Homicides in 2019 have increased 6 percent over the same period last year. In 2018, killings increased nearly 40 percent from the previous year. If trends continue, the District would be on track to see its highest homicide numbers in a decade (although thankfully that would still be a far cry from the 479 people killed at the height of the crack epidemic in 1991). As troubling as those numbers are, equally unsettling is the recent finding of a Post poll that 1 in 3 District residents reported that they or someone they know has been menaced or has been the victim of gun violence in the past five years.
The problem is more pronounced in the city’s poorer neighborhoods. Nearly half — 46 percent — of the residents who live east of the Anacostia River in Wards 7 and 8 said they or someone they know has been shot or threatened with a gun since 2014. “You get down low, and once the shooting stops, you run,” said one Northeast resident who grew up in Anacostia, explaining how she reacted to a drive-by shooting. That is something you might expect to hear from someone who lives in a war zone, not in the nation’s capital.
D.C. officials have responded to the spike in homicides with a variety of approaches, including increased overtime for patrol officers in neighborhoods hard-hit by shootings, expansion of the crime camera program, crackdowns on illegal guns, and investments in programs, such as the one Mr. Venable was in training for, in which residents are hired to intervene in and de-escalate tense and potentially violent situations.
Mr. Venable, who had hoped to use his experience as a troubled youth to keep others out of trouble, was leaving a meeting of the “Cure the Streets” violence intervention program at 2 p.m. when he was shot multiple times. He later died at a hospital. “Brazen, daylight, targeted homicide” is how Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) described it. No one has been arrested, but police believe there are a number of eyewitnesses. It is important they step forward. (The number to call is 202-727-9099.) It is important, too, that the city step up its multifaceted approach to public safety so that all District residents can feel safe making the city their home.