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D.C. mayor announces public safety grants to help stem gun violence

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and Police Chief Robert J. Contee III near the site of a shooting in May. (Craig Hudson for the Washington Post)

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) on Monday announced grants that will be available to individuals and organizations as part of a public safety initiative that treats gun violence as a health crisis.

The $750,000 grant program will be directed at neighborhoods most affected by shootings, identified under a program called Building Blocks D.C., which focuses on the small areas of the District where gun violence is most prevalent.

D.C. officials plan to distribute grants of up to $5,000 to people who create activities that promote public safety. Grants of up to $50,000 will go to organizations or groups to create programs to help reduce gun violence — including restorative justice initiatives, neighborhood restoration and community engagement.

Linda Harllee Harper, the District’s director of gun violence prevention, said the grant applications will be simple and are aimed at residents and small groups trying to curb violence. Applications can be submitted starting June 14.

Homicides in the District — most from gun violence — are rising for the fourth consecutive year. D.C. set a 16-year high for killings in 2020.

D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) said at the news conference that the grant money and other proposed expenditures are “long overdue.”

Noting that five people were shot in the District on Sunday and three more were shot in a single incident Monday morning, White urged residents and the government to treat gun violence with urgency.

“We are in crisis mode,” White said, adding that the grants are a way for residents to help. “Nobody is coming to save us but us.”

Monday’s announcement comes as Bowser promotes her proposed $17.5 billion budget for fiscal 2022, which includes a $36 million reduction in police funding.

Her proposed budget would boost funding for violence prevention programs with a $59 million investment in expanded youth activities and longer hours for recreation centers. The proposal would also provide housing to residents affected by gun crimes and create 110 new jobs in the Department of Public Works for people at risk of gun violence.

One of the larger expenditures is $11.4 million to help people being freed from prison with cash assistance, financial coaching and counselors as they transition back into the community.

“We are building the infrastructure across the whole of government to deal with residents who would have to live in neighborhoods scared of gun violence,” Bowser said.

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