December 16, 2019
Anyone who awakened to approximately 20 rounds of gunfire this morning didn’t need to attend the meeting at Israel Baptist Church at 1251 Saratoga Ave NE to realize that gun violence is on the rise in Ward 5. Neither did the residents who witnessed a brutal murder in the 1100 block of Rhode Island Avenue on Saturday, December 14th at 10:20 am. This was one of a series of meetings Councilman McDuffie held to address the community’s concerns on the growing gun violence and murders.
“Nobody in a civilized society should have to experience that. Sadly, it has become for some in our community a way of life.” Those were part of McDuffie’s opening comments regarding the shooting on Rhode Island Avenue where a young man was brutally murdered in broad daylight. McDuffie was joined by Metropolitan Police Department’s Fifth District Commander William FitzGerald and Captain Moore, Del McFadden, Executive Director of the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE), Cotey Wynn of Cure the Streets, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), a host of ANC Commissioners and other community leaders. “What concerns me most…is the amount of bullets that were fired from a gun at 10:30 in the morning on a Saturday on Rhode Island Avenue. A route that I travel frequently and I know a lot of folks in this room travel as well”, McDuffie expressed with a sense of disdain and concern.
Commander FitzGerald relayed to the audience that there is a feud between several neighborhood gangs at the heart of these shootings. FitzGerald characterized Saturday’s shooting as “horrific.” “It’s beyond just shooting rounds off down the street at somebody and hoping you hit a target. That murder Saturday was horrific. I don’t want to sugar coat it. They stood over that young man and killed him.” He went on to express his concern that any number of people could have been victims and it could have been a lot worse. This feud has produced shootings across the 4th and 2nd districts. He also mentioned the high-visibility campaign that is now underway. It’s hard to miss the nearly 24-7 police presence stationed on the corners of Rhode Island Avenue, Montana Avenue, Channing Street, Saratoga Avenue, and 14th Street usually with lights flashing.
Mr. McFadden (ONSE) highlighted the importance of working with the most at-risk individuals who either play a role in or are victims of violence. McFadden referenced the 9-week Pathways Program as its primary outreach vehicle. The key to success is “meeting them where they are and providing a myriad of different supports and services to meet their physiological and mental health needs,” McFadden said. The 9 weeks include job training, mindset changing, conflict resolution, retreats, and a host of other services in conjunction with other city agencies such as the Department of Employment Services (DOES) which provides a $14 dollars an hour stipend.
The most compelling story came from Deric, a young man who knew Saturday’s victim. He painted a picture of how difficult it is for young men to get out of the cycle of violence. His tale of how homelessness, the lack of a permanent residence, no skills and guidance create a recipe for violence. He pleaded to the elders in the audience to try and reach out to some of these youths they pass by each day. “Constantly being pushed down …drives you to do these things. I’ve tried so hard to find a job. I don’t have a criminal record. I’ve been on over 50 interviews…it’s not that easy….[but] force us to do better, ya’ll the adults. Push us in the right direction. There’re not a lot of people out here showing us love.” The crowd applauded at the end of Deric’s impassioned talk. McDuffie thanked Deric for the courage sharing his story and promised to connect him with resources to help him get out of his current situation.
McDuffie concluded the meeting with a passionate appeal to the audience. “MPD cannot solve this problem on their own This isn’t something we can arrest our way out of. The Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement is doing some work but they’re not going to solve this by themselves. It’s going to take the collective voice of the community saying enough is enough. There’s a culture of gun violence that exists in these communities. It’s not that these young men and women don’t care about being arrested. It’s just that they care more about having a gun to kill before they get killed. It’s a mentality of survival of the fittest and that’s a problem…and it’s going to take everybody working together to solve it. There’s a crisis out here. It’s critical.”