the US Attorney’s office failure to prosecute, pointed to a list of about 100 Hill East crimes since 2016 which she had compiled. Of those, only five or six had been prosecuted, and when she asked why cases had not been perused, she said, the response was, “We can’t tell you.” She urged attendees to work together and individually to hold the US Attorney’s office accountable.
Allen said that “Meetings like this keep the momentum going and allow us to move forward. MPD is a great partner, but we need a holistic approach and we can’t just look at enforcement. We have to look at why there’s a problem. Is it resources? Employment? This is your neighborhood and we have to decide what we want the steps forward to be … we can’t have a top down approach.”
The councilmember also urged being careful about the “us vs. them” sentiments evident in some of the concerns raised, referring to different viewpoints expressed by life-long residents and those who are more recent arrivals. Some attendees in the diverse group cited personal experiences illustrating problems relating to police officers while others felt police were not being diligent enough in addressing quality of life issues in the neighborhood. Community activist Maurice Cook stressed that police resources are distributed unequally, and other parts of the city are “ten times worse.” He said that police don’t protect all residents the same and much depends on how you prioritize your own well-being.
Kane said that many times police are put in the middle of what should be a community conversation: “We try to focus on robbery, guns, and shootings.” She urged the community to increase communication with the police and said she would emphasize to her officers the need to engage the residents of the neighborhood on a personal level.
In the interests of furthering community engagement, Jayaraman announced that he was sponsoring a block party at 14th and A Streets, SE, on September 29.
A link to information on the Mayor’s Private Security Camera Rebate Program is here: https://ovsjg.dc.gov/service/private-security-camera-system-incentive-program
*A Go Fund Me page to help cover medical expenses for Robert Chandler is here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/hill-east-together-for-robert