Correction to This Article
The article incorrectly said that Deepak Marwah questioned whether civil injunctions would solve gang violence. Marwah says he questioned whether a city-funded study, which recommended prevention instead of stricter policing, would solve the problem.

Young People in D.C. Say Anti-Gang Measures Should Address Social Problems

By Martin Ricard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 22, 2009

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and a number of city officials say that, despite last week's D.C. Council vote rejecting Fenty's anti-gang measures, aggressive legislation is needed to combat deadly gangs and crews.

More than a dozen young people interviewed last week said the measures wouldn't have addressed the root causes of why youths are drawn into gangs or crews. They said their neighborhoods have been starved of resources and recreational activities, leading many to get sucked into that lifestyle.

"A lot of times, you're scared for your safety and you don't know if someone's going to jump you," said Deangelo Edwards, 18, a junior advocate for the Alliance of Concerned Men's Safe Streets Initiative who grew up at the notorious Seventh and O streets NW, an area that has long been a trouble spot for crime. "So there's nothing else to do besides join a gang."

That reality was spelled out in a study released days before the council rejected the use of civil injunctions that would have made it easier for police to arrest and detain suspected gang members.

The study, commissioned by council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and conducted by a consortium of community-based organizations, found that gangs and crews are becoming an increasing problem but that draconian legislation is not the best way to combat the issue. "Increasingly, gang and youth violence have been viewed less as social problems and more as criminal and pathological disorders, prompting the call for ramped-up law enforcement," the study concluded.

Among the findings:

-- Although juveniles have made up 6.6 percent of arrests in the District over the past five years, they have been arrested for violent crimes at nearly twice that rate (12 percent) during the same period.

-- Fifty percent of juvenile arrests last year occurred in six of the city's 39 neighborhood pockets.

-- As a result of gentrification, school closures and other factors, "turf wars" and "beefs" between rival gangs and crews have expanded throughout the city. The study defines a crew as a neighborhood-based group, smaller and less organized than a gang with hierarchy and, often, a national presence. According to the Healthy Families/Thriving Communities Collaborative Council, there are nearly 100 crews and gangs throughout the city involving nearly 2,500 youths.

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