D.C. Council member Trayon White, a Democrat who represents Ward 8, has had enough of the violence in his jurisdiction and issued a call for an aggressive plan of action to put a stop to it.
White held a news conference on Oct. 27 at the John A. Wilson Building with several political and community leaders of organizations that stand with his call to end the violence in Ward 8.
“We are in a war zone, a state of emergency,” White said. “We as a city say that crime is down but in our ward crime is up. We talk about gentrification but we face genocide.”
As of Oct. 27, there have been 95 homicides in the District of Columbia, a 14 percent decrease so far with 201, according to data from the D.C. Police Department. Police crime statistics also show that assault with a dangerous weapon has declined 21 percent from 2016.
White is talking about the recent surge in Ward 8, with its homicide rate increasing by 14 percent since last with year with 49 deaths as of Oct. 31. He noted that his ward has the highest homicide rate across the city and while assaults have decreased overall, he said one-third of all assaults in the District happen in Ward 8. He pointed out that has been the trend over the past several years.
“We are here today because as the council member for Ward 8, I can’t just stand by and ignore what is happening,” White said. “Violent crime demands immediate attention from all of my colleagues in government including council members and the executive office. Both entities must acknowledge the challenges that we are facing and the impact that it is having. Beyond acknowledgement of the issue, I am calling on my colleagues to join me in my commitment to do something.”
White issued a 42-page document, “Red Ribbon Cease Fire” that details his strategy to stop violence in his ward. The action plan includes more deliberate interaction with the ward’s churches, schools and businesses more proactive action on the part of the community such as walks in areas where violence has often taken place.
On Oct. 31 – Halloween –White held a walk.
The plan also calls for support for Ward 8 organizations such as the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative, Manpower DC, and the Future Foundation with government money given to them to help alleviate violence in the community.
White said in the fiscal year 2018 budget, he requested $3.2 million in anti-violence funds “but my plea fell on deaf ears,” noting that his council colleagues weren’t supportive of that amount. He managed to get $750,000, he said.
Keeone Bassett is a Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commissioner for district 8B07. Bassett is fully behind White. “I was born in Southeast and now I am raising my kids in Southeast,” she said. “I am getting calls daily about shootings and killings. This has to stop and we have to come together.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) was overseas and no one from her administration was present at the news conference. The lack of a mayoral representative was noticed. “This is sad,” Jauhar Abraham, a former leader of the anti-gang violence organization Peaceoholics, said. “No one from the mayor’s office has responded to our call. This doesn’t have the interest of this administration.”
Some leaders in Ward 8 said they didn’t know about the news conference. “I didn’t receive any notification about it,” Christopher Hawthorne, an advisory neighborhood commissioner who represents district 8E05, told the AFRO. Hawthorne said that White is headed in the right direction and must remain focused on what he is trying to do.
D.C. Council members Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), Anita Bonds (D-At Large), and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) did attend the news conference. McDuffie, who said that some neighborhoods in his ward are experiencing violence at the level that is in Ward 8, supported White.
“I am in constant contact with Council member White on this,” McDuffie said. “There is a culture of violence in this city that needs to stop. Kids shouldn’t have to fear going to the playgrounds and the recreation centers. We have to stop this gun violence. The problem is illegal guns. Guns don’t shoot themselves.”
Tyrone Parker, the executive director of the Alliance for Concerned Men, said that in 1991, the District had 481 homicides and in 2012, the number had dropped significantly to 88. Still, he said, that is too many “and we need to come together and love each other.”
“We will be in the streets like we’ve always been.” Parker said, “to stop the violence.”