By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
The D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety held a roundtable last week to check in on two efforts to curb the growing gun violence in the District. Officials from the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement and the Office of the Attorney General’s community based “Cure the Streets” initiative- two projects in D.C.’s public health based violence prevention and intervention offerings- spoke about progress, outcomes and next steps.
According to the Metropolitan Police Department, the District experienced 19 homicides this year alone. That number is a 73% increase from 11 homicides during the same time last year. In 2018 D.C. had 160 homicides.
D.C.’s AG Karl Racine, Del McFadden, director of Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE) and support staff gave oral testimony to the committee and other members of the D.C. Council including Committee Chair Charles Allen (D- Ward 6), Kenyan R. McDuffie (D- Ward 5), Elissa Silverman (At-Large), and Trayon White, Sr. (Ward 8). The roundtable was held at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania, N.W.
ONSE was established as part of the Mayor’s budget, and the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Act (Near Act). ONSE focuses on its Pathways Program which works with 50 participants who are “at risk of being involved in violence through a health-based approach focusing on multiple services.” ONSE also provides community outreach and case management, community stabilization efforts and violence intervention and prevention tactics.
McFadden spoke of the participants in the Pathways Program who have obtained employment through their program and pointed to the over 200 families the ONSE initiative had positively impacted. The ONSE operating budget is about $2.1 million.
The Attorney General’s “Cure the Streets” Initiative was bolstered by a $360,000 infusion last year in an effort to reduce violent crime. The program is based on the CURE violence model which treats the issue like a public health based position and treats the violence like a disease, according to officials and the website.
“Cure The Streets” approaches the issue from three angles: Interrupting potential violent conflicts and disputes, identify and treat individuals at high risk for conflict with support services and change the norms around violence. They have violence interrupters that help to assuage disputes in the community.
Both initiatives would require more resources and staff in order to properly evaluate outcomes. “Cure The Streets” would like to see at least doubling the number of sites that are now in operation. Currently there are sites in Wards 5 and 8.
Allen supported adding more funding to the two initiatives and said the roundtable provides “a check-in to have the agencies talk about the good work their doing and also make sure they’re ready for that type of investment.”
“We have a budget coming up soon and I would encourage a significant investment and I know from my perspective we would be looking to increase funds. If we can increase more sites and the number of violence interrupters it would make significant differences in neighborhoods across D.C.”
The conversation got emotional during the Q & A period as Council member McDuffie declared, “we are in a state of emergency.”
When he asked Racine how much funding they acquired for the project, Racine said about $400,000, in combination with the initial money from the Council’s effort. McDuffie, added that the initial investment amount was “peanuts” when you look at how much a homicide costs families and the fiscal costs to the city at large.
Council member Robert C. White (D-At-large). said reducing crime would require a financial commitment saying, “It’s not always about money, but it does cost money to do ministry.”
The public will have an opportunity to provide testimony at upcoming hearings. For more information please contact the D.C. Council’s office for a calendar of events.