Monday, February 26, 2007

Shaw anti-crime meeting

From Jim, but I decided to throw it over here:

This is to follow-up on the email that I sent you concerning the Shaw Anti-Crime Meeting that was held at the United House of Prayer for All People last Wednesday night. I attended the meeting and would like to share the following information with you:

As it turned out, the meeting was hosted by Council Member Jack Evans, but was co-hosted by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2C and the East Central Civic Association. Mahdi Leroy Thorpe, President, East Central Civic Association, provided welcoming remarks at this meeting and Commissioner Doris Brooks, Chairman of ANC 2C, did the invocation. In addition to Council Member Evans, other special guests in attendance were Mayor Adrian Fenty; MPD Police Chief Cathy Lanier; DC Superior Court Chief Judge Rufus King; United States Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor; Acting Attorney General for the District of Columbia Linda Singer; City Council Chairman Vincent Gray; DC Department of Public Works Director William Howland; DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Acting Director Lisa Morgan; DC Department of Parks and Recreation Acting Director Wanda Durden; DC Department of Transportation Acting Director Emeka Moneme; DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services Director Vincent Schiraldi; Cedric Hendricks, a Deputy Director from the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency; Ronald Moten and Juahar Abraham, from the Peaceaholics, as well as others.

Council Member Evans opened the meeting with comments about the recent escalation of crime in certain parts of the Shaw community and characterized the phenomenon as a resurgence of activity that had been brought under control in the past. Specifically, he made reference to the increased incidence of violence in the community and cited the historical conflict between the young persons who associate themselves with the area surrounding 5th and O Streets, N.W., and those who refer to themselves as the 7th and O Street, N.W. crew, as a major factor contributing to the social problems that residents currently face in the community. According to many of those who made comments or asked questions at the meeting, the return of rather heavy open-air drug activity, the assaults and robberies of innocent persons, and the overall regression that the community is experiencing on the crime front seems to stem from the delinquent and criminal behavior of folks who hang out in those areas. As you have probably heard, there have been a number of shootings near 5th and O; 7th and O; 8th & O, N.W. and the feeling is that most of them are retaliatory, but that others are related to the criminal behavior of youths who are largely out of control. A good deal of attention was also focused on the extent to which there are problems at the new Kennedy Recreation Center. Several folks said that there are not enough staff to engage children in productive activity and one even suggested that illegal drugs are being sold at and around this location. As is typically the case when Council Member Evans has held these types of town hall meetings, individual residents with complaints are directed to the official from the city government who his responsible for addressing such complaints. For example, the folks who complained about the playground were asked to talk to the Acting Director of Parks and Recreation. Those who had police concerns were asked to speak with Commander McCoy or to a PSA leader. A few persons were referred to the Director of Public Works and maybe one or two others were asked to speak with the Acting Director of the DC Department of Transportation.

Mayor Fenty wasn't expected to arrive until 6:30 p.m. When he came he was allowed to make brief remarks, essentially, restating his commitment to hold his cabinet accountable for improving our public safety. Due to another commitment, Mr. Fenty left at or about 7:15 p.m. The same was the case for Chief Lanier. Chief Lanier arrived on time and was the first speaker to address the crowd. A number of persons from her command staff were there, including Regional Operations Command Assistant Chief Peter Newsham and Third District Commander Larry McCoy; an assortment of captains, lieutenants, sergeants and officers were also present. Another meeting required Chief Lanier to leave at roughly 7:00 p.m., but I must say that Chief Newsham and Commander McCoy both represented her well in her absence.

The short of it is that maybe 15 persons got to ask a question or make a comment in the space of the 90 minutes that we were there and, interestingly, there were so many government officials present that a number of them never got a chance to make a statement. If nothing else, Council Member Evans showed that he could bring the government out into the community to provide them with some reassurance that their concerns are being taken seriously and that there is an effort underway to deal with them comprehensively. As you may know, Council Member Evans use to hold such meetings in the Ward Two section of Shaw East on a quarterly basis for many years. As the crime picture began to improve over the years, he held them less frequently but, if nothing else, the sentiment that came out of last week's meeting is that he should revive the quarterly schedule until or unless things substantially improve.

Rev. Willie Borden and others from Scriptural Cathedral Church, 810 O Street, N.W., are taking the leadership on the neighborhood level for convening a task force to follow-up on the issues that were raised and the recommendations made to city officials at the Town Hall meeting. In fact, this group will be meeting on tomorrow, Tuesday, February 27, 2007, at 2:30 p.m. at the church. I plan to attend this meeting to find out how those of us who live on the eastern side of New Jersey Avenue, N.W. will be able to relate to this process, as we once did when I was initially elected to ANC 5C in 1988.

At the next meeting of the BACA, I am going to ask the group to pass a resolution that petitions Ward Five Council Member Harry L. Thomas, Jr. to establish a quarterly Anti-Crime Town Hall Meeting schedule for those of us who live in the Ward Five portion of the Shaw community. That is, we suffer from many of the same issues that afflict our neighbors to our west (in Ward Two); many of us walk in that part of the community to shop at the giant, to get hair cuts and/or to attend church, so we have a shared interest in making certain that those neighborhoods which exist both on the Ward Two and the Ward Five sides of New Jersey Avenue, N.W. are safe places where socially productive persons can reside and thrive. Unfortunately, when I tried to convince Mr. Thomas' predecessors of the wisdom of replicating Jack Evans' Crime Task Force process in our neighborhood, frankly, the recommendation was not met with success. However, I am more hopeful of a favorable response at this time with Harry Thomas, Jr. in place -- a young man who is demonstrating himself to be an energetic and more engaged leader in our section of Ward Five.

If any of you are interested and able to attend tomorrow's meeting at Scripture Cathedral, please don' t hesitate to do so. I have known Rev. Borden for many years; I have collaborated with him on many community projects in the past; he is a former police officer and is one who "says what he means and means what he says!"


Jim Berry
Bates Area Civic Association, Inc.


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