justice from the frontlines: Aug. 8, 2023
Note from the editor: We are experiencing a real and overwhelming spike in violence in D.C. We at The Des implore readers and community members to read, educate yourself and act from compassion and facts not fear. Many of the people most impacted by the violence aren’t the loudest voices. Do not let this violence become a political pawn or let yourself be played by leadership and politicians. We need solutions. And to get to solutions, we need an engaged community. We hope the recent spike in violence will make the entire city engage in real solutions and tough conversations. These solutions must be all encompassing – police and prisons will not stop this violence. At The Des, we will continue to cover both the violence and solutions.
Gun violence sweeps NW and SE D.C.
Starting Friday night, multiple mass shootings hit D.C. along with other single victim homicides. The first was in the Adams Morgan (there were other shootings on U Street that night). Saturday night, three people were killed and two injured critically in Southeast D.C.
17 people were killed in total last week. The police chief didn’t have much to add past a plea for people who saw any of the shootings to come forward with evidence. D.C.’s police union went after a council member following her statement on the Adams Morgan shooting who supported defunding the police.
This has been the community response so far.
- Trayon White will have a press conference Tuesday at 1:45PM on Good Hope Road and 16th st SE. White also suggested it may be time to call the national guard though it is unclear how that would assist in preventing shootings and crime even if they were able to bolster a spread thin police force. There were officers in the area before the mass shooting in South East this past weekend.
- A community shooting response in SE. Tuesday at 2PM will be hosted by TRCEP (Trauma Response Community Engagement Program in Historic Anacostia.)
- Council member Brianne Nadeau hosted a community walk this morning in Adams Morgan, the scene of the first triple homicide.
Other events this week:
- The 40 Days of Increased Peace events continue this week offering movies, dance classes and more across the city. See all the events here.
- We’ve updated The Des’s community calendar for the next two weeks.
The week before the record homicides, D.C. government focused on addressing crime in Chinatown despite it being one of the least impacted by gun violence this year. Other areas like NW and SE that would see mass shootings a few days later did not get visits. Chinatown has been a rapidly gentrified area full of luxury apartment buildings that are still near the Capitol.
Areas more impacted by crime did not get visits from the Chief of police or coverage by The Washington Post until multiple homicides occurred. The Post dedicated most of its D.C. coverage to which areas Trump had recently mentioned, yet again demonstrating the lack of national media to fully comprehend local issues or care. The New Yorker ran a long piece on how D.C.’s crime code reform became a national political soccer ball for Congress, highlighting the lack of statehood which prevents the city’s efforts to govern itself and respond quickly to community needs.
free Adnan Syed
After a pleading, public defenders asked Maryland Supreme Court to keep Adnan Syed free. Syed was reinstated in the killing of Hae Min Lee, his ex-girlfriend and High School classmate. His public defender argued that the issue was moot, given that Baltimore prosecutors dismissed the case. Syed asked the state’s highest court to take the case, after claims that prior hearings and in-person attendance was violated. The Lee family has urged the Justice to hear the matter. The court has scheduled an oral argument for October 5, where they will deeply consider questions raised in Syed’s appeal. The Baltimore Banner (August 2, 2023)
fixing healthcare in Baltimore jails
Reports by court-appointed monitors cast doubt that Baltimore City jails can comply with medical care requirements set for June 2024. Monitors have documented inmates with severe mental illness suffering in solitary confinement, error-prone records, missed medications, and inmates with disabilities that are misidentified or unaccommodated. Caught in a lawsuit, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services have claimed that it is “fully committed to resolving the various challenges related to the Duvall case.” Officials are targeting the end of 2025 to be fully compliant, despite the fact that the judge has given a six-month extension two years ago. The Baltimore Banner (August 2, 2023)
25% decline in Baltimore homicides
In July, Baltimore recorded 19 homicides, the lowest count since 2015 in what is historically the city’s deadliest month of the year. The city reported 159 homicides in 2023, a 25% decline from July of last year. Mayor Brandon Scott has touted public safety efforts and the Baltimore Police Department for curving the rates of homicides. Despite the current pace of homicides, analysis has shown that the reduction in violence is not proportionally shared across the city. One analysis found that high-school-age youth have been shot at a record number this year. Baltimore Banner (August 2, 2023)
