D.C. agencies and residents in the Petworth community gathered July 27 for an afternoon of food, fun, and entertainment called “Beat the Streets.” The event was part of a community outreach effort by the D.C. government to strengthen relationships and assist poor residents in Ward 4.

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District agencies present at the “Beat the Streets” event included the Metro Transit Police Department, University of the District of Columbia, Drug Free Youth.com, MedStar Family Choice, and the Department of Employment Services, among others. “This is really nice, they really need to do more of this,” said Terry W., 60, a longtime resident of Petworth who said that gentrification has increased costs so much that he can no longer afford to live in the area.

“The gentrification has made it more difficult,” said Carolyn Smith, clinical director of the Georgia Avenue Family Support Collaborative, a nonprofit organization that serves families in Ward 4 with children under the age of 18. “We work with the homeless families that come from D.C. General. It has been virtually impossible to find affordable housing for those families in Ward 4 now. We used to work with landlords that helped us and kept their rents reasonable, now most have sold their properties, torn them down, and made condos out of them.”

Despite the hardships gentrification has caused on the area’s residents, the event enabled them to relax and enjoy go-go beats and R&B music. “We’re just here to enjoy ourselves and have fun,” said Nicole Stewart, manager of the girls dance group Eesha’s World from New Jersey. “I’ve been doing this for 12 years now and I love D.C. I think getting together with the police is lovely because they get to see the other side. They’re protecting us and we feel safe, I’ve never had any problems with the police.”

Police Lt. A.W. Washington was in charge of the event. “We sponsor street activities in the community and bring different resources in one location and encourage people to interact with their neighbors and the police officers, meet city officials, and come out and take advantage of the city agencies that are here,” Washington told the AFRO.

Washington credits the police department’s partnership with the community as the reason for low crime in the area. “The crime in this area has been significantly been reduced,” he said. “Our partnership with the community has been outstanding, and because of that we have been able to reduce crime by double digits.  The last violent crime was about three or four months ago.”

According to the police crime data, as of Aug. 2, the immediate area had two incidents of violent crime and 17 incidents of property crime, mostly theft, in 2016.