The mayor of Washington, D.C., declared gun violence a public health crisis.
The mayor's office launched an emergency response to gun violence on Wednesday, taking a comprehensive, public health approach to crimes that devastate District families and neighborhoods.
D.C. is investing $15 million in gun violence reduction, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office announced.
“We know that we must think and must act differently,” the mayor said at a news conference.
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An executive order by the mayor created the Gun Violence Prevention Emergency Operations Center, in Anacostia. The larger gun violence prevention program is called Building Blocks DC.
The initial focus will be on 151 blocks of the District, primarily in Ward 7 and Ward 8. These blocks make up 2% of all blocks in D.C. but account for 41% of violent offenses in which gunshots are fired, the city’s presentation said. A map of the blocks was not immediately released.
City professionals involved include those who specialize in emergency management, housing, mental health and government services, said Linda Harllee Harper, D.C.'s new director of gun violence prevention.
Officials plan to connect with people who are most at risk of being victims or perpetrators of gun violence, with initial efforts focused on people who have been arrested for gun offenses, are victims or who are under court supervision, among other groups.
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Some D.C. neighborhoods may see more officers on streets, Acting Police Chief Robert Contee said.
Ward 8 Council Member Trayon White said a comprehensive strategy was long overdue.
“It not now, then when?” he asked. He said he was tired of going to victims’ funerals and feared becoming a victim himself.
The comprehensive response plan was inspired in part by the coronavirus pandemic, Bowser said. City officials saw how effective they could be when working together to respond to a crisis, she said.
In 2020, 198 people died in homicides in D.C. That’s more victims than in any year since 2004, when 248 people were killed.