Maryland juvenile justice laws
Local leaders pledge to seek changes to Maryland juvenile justice laws. Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates remarked, “Young people are supposed to have wraparound services. So, the law fails the public because there is no public safety. It fails the young people because they are not getting services.” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott agreed, saying he wants significant changes made. In the next session of the General Assembly, the mayor and state’s attorney plan to lobby state lawmakers to enact change. Although there is no plan for a special session, the chairman plans to hold a briefing to address the issue of youth gun violence. WBALT TV (August 2, 2023)
operation bold blue line
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin updates law enforcement drug safety initiative, called “Operation Bold Blue Line.” The state-wide initiative works to remove illegal drugs off the streets and keep the commonwealth safer. Since the initiative’s early stages, there has been a removal of 2,060 pounds of illegal narcotics across the state. The operation comes at a time when law enforcement vacancy rates are nearly 40%, leaving state-funded agencies stretched thin. In response to its early success, the initiative will work with the Virginia General Assembly to fund a victim/witness assistance program, which would provide funds for lodging, relocation expenses, transportation and other necessary services. ABC 8 News (August 1, 2023)
transgender inmates at higher risk
In an investigation by News 3, transgender inmates were reported to be at a high risk of physical assault. A 2015 survey of over 27,000 transgender inmates showed that nearly a quarter of respondents were physically assaulted by staff or other inmates, and one in five were sexually assaulted while in prison. Director of U.S Transgender Survey Josie Caballero responded, “It proves more about how in danger the trans population is when you are incarcerated. A lot of this has to do with inmates being out in the wrong jails and prisons.” 3 WTKR (July 31, 2023)
DC man brutally arrested in MD
Video shows D.C. man being brutally arrested on Ocean City, Maryland Boardwalk. Parents of the victim claim that the officers targeted him because they were enforcing a ban against vaping on the boardwalk. Police documents reveal that Ruff had “intentionally smoked his vape,” despite being told about the ordinance, and refused to stop when police ordered. His mother said in a statement, “I felt his fear. I felt my fear. I felt how close we were to possibly losing him.” Ruff was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting/interfering with an arrest, 2nd-degree assault, and failure to provide proof of identification because of his retaliation. CBS News Baltimore (July 12, 2023)
14-year-old arrested for crime spree
Prosecutors said that within a span of two hours, a 14-year-old and three others carjacked, robbed, and fatally shot a 34-year-old man. For nearly three hours, D.C. homicide detective Jeff Clay testified that authorities identified the teen as a suspect based on evidence from security cameras from around the city that he captured the crimes. The 14-year-old’s identity has not been disclosed, but the teen and others have been charged with crimes including felony murder while armed, attempted robbery while armed, carjacking while armed, two counts of robbery while armed, and carrying a pistol without a license. The Washington Post (August 1, 2023)
in other news
After George Floyd’s murder, states are demanding the release of police disciplinary records. Lawmakers have introduced over 500 bills addressing police investigations and discipline, sixty-five of which have been put in action. Greater transparency should hold officers accountable and look for patterns of police abuse. Virginia Mercury (August 2, 2023)
In New York’s red light district, sex workers have reported that police see them as “disposable.” Officers are pushing workers to take greater risks to survive, through searches and arrests. Legislators are looking for the answer to this problem in the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act, which will eliminate penalties for consensual sex work and strengthen labor protection for sex workers. The Guardian (August 3, 2023)
Solitary confinement survivors rally in support for proposed federal ban of the practice. Standing in support of these survivors, Congresswoman Bush remarked, “Solitary confinement is a deprived and sadistic practice.” Number of reports have shown that solitary confinement is comparable to psychological torture and can lead to migraines, vertigo, and claustrophobia. Truthout (August 4, 2023)
- Read: Anthropologist in Baltimore Argues Safety for Black Communities Requires an End to Policing
- Read: Black Drivers in Virginia are More Likely to be Stopped After Drop in Searches
- Volunteer: The “Comeback Backpack” Prepares People for Life Post-Incarceration
- Report: Social Intervention Can End Mass Incarceration and Improve Public Safety
- Read: Wells Fargo Pledges $60 Million for Worker Re-Entry Program
- Read: Bowie State University Expands Program for Inmates Earning Degrees
- Report: Safety Beyond Sentencing