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Criminal Justice Coordinating Council releases gun violence reduction plan for DC

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An independent DC agency has released a report outlining a gun violence reduction strategy for the city, with some proponents of the plan saying it has the potential to provide a comprehensive roadmap that tackles surging violent crime in a way that the mayor and political leaders don’t have.

But there are still lingering questions about whether the plan will amount to more than words on paper and how much it overlaps with programs the city is already running.

“I think we have a great document to build on,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said at a community meeting Thursday night to discuss the plan. “We are here urgently working on a holistic approach like what is pictured here to help people choose a different path.”

The “Strategic Plan for the Reduction of Armed Violence”, published this month by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC), includes a set of 16 recommendations that experts say would reduce violent crime in the short term and begin to alleviate the socioeconomic factors that drive violence in DC over time.

The report recommends that the city establish a “peace room” where data and crime analysts, violence reduction officers and government agency liaisons coordinate immediate responses to shootings that go well with the beyond the police. He also asks DC to call weekly meetings to review each shooting incident; create a city-wide database to coordinate services between agencies for each person under supervision; increase the number of violence responders and create an academy to train them, among other things.

“The district is unique in that it is one of the few cities in the nation that has the talent, capacity and resources to significantly reduce gun violence in the city,” said the report compiled by the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform. “However, it lacks the political commitment, coordination and a coherent strategy to reduce armed violence.”

In recent years, the district has established a permanent gun violence prevention office and announced a slew of initiatives offering holistic approaches to addressing gun violence. Some of these programs, such as the Passport Transitional Employment Program, have been largely celebrated for their success. But what critics say is missing is an overarching framework to coordinate resources around a mission that effectively reduces violence in the city. Bowser’s flagship crime-fighting initiative, Building Blocks DC, has become a theory that even top city officials have struggled to define.

The CJCC’s proposed strategic plan, according to its authors and DC officials, could provide the roadmap the city needs.

“It’s starting to create one strategy, not several disparate strategies,” said City Councilman Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who chairs the Justice and Public Safety Committee and sits on the CJCC. “This is the pivot and the turning point that is potentially ahead of us.”

DC’s Director of Gun Violence Prevention Linda K. Harllee Harper said the city will use the report as the basis for its work and expressed pride that the district has already made progress on much of this. which was described in the document.

“Opportunities for public and government input will finalize the plan,” she said in a message. “The goal is to create a plan that can be fully embraced by the city.”

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Public safety has become the top concern for a growing percentage of DC residents as violent crime continues to devastate neighborhoods across the city. Last year, the District topped 200 homicides for the first time since 2003; as of Thursday, he is on track for an even higher number of murders this year. Robberies are also up more than 50% from the same point in 2021, DC police say Data. A Washington Post poll published in February found that 36% of respondents cite crime, violence or guns as the district’s top problem, twice as many as in a 2019 Post poll.

There is additional pressure to communicate a violence mitigation strategy ahead of the June 21 Democratic primary, when Bowser will face left-wing challengers who have made public safety a centerpiece of their campaigns. Experts say the new strategic plan provides a response to swaths of DC voters who have called for ways to address violence outside of just resorting to law enforcement, but are looking increasingly desperately to feel safe.

If implemented, the report’s authors say their method can reduce the number of homicides, non-fatal shootings and armed robberies each year by 10% – a measure they say they have achieved in many countries. other jurisdictions with a similar approach. The report prioritizes intervention while including recommendations targeting the underlying causes and risk factors of violence such as poverty and chronic unemployment.

At the center of the report is a recommendation to “implement a comprehensive, coordinated, citywide gun violence reduction strategy,” which experts describe as a data-driven approach that has been used in cities like Boston and Oakland. The strategy is to use data to identify those most at risk of gun violence and provide them with intensive services, supports and opportunities. It also encourages police to use a tactic called “targeted enforcement,” which diverts police engagement away from petty crime and toward mitigating violence.

The document also suggests the district launch a “Guaranteed Income Pilot Program,” which would provide 200 Black families with children under age 10 with a monthly stipend of $750, in addition to other initiatives targeting the root causes of poverty. violence.

“The idea is for it to be a living, breathing document that has iterations over time,” said David Muhammad, executive director of the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform.

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The district has already invested in some programs outlined in the strategic plan, Muhammad and city officials said. The Child and Family Services Agency, for example, has long-term success centers that are similar to the community resource centers described in the report. More recently, the city launched its People of Promise Initiative using data compiled by Muhammad. This initiative identifies those most at risk of armed violence and dedicates resources to them, a central tenet of the strategic plan.

“I want to say that the recommendations are encouraging because we have already started work in one form or another in each of the recommendations that the NICJR has put forward,” said Harllee Harper at the public meeting. “We are encouraged because it means we are heading in the right direction.”

Community members present at the public meeting pushed Muhammad and city officials to commit funds for the recommendations set out in the report. The draft budget for fiscal year 2023 includes a Investment of $1.7 million in life coaches to work with DC’s most at-risk residents The funding will allow for 20 family support workers and three supervisors, the city said. The strategic plan recommends 62 life coaches, but city leaders have said they want to roll out the program in waves. Both Muhammad and Harllee Harper said they hoped to work together “soon” to develop implementation plans.

Peace to DC founder Roger Marmet, who lost his 22-year-old son Tom to gun violence in 2018, said he was “surprised, impressed and encouraged” to see Bowser show up for the public meeting Thursday evening. But he said he was looking for city budgets to reflect their commitment to the plan.

“I’m not 100% convinced, and I won’t be until we see these specific recommendations implemented with fidelity, with outside evaluation, with constant improvement,” he said. . “It’s entirely possible, but it would be a new way of working.”

Peter Hermann contributed to this report.

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