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D.C. to deploy teams to curb violence, watch nightlife hubs on July 4

The initiatives, announced Thursday, come at a time when violence is rising in the city

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) holds a news conference to highlight public safety preparations for the holiday weekend. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)

D.C. will deploy teams of non-law enforcement employees to mediate street conflict across the city for the Fourth of July weekend, officials announced Thursday, part of an effort to prevent crime at a time when violence in the city is rising.

City officials said there will be “Safety Go Teams,” including 55 people trained to mediate street conflict, in vulnerable communities across D.C. on Sunday and Monday nights.

The D.C. government will separately station teams of police officers, transportation officials and other agency employees at nightlife hubs to disrupt what officials have called “patterns of violence” on H Street, Connecticut Avenue and the U Street corridor, officials said. That initiative, which will increase enforcement of street parking regulations and capacity limits at clubs, will continue through Labor Day, officials said.

“We want to have a weekend of fun and not tragedy,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), standing at an intersection steps away from where a 15-year-old was fatally shot two weeks ago.

The citywide preparation for the Fourth of July weekend comes as gun violence is surging and D.C. officials are under mounting pressure to show that they can keep people safe. After an especially violent weekend, the homicide count in D.C. is up to 104 — a 14 percent increase from the same time last year, when the city saw more than 200 killings for the first time in almost two decades.

Summer is typically the deadliest season in D.C. and across the country. Last July in D.C., several people were fatally shot, including 6-year-old Nyiah Courtney, a Peace Corps worker dining on 14th Street, and a mother of three who styled hair in her apartment in Southeast. This month alone, six people 18 or younger have been killed in the city.

Two teens fatally shot during violent weekend in D.C.

The Fourth of July, in particular, can be dangerous. Two years ago on the holiday, Davon McNeal, 11, was fatally shot at an anti-violence cookout.

The District’s approach to curtailing crime this Independence Day weekend is consistent with how the city has said it will tackle rising crime: through increasing the involvement of both police and local residents trained in conflict resolution.

The Safety Go Teams, which include 55 people known as “violence interrupters,” will try to monitor everything from fireworks safety to tensions that could turn violent, officials said. The nightlife teams of government employees will be focused on controlling behavior such as illegal ATV usage, public drug consumption and “unruly gatherings” inside and outside venues, according to authorities.

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D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said Thursday that he has increased staffing for the weekend to cover events on the National Mall, at Nationals Park and for neighborhood parades, while continuing regular patrols across the city.

D.C. Gun Violence Prevention Director Linda Harllee Harper said the District has connected with people the city has designated as most at risk of committing or being a victim of violent crime, “encouraging them to have a safe Fourth of July.”

On Thursday, officials across city government also appealed directly to residents. They pleaded with parents and grandparents to keep a close watch on their teenagers and adult children, and they gave instructions on how to use grills and legal fireworks without causing damage.