CM Allen, MPD & DC Housing Authority Police On Recent Shooting/Crime Near Potomac Gardens
by Larry Janezich
Public officials turned out in force for Monday night’s Safety Meeting at Chamberlain School in Southeast organized by ANC6B07 Commissioner Kelly Waud: Councilmember Charles Allen, Deputy Chief David Taylor of the DC Housing Authority, 1st District Commander Morgan Kane, and 1st District Captain Aubrey Mongal. Waud was looking for new ideas on what the community can do to address the incidents of violent crime in the community.
Police say there have been 6 violent crimes in the neighborhood in the past 60 days – the most alarming was a shooting on Saturday, August 31, at 1200 I Street, the entrance to Potomac Gardens. One of two juveniles on a moped opened fire toward a group outside the complex. There were no injuries but the windshield of an Uber driver was hit. Video led to the identification and arrest of two juveniles and the recovery of a gun. In addition, there were three robberies and two assaults with a deadly weapon. All of the cases have been closed except one which was a domestic violence issue. MPD says perpetrators in all of the incidents were from outside the neighborhood.
Of the instances of gunshots where shell casings were recovered but no apparent target was evident, police say they classify these not as crimes of violence, but as an unlawful discharge of a weapon or as a property crime.
Waud’s particular concern was the area between 12th and 14th south of Pennsylvania Avenue where groups gather, including the 1100 block of K Street, 13th and I Streets, and other nearby corners.
Deputy Chief Taylor said that much of the hanging out around Potomac Gardens and Hopkins Apartments happens because friends and relatives of the residents who live in those places congregate in “comfort zones” outside the complex because there are restrictions on who can enter. This can lead to violence if there is conflict in the city; people who hang out here are easy targets because they are there every day.
As for what to do about it, in three meetings in September concerning violent crime on or near Capitol Hill, police have emphasized a strategy of engaging the community to be its eyes and ears in a partnership to prevent crime as opposed to looking at MPD solely as a tool for enforcing the law after the fact – a new emphasis on preventing rather than being reactionary.
Commander Kane, who last Monday had appeared at a routine MPD crime briefing before ANC6D to talk about shootings in Southwest, stressed then that the police needed help from the community. She and CM Charles Allen had carried the same message to a September 5 meeting in Hill East regarding shootings in the 1400 block of A Street, SE.
Kane and Allen reinforced that message last night. Allen emphasized his support for Kane, commending her strategic approach aimed at developing a closer and more cooperative relationship between the community and the police. Allen cited the virtually invisible work of undercover police, the efforts of the Neighborhood Office of Safety and Engagement in violence interruption, the success of the Pathways Program in getting at-risk individuals off the streets and into the workforce, and the construction of positive spaces such as the two triangle parks on Potomac Avenue to help bring the neighborhood together. Allen praised the work of non-profit organizations such as Little Lights as a way for volunteers to get the neighborhood involved in solving its problems. He said MPD can’t do it all – that residents share responsibility for prevention.
Kane cited the importance of mobilizing city agencies to address structural problems such as lighting, the lack of parking signs which permit outsiders to park all day on I street between 12th and 13th Streets, and the removal of furniture on the street which encourages groups to gather. Kane urged residents to sign up for the 1st District listserv Group to receive community alerts on violent crime (see below)* and she appealed to residents to understand the limitations under which police have to operate – there is no anti-loitering law in DC (having been ruled unconstitutional by the courts). She said that the 1st District is the busiest in the city, with the highest number of calls for service – but do not hesitate to call 911. Kane asked residents to pay attention to how laws and budget matters impact the police, and whether or not cases resulting from police arrests are being prosecuted. She encouraged the use of video surveillance cameras (see below)** and said that though they are not an effective deterrent, they help police close cases. She said, “I would love to see you come together – you want your community back – we need to hear from you and be able to work with you.”
Commissioner Waud summed up, saying what she was hearing is the need for better lighting, use of video cameras, appropriate parking signs, attention to other structural issues, engagement, and volunteers. Waud, for her part, announced she is developing a plan to turn two redesigned Potomac Avenue triangle parks into the kind of community interactive space which Allen envisions. She sees the space as a place for exercise groups both private and perhaps from Atlas Gym, playground use by students from Pioneer Academy, and events such as an upcoming Harvest Fest she plans to organize as well as smaller community events. She welcomes ideas. She urged community to support for non-profits like Little Lights and For the Love of Children, either by volunteering or contributing financial support.
**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