Six people were shot near North Capitol Street last night “near a section of the District that the police have described as volatile,” according to the Washington Post — buried back on B04 in today’s paper. You have to hunt through other “news” such as the tragedy of teen girls trying to find the right bikini, or the head-scratching insistence of the Post that the years-old story of Chandra Levy is worth retelling in a twelve part episode. (I’m not with those who claim media conspiracies, but you do have to wonder about the Post’s choice of “news” some days.)
Is that section of the District really “volatile?” The violence last night was on Lincoln Road around T Street, an area that also is now featuring old brick apartments renovated to become $300,000+ condos and gentrifying row houses become townhomes. A block or two away, numerous homes on Rhode Island Avenue are becoming high-priced residences. This is a neighborhood that is striving to liberate itself from that old violent stereotype. But like the bony hand of “It” poking through a street culvert in a Stephen King novel, the long deathly grip of street violence is hard to defeat.
This violence follows an episode the previous night that left someone dead near North Capitol and O Streets, and violence on or near other parts of this long north-south corridor that some planners dream can become a magnificent gateway to the city. Like the violence that has turned the Trinidad section of Ward 5 into a locked-down war zone, the shootings in the North Capitol neighborhoods seem to be perpetrated by drugs or other disputes; but the victims are more random, often innocent children or passersby.
I follow the crime news closely each day; the Metropolitan Police have extremely active listserves for each police district, and I follow those for Trinity’s district 5D and our neighboring district 4D. I am impressed by how many citizens communicated directly and continuously with the police, and even more interested in how often the commanders reply to these messages — and even Chief of Police Cathy Lanier will send messages in the middle of the night. Clearly, if vigilance and active engagement of citizens and police could stop the violence, we’d live in a much more peaceful city.
Too many citizens, however, draw the line at sharing specific information about criminals with the police. In Trinidad last week, even as a 13-year-old boy lay dead from yet another shooting, there was a neighborhood rally to speak out against the reluctance of the residents to “snitch” on the perpetrators. People are afraid of retaliation; and many do not trust the police. Fear + Mistrust = Death
MPD and neighborhood leaders are addressing this problem directly. Just last night, in her most recent message on the 5D listserv, Chief Lanier spoke about several key arrests in the Trinidad neighborhood and she added this note of appreciation for citizen cooperation:
“The aforementioned arrests could not have been accomplished without the help of our community that serves as our eyes and ears and the dedicated service of the various agencies involved. I applaud the community for supplying the tips that contributed to these arrest and look forward to further assistance. As always I encourage you to continue to supply them and provide info to us regarding criminal activity in your neighborhood. Remember you can do this anonymously by calling 1-888-919-Crime (tip line) or texting 50-411. You have my word that the Metropolitan Police Department is committed to the safety and well-being of the community and will continue to work diligently with you to address all concerns.”
I urge members of our wide Trinity family to be active participants in this effort to defeat the wave of criminal activity in our local neighborhoods. We are constantly working on campus security, and I applaud the vigilance of Chief Stewart and her team in our Department of Public Safety. We have an excellent track record for safety on campus, and will do everything possible to keep it that way. But beyond our campus, we also have a responsibility to work in cooperation with the police and community leaders to defeat this protracted crisis of violence in our city.
I welcome comments and ideas from readers about solutions to the violence. Click on the comments/questions link on the left side of this page, or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org