Nearly a dozen community workers who have formed the United Planning Organization Crime Prevention Task Force held their first meeting at the UPO headquarters recently to discuss ways to curb crime against the elderly, homosexuals and other people in metropolitan Washington.
The task force was chaired by the Rev. Imagene Stewart, director of the House of Imagene, a shelter forbattered women. Stewart said the task force grew out of a UPO-sponsored seminar on crime prevention that was held last summer.
The UPO is the city's community service agency that distributes federal anti-poverty grant funds to local programs.
"Crime has a whole lot of tentacles, just like an octopus," said Wayne Mimms, an employe with a local social service agency. "The best we can do is strike at the head and hope it slows down the arms.
"The main thrust will have to be at the youth," he said.
Task force members, which included employes from the city's housing and correction departments, reported that nearly half the city's crime is committed by youth. The finding conforms with nationwide figures on crime.
Most attacks are against the elderly, task force members said. Youth and women are the next most abused groups.
In Washington, crimes by black people against black people occur most often. Violent assaults against people happen most frequently in far Southeast. In Georgetown, most crimes are against businesses, and crimes against women are most often reported in Southeast and Northeast. The most crime-free section of the city is downtown Washington, they said.
Larry Kamins, a representative from the city's Gay Activist Alliance, said a study is being conducted by the alliance to determine if the police department's crime analysis reports accurately pinpoint troublesome areas.
Kamins said the Gay Activist Alliance has also provided police chief Burtell Jefferson with a report on their complaints and analyses of how police officers handle crimes in the gay community.
The task force's immediate goals include conducting extensive research on the causes and effects of crime in D.C., developing a position paper and goals based on their findings and applying for federal funds to start programs that will address the city's crime prevention needs.
The group plans to lobby for more and higher-paying youth jobs that emphasize career training and work orientation principles.
"We can't give our young people a few nickels and dimes to work two hours a day" and expect them to be satisfied, said Adams Morgan resident, James E. Conte.
Conte, who runs a bike repair and photography program supported by anti-poverty funds, also said he had a young employe come into his office, "throw his foot up on the desk and say, 'I'm going to sit here and smoke Angel Dust (a drug often mixed with marijuana) and you can't terminate me because it will take too long,'" to do the necessary paper work. Conte said many youths who are misdirected or have serious financial problems are rebelling against programs designed to pacify them.
Education will be another area studied.
"Most of the kids in the schools aren't educated enough to protest what is there," said community resident Joseph Pearson. Advocates will have to fight their battles for them, while helping "kids to focus more on the relevancy of schools," he said.
"Look at the mayor for D.C. He's from Mississippi. Why couldn't he be from D.C.?" Pearson asked.
"I especially hope we can get the religious community involved," said Stewart. "The problem I see in Washington is everybody is into his own little bag."
Stewart said various agencies in the metropolitan Washington area must learn how to support each agency's efforts to combat the metropolitan area's common enemy, crime.
Otherwise, "20 years from now they will get you," said Conte.