For many young people across the District, making good grades begins with making it to school safely. However, safe commutes to school are not always viable for some students. Between walking through dangerous neighborhoods, to fears of being robbed or harassed using public transportation, many area students dread going back to school. And parents and city officials said they believe they should be protected.
Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser kicked off the Safe Passage Program on Aug. 18. This is a new collaborative effort between the deputy mayor of education and the deputy mayor for public safety and justice. The program is part of the city’s Back to School Safety Campaign which will increase safety surveillance around 10 locations with high student traffic: Georgia Avenue Metro, L’Enfant Plaza Metro, Brookland/CUA Metro, Rhode Island Avenue Metro, Anacostia Metro, Minnesota Avenue Metro, Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro, Columbia Heights Metro, NOMA/ Gallaudet Metro, and the Good Hope Road SE corridor.
“DDOT is committed to ensuring all District residents and visitors have access to safe transit options,” D.C. Department of Transportation Interim Director Jeff Marootian said in a statement. “This includes our more than 70,000 District students.”
Guardians, like Lottie Grady, told the AFRO her concerns for her grandson increased greatly after he was robbed at a bus stop on Capitol Hill, near Potomac Gardens at the close of last school year. Because he is a teenager and she, a senior, she said it is impossible for her to travel with him.
“Some bigger boys just came up to him and put him in a chokehold. They grabbed his jacket, shoes, and cell phone and then just walked away,” Grady said. “He was minding his own business, waiting for a bus and these boys traumatized him. I wanted to send him to another school, but the school isn’t the issue – him getting to the school and home safely is.”
Incidents like Grady’s have become increasingly frequent – with some parents now asking that Bowser’s plan continue throughout the school year, because it is slated for only the first week of school.
A WMATA 2016 report showed a decrease in overall crime on Metro, with an upward spike, in very specific incidents – violent assaults and crimes in and around Metro parking lots. Incidents of crimes including aggravated assault, arson, burglary, homicide, theft, motor vehicle theft, rape, robbery and human trafficking – dropped 4.7 percent in 2016 from 2015, according to the report.
“The watchful eye of police is only one portion of the problem; the parents not instilling respect and common decency in their children is the other,” Grady said. “Sometimes it’s the young people yelling, cursing, and just acting aggressive on the trains and buses that unsettles the rest of the riders. Our children shouldn’t have to be subject to that – and the police shouldn’t have to manage your kids.”