Hamzat Sani, Special to the AFRO

Late Tuesday Mayor Muriel Bowser gathered several of her agency heads to address a 50 percent increase in homicides since last year and spike in violence over the Memorial Day weekend, which claimed the lives of 4 district residents and saw another 10 wounded by gunfire. Bowser addressed a crowd of media and a few community members outside of the Department of For-Hire Vehicles on Shannon Place Southeast with a mural of the late Mayor Marion Barry serving as backdrop for what was at times a testy press conference.

In a Monday press release Mayor Bowser said, “Over the weekend, we deployed additional police and non-law enforcement resources to communities in Wards 7 and 8 experiencing an increase in violence. While an enhanced police presence can help keep residents safe, we know that policing alone will not put a permanent stop to the violence in our communities. We ask residents to partner with us by reporting any criminal activity and send a clear message: violence will not be tolerated.”

Concerned residents gathered on Memorial Day to discuss the alarming uptick in violence.

The release noted that the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) increased staffing levels to nearly 25 percent in the Sixth and Seventh Districts in addition to partnering with the Narcotics and Special Investigation Division, the Special Operations Division, and the Homeland Security Bureau to add additional personnel over the weekend.

On the non-law enforcement side the administration activated the Safer Stronger Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services’ Credible Messengers, and the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Roving Leaders in Wards 5, 7 and 8.   The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, tasked with monitoring all adults on supervised release, will conduct check-ins throughout the week with individuals on probation and parole in the District.

Bowser acknowledged the frustration of community members subject to continued violence noting a gathering of about 200 residents at a Community Planning Meeting held at the Check It Enterprises Event Space on MLK Jr. Ave in Anacostia.  The meeting held on May 28 to address the Ward 8 violence crisis included remarks from Councilmembers Trayon White and Kenyon McDuffie focused on community oriented approaches to curbing the spike in violence.

At Large Council candidate Marcus Goodwin who was present at the gathering said, “People are frustrated with the lack of community and parental engagement to stop systemic violence; as well as the public safety climate that our law enforcement officials and elected leaders have allowed to persist for generations.

Both Bowser and MPD Chief Peter Newsham called for continued community involvement in taking illegal guns off the street and bringing crime suspects to justice.

Newsham went on to provide details on 3 homicide suspects: 17 year old Kaevon Sutton, 16 year old Daquan Gray; and Alonzo Lewis. The 33 year old Lewis is wanted in connection with the double homicide, this past Saturday, of  40-year old Jaquon Helm of Southwest, D.C. and 35-year old Venius Badgett of Southwest, D.C. MPD offers a reward of up to $25,000 to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for any homicide committed in the District of Columbia.

One of the victims of this weekend’s rash of violence was the owner of District Culture in Anacostia. Alexander Mosby was a husband, father and respected member of the community he loved, grew upon and sought to serve.

“Many of the homicides that we are seeing in the city are these minor disputes that evolve into shootings and homicides because of the introduction of an illegal firearm into the incident,” Newsham said.

The Tuesday press conference marks the first time back at the podium since she was granted adoptive custody of a little girl. The Mayor ended the press conference noting that while a little tired she felt lucky to have her little girl.

“The thing that I enjoy the most is looking down at those little eyes looking back at me.”