A Plea to the Code of the Streets
Thursday, July 26, 2007
On District streets, an unwritten code among criminals brands some violent acts -- rapes, crimes against children -- as senseless brutality. Now, a group of D.C. peace activists wants to amend that code to add another heinous crime: drive-by shootings.
"If you do a drive-by, we want it to be unacceptable to go back into the community," said Ronald Moten, co-founder of Peaceoholics, a community-based group that tries to solve disputes among young people. "Doing drive-bys is being a coward, not being a man."
Moten had a news conference yesterday with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and others to denounce the style of shootings he calls "fake-bys." The gathering was at Peaceoholics headquarters in the 600 block of Raleigh Street SE. A teenager was shot in the back in that block last week during a two-hour burst of violence in which 11 people were shot -- nine in drive-bys.
Peaceoholics plans to spread its message by taking some street leaders on a retreat next month. The group hopes that the leaders will convince others that drive-bys are unacceptable.
The group said denouncing drive-bys is a way to reduce violence. There have been 102 homicides in the District this year, compared with 97 at this time last year.
"You got to start someplace," Barry said. "No drive-bys is something even hustlers can understand."
Moten noted that he considers drive-bys a major danger to the community because large numbers of people can be hurt or killed. Anecdotally, Moten said he believes there has been an increase in drive-by shootings recently. D.C. police track shootings but do not keep statistics based on type.
In the 7th Police District, the area in Southeast Washington that had the majority of last week's shootings, there have been 181 shootings so far this year, slightly fewer than last year. But the area has had 49 homicides, compared with 47 at this time last year.
As part of Peaceoholics' outreach, Moten said he and his staff will go to the D.C. jail to spread their message. He made a plea yesterday to inmates.
"When these jokers come into prison for doing a drive-by, don't make it comfortable for them," Moten said.
"Make it like they're a rapist," he added, referencing the violence sex offenders often face in prison.
Moten said he is in a position to reach youngsters on the street who are prone to commit crimes because years ago he made mistakes and served time himself. Peaceoholics, which has many members who are ex-felons, has brokered several truce pacts among fighting youths.
At one point yesterday, Barry led a call-and-response with residents who had gathered around. He had the small crowd chanting, "Enough is enough!"
He preached that people need to get a job and earn money through legitimate means rather than street hustling. Barry said that he understands the desire to own expensive things but that it should not lead someone to a life of crime. Barry said he, too, likes luxury items.
"I have a Rolex watch," he said. "But it took me seven years to save up the money to buy it. I did it the right way."
He then reached for his wrist, fingering for the watch. "I don't have it on today," he said. The crowd laughed.