Mayor Muriel Bowser said Monday she has directed D.C. police to use “any overtime necessary” to address "brazen shooters" and safety concerns following the killing of a 6-year-old girl in Southeast.
The little girl, Nyiah Courtney, was killed in a shooting at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X avenues SE on Friday. As the memorial for her grew on Monday, so did the police presence in the area.
It’s where outrage and action intersect.
“We have heard the calls from residents in our communities most impacted by gun violence: They want to see a strong, sustained police presence,” Bowser said in a letter to the D.C. Council. “They do not feel safe while the threat of gun violence looms.”
At a news conference the day after the killing, community members pressed officials about their approach to violent crime.
Authorities doubled down on their commitment to finding Nyiah’s killer as some residents disagreed about the effectiveness of certain initiatives.
Now, even as law enforcement appears more visible in the area — D.C. police are on one side of Malcolm X, the FBI just across the nearby park — some neighbors still feel that safety is fleeting.
"‘This is an ongoing problem around here so, I understand that right now they’re doing overtime, but it's every day. If you see the video, there was a police officer right there," one woman said, referring to the fact that officers were already posted nearby when the shooting occurred.
Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White said the closing of recreation centers had a role to play.
Bowser said she wasn’t “convinced that that person who went to that intersection … was going to be in a rec center.”
Other actions have been taken regarding what neighborhood activists call nuisances. The Mart Liquor store near where the shooting happened, which activists said could be the nexus of nefarious dealings, has been shut down temporarily.
The mayor said she was committed to the Summer Crime Prevention Initiative as a way to get illegal guns off streets.
“Expanding and maintaining these increased police deployments in our communities during a year of no police hiring requires a corresponding increase in overtime,” Bowser said.
Some local officials disagreed.
Ward 7 ANC Commissioner Anthony Lorenzo Green, Ward 3 ANC Commissioner Christian Damiana and community groups including Black Lives Matter said on Twitter that the approach wouldn’t end the violence.
Damiana said the District should instead invest in its communities. Green and other residents said police presence did not prevent the shooting that killed Nyiah.
D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said the fact that officers were “within feet” of where shots were fired speaks to the brazenness of the shooters.
"So I think that in order for us to make sure that our communities are safe and this thing does not happen over and over and over again, we gotta make sure that we are getting the right guns out of the wrong hands of people who should not have them in our community," Contee said. "I guarantee you, when we find out who did this, they're no stranger to our system."
According to D.C. police data, 103 murders have occurred in 2021. Assault with a dangerous weapon offenses — which include shootings, stabbings and even fights involving bottles — are down 4% compared to this point in 2020.
Violent crime, meanwhile, is down 2%. The only metric of crime data that has increased in 2021 year-to-date is motor vehicle crime, which is up 25%.
This weekend in D.C., 15 people were shot in seven shootings. Two of those victims were killed.
Bowser said her “charge to our police officers is to keep our communities safe and bring to justice those responsible for terrorizing our neighborhoods, threatening our families and harming our residents.”
She noted that “while the use of overtime is a necessary tool, it is not an ideal solution, as it results in the burnout of officers. The better solution is to fully staff our police force.”
This weekend, within hours of the shooting, crews showed up and cleaned up the nearby park, notorious for drug use. A resident who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation said the cleanup won't solve the underlying problem.
"If there's a part of the city that's clearly neglected, then the people who are there too are going to neglect it as well. It's a cycle," they said.
It's a cycle that residents and officials alike say they are trying to break, after the death of a child and a scare outside a ballgame, before more bullets fly.