Reducing Violence Amid Coronavirus
June is dedicated to gun violence awareness. Gun violence is one of the leading causes of death in adolescents nationwide. In the District of Columbia, gun violence has steadily risen over the last 10 years. According to MPD’s data there has been a total of 68 recorded homicides in 2020 alone, an 11 percent increase from 2019. Though coronavirus (COVID-19) has interrupted our lives, the critical work of violence reduction has continued.
To increase public safety, OAG implemented a community-driven violence interruption program called “Cure the Streets” (CTS) in 2018. CTS uses a data-driven, public-health approach to treat violence as a disease that can be interrupted, treated, and stopped from spreading. Today, CTS has 60 violence interrupters, outreach, and support staff working in six target sites that have some of the highest rates of gun violence in Wards 5, 7 and 8. Since the health emergency stay at home order, CTS has been working to help stop the spread of the virus and inform residents about where to seek help. They distributed hundreds of masks and COVID-19 information cards in target neighborhoods and organized over 12 virtual or socially-distanced events, including a 30-car motorcade through four neighborhoods to call for a peaceable summer.
Another important element of violence reduction work is empowering the next generation to speak up about the effects of violence and to demand change. This month, OAG hosted its fourth annual celebration of the “Do The Write Thing” Challenge, an essay contest for middle schoolers that does just that. This year, despite the remote learning, there were over 240 participants across 13 DC schools, the largest participation of any prior year. The two essay winners were Amari Edmonds and Tyler Willis, two 8th graders from DC Prep Benning Middle School Campus. Amari wrote about the impact gun violence has had on her personally. She urged everyone to identify the root causes of violence in our communities. Tyler wrote a poem about the adversity his family has experienced and how “sharing the love and making [an] alliance” within our communities will lead to peace. These two students joined OAG at the virtual celebration, sharing their ideas with over 80 attendees urging for adults to take action to stop gun violence in their neighborhoods.
Infuriated by the killing of George Floyd and countless African Americans, particularly black men, by white law enforcement officers, AG Racine wrote a piece in the Washington Post on the need for our nation to write down a vision for our future. Gun violence has devastated far too many Washingtonians, and it is vital that we use our voices to advocate for policies that protect all District residents and make our communities safer.