Last month, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced the appointment of Linda Harllee Harper, who most recently served as senior deputy director to the District’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), to the newly created position charged with coordinating a focused effort on gun violence. Ms. Harllee Harper is credited with helping to lead extensive reforms to the city’s juvenile justice system during a career in D.C. that started with her work with D.C. public schools as a substance abuse prevention coordinator at the former Oak Hill Youth Center. “Linda Harllee Harper is a visionary leader in social and criminal justice,” said Ms. Bowser. “[She] certainly has a heart for our communities and those impacted by violence, as evidenced by her long career helping young people.” D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who sponsored the legislation creating the position, hailed her as someone with the requisite expertise, experience and community standing.
The philosophy behind the new position, which is modeled after a successful initiative in Oakland, Calif., is that gun violence prevention should not be the sole responsibility of the police but must be included in every decision about employment, housing, health, recreation and other aspects of life. “Hurting people hurt people,” said Ms. Harllee Harper. Among her first priorities will be focusing on the neighborhoods that have been most affected by gun violence. Forty-five percent of the shootings in D.C. occur in 1 percent of city blocks, according to officials who have looked at 911 calls for gunshots, gunshot victims and several other variables. One of those blocks is the 4100 block of Minnesota Avenue NE, where 30-year-old Isaiah Glover was shot to death last Saturday afternoon. How to make neighborhoods like that safer is the daunting challenge facing Ms. Harllee Harper.
“The city is watching. . . . We really hope that this can create the change that we seek,” said Clayton Rosenberg, with the Alliance of Concerned Men. “There are lives on the line.”