Numbers and headlines about high-profile shootings, however, cannot capture the effects of routine gunfire on the fabric of life in struggling neighborhoods. That fuller portrait was drawn by the Post’s Peter Hermann and John D. Harden in a searing report about the 40,302 gunshots catalogued in the District over the three years from January 2018 to this past February. They focused on areas such as Marshall Heights in Southeast, where gunfire — and the fear of it — shapes everyday existence. One resident described how he makes sure to get gas during daylight, when there is less of a threat of violence, and how he wishes he could jog but conditions are simply too dangerous. A barber knows to pivot his client’s chair away from the window when he hears the too-familiar pop of gunfire. So prevalent are the shootings that police who patrol the streets carry quick-clot gauze — normally used by troops in war zones — to deal with wounds.
“I’m tired of praying over a person in a casket that I played pee-wee football with,” said one resident who has lost so many friends that he no longer attends funerals. “It was my second shooting. So I was kind of prepared. ’Cause I always am expecting something to happen,” said an 8-year-old girl who was present at the Nationals Park shooting and who last year heard a man shot to death while she was playing with friends.
The District is targeting communities most affected by gun violence with a new program, Building Blocks DC, that provides investments in skill-building opportunities, neighborhood beautification, restorative justice and community engagement. Additional resources are also being directed to violence interruption programs. While those are worthwhile efforts, it is long past time to also pay attention to the complaint voiced by a succession of police chiefs about the merry-go-round in the justice system that puts people arrested for gun offenses back on the street. “A person who commits a violent act — should they be walking in the community with an ankle monitor on? Is that acceptable to the community?” said D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III in the aftermath of the shootings at Nationals Park and the death of 6-year-old Nyiah Courtney. The answer is as obvious as the constant crack of gunfire on too many city blocks in the District.