By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
Mayor Muriel Bowser and District officials were on hand this week during National Crime Victims Rights Week to discuss initiatives taken to assist people and communities who are victims of crime as well as curb violent acts in D.C.
“We are here today during National Crime Victims Rights Week to continue a community wide conversation about public safety in the District,” Bowser said during a press conference at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
“The number of shootings in D.C. has stayed frustratingly steady over the last several years and, unfortunately, over time those shootings have become more deadly,” Bowser said.
“Our answer to this type of crime must involve both policing and healing. In the budget I sent to the (D.C.) Council this involves both.”
The Mayor highlighted the $1.6 million commitment via the FY 2020 budget to the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants. She also mentioned the $3 million infusion into the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, but she pointed out that most of the District’s budget would impact public safety in the end.
“Given the root causes of violence we also know that there are no lines that separate these investments,” Bowser said. “Investments in housing are investments in public safety. Investments in education are investments in public safety. Likewise, health investment and healthcare are investment in safety.”
Robert Contee, Assistant Chief of the MPD spoke about the trickle down impact and responsibilities the District shares in connection to gun violence.
“Anytime a member of our community is gunned down we’re all responsible for bringing the person or persons to justice,” Contee said. “Over the last five days there have been four homicides in the District.”
“Time after time we see the use of illegal guns tear residents, neighbors and families apart. These acts of violence are unacceptable in our city.” Contee made a public plea for people with information on the recent acts of violence to call the hotline.
Michelle M. Garcia, Director of Victim Services and Justice Grants was also on hand to unpack how her department would help in the upcoming months.
“We know when violent incidents occur neighborhoods are left hurting, neighborhoods are left hurting and we want to do everything we can to help them heal,” Garcia said. “Building on the work that our office has already done on enhancing the District’s capacity to respond to trauma, the mayor has invested over $1.6 M to create three sites in Wards 7 and 8 in communities that have had hit high levels of not only violence but individual, community generational and historical trauma.”
Garcia spoke of having peer navigators in areas to help communities as well as trauma specialists and and training for community leaders to assist with dealing with the trauma.
“We know that hurt people hurt people,” Garcia said. “And when we address those underline hurts and help people heal we know we can create a greater stronger D.C.”
To view the complete FY 2020 budget and capital plan please go to https://cfo.dc.gov/page/annual-operating-budget-and-capital-plan