"River Terrace and Parkside used to average over a dozen burglaries a month. Last month there was not a single report of a crime incident," D.C. Police Officer Ron Williams told a community group last week.
The combined efforts of citizens over the past three years have "drastically" cut crime statistics in the Kenilworth-Parkside community in Northeast Washington, according to Williams, a Sixth District police officer. Williams made his remarks to a community group of senior citizens, expectant mothers and concerned parents during a crime prevention workshop.
(While the crime rate in that neighborhood did decrease, recently released citywide statistics indicate that the crime rate in Washington increased by 8 percent during the second three months of this year compared with the same period last year. Police officials said the rate of increase was well below that of the first quarter of the year.)
The community workshops are held monthly and are sponsored by the Sixth District Citizens Crime Prevention Project, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 7A and other community groups. The workshops allow residents to share ideas on ways to fight crime in their community.
Carrie L. Thornhill, the community project director, calls citizen efforts the key factor in ridding the Kenilworth area of its "bad" reputation.
"Nobody knows about Kenilworth and nobody comes up here," she said. She said the reason, in addition to its reputation as a high crime area, is that one-third of the city's public housing is in Kenilworth and the area has a shortage of commercial outlets.
The majority of the 50 people who attended the three workshop sessions at the Kenilworth-Parkside Recreation Center attended the session on "Snitching vs. Reporting," a discussion on the role of the police informer in the black community.
Many workshop participants expressed concern over being considered a "stool-pigeon" or "dime-dropper" (informer) by having to report a relative, neighbor or friend to police.
Michael McClendon, a workshop participant, said, "It should be a matter of principle to report what you see -- think of your neighbor."
Only a handful of senior citizens attended the other sessions and were shown an instructional film on how to protect themselves from muggings and robberies.
Previous crime workshop sessions have developed a senior citizens escort service, a volunteer street patrol network and a "home protection" inspection team that advises homeowners on how to more effectively secure their property.