Seven Point Plan To Prevent Violence
We cannot allow the violence in our city to continue. We are seeing generations of children traumatized, parents fearing for their kids’ safety, and countless loved ones lost. We must take immediate and decisive action to combat violence and keep our city safe.
The mayor has promised to bring down violence and crime, but homicides in our city are increasing every year and she is scrambling to keep up. Mayor Bowser has no plan, and it shows — we’re seeing pilot programs that never make it off the ground, a lack of basic coordination, and a return to approaches that have failed us for decades.
We cannot meet the scale of the problem without a coordinated, thoughtful, and comprehensive approach. On day one, I will be ready to execute to keep our communities safe. That is why I am proposing a seven point plan to tackle violence in a proactive, targeted, and deliberate way.
1. Increase Violence Interruption Investments by 400%
We spend a lot of money responding to crime, but once the yellow tape goes up, it’s too late – families are already traumatized, people are hurt, and in far too many cases, a life has been lost. We need to make real investments in preventing violence from occurring before it’s too late.
Mayor Bowser’s violence intervention and prevention efforts have been half-hearted at best and have lacked the coordination and investment that it will take to get them off the ground. The Washington Post said her violence intervention program “has lost its urgency” and has not been “define[d] clearly.” Communities are tired of being told they’re protected by underfunded violence interrupters – people are demanding real action.
I will increase our investments in violence interrupters four-fold so we can intervene in neighborhood conflicts before they become violent and reach every single one of the people most at risk of violence to get them on a safer path. With real investments instead of piecemeal funding that is too modest to succeed, our violence interrupters will be able to immediately calm tensions and get people on productive paths.
2. Solve the Problems That Lead to Violence
Violence is a symptom of a larger disease – when we underinvest in communities and don’t address the big obstacles holding people back from success, crime rises. But, despite big promises and spending billions of dollars, the Mayor has failed to meaningfully address the circumstances that lead to violence. Under Mayor Bowser’s watch:
- $82 million that was meant to provide deeply affordable housing was misspent
- Hundreds of people have struggled with multiple month-long delays in receiving unemployment benefits
- Chronic homelessness has gone up more than 20%
- Only 40% of Black and Brown students are reading on grade level
I have comprehensive, actionable plans to address housing instability, education inequity, and homelessness.
3. Ensure Out of School Time Programming is Serving Young People
We have been sending the wrong messages to our young people for too long. Like so many other kids, growing up, I was told I was a troublemaker; that I would never amount to anything. These messages stick with young people and demoralize them.
We need to send a new message to young people, and that starts by showing them we are invested in their success. Too many kids do not have anywhere to go after school or during breaks and it leads them to get caught up in violence and crime. We can keep kids away from violence and crime by providing them with fulfilling programming or employment after school.
Unfortunately, while the mayor just keeps sending more money to these programs, it remains incredibly difficult for families to find programs, many students are uninterested in the programming we are offering them, and financial aid is not meeting the needs of families.
As mayor, I will convene a task force that will work with communities and experts to improve how we educate families about out of school time programming, meet the needs and desires of young people, and make programs accessible to all students. We can’t just keep sending money to programs without solving the fundamental problems that are stopping them from reaching their full potential. I will take a thoughtful and community-oriented approach to improving out of school time opportunities.
4. Focus Police Resources on Public Safety
Our police are stretched too thin and are being asked to do too much that is not related to public safety. Police can’t be a catchall for every problem – they need to be focused on keeping people safe by preventing and responding to violence. As the Police Reform Commission report noted, WUSA9 TV analysis of 911 data revealed that more than one-fourth of calls to 911 involved noncriminal activity. Police should be solving crimes and addressing violence rather than responding to these calls.
Despite years of experts, including many law enforcement officers, telling us we are overburdening police, preventing them from keeping communities safe, the mayor’s actions have been insufficient and designed to fail. She talks about creating community response teams to decenter police from non-violent, non-criminal emergency responses, but in reality, the leaders of these agencies have told us they do not have the capacity to “provide a timely emergency response.”
Underfunded pilot programs and half-measures won’t get us what we need. I will fully fund alternative emergency responses so police can keep their focus where it should be – on keeping us safe. We will make behavioral healthcare professionals the default response to community members in crisis. In addition, we will shift responsibility of any aspect of traffic and vehicle enforcement that does not imminently threaten public safety to the DC Department of Transportation, and remove noise complaints and other civil disturbance calls from the police’s responsibility.
5. Improve Police Clearance Rates
Right now, fewer than half of the serious crimes in DC get solved in a given year, including fewer than 40% of homicides. When crimes aren’t solved, we’re not getting dangerous people off of the street, and families aren’t getting the justice they deserve.
In order to solve crimes and hold people accountable, police need to be able to work with the community to uncover evidence and hear from witnesses. But, today the relationship between communities and police are so frayed that few are willing to work with police. The mayor has failed to step into a leadership role to address this situation and build trust that will reduce tensions.
As mayor, I will take an active role in building trust between police and communities so they can work together to keep us safe. I will oversee a culture change in MPD to create the accountability and transparency that communities need to see in order to trust police. In addition, I will direct MPD to better integrate police into communities by mandating that officers spend more time on foot. I will lead conversations and facilitate healing between police and communities to create strong and stable relationships.
6. Expand Mental Health Support to Communities Traumatized by Violence
Our city is in the midst of a mental health crisis. The high rates of violence combined with the effects of the pandemic have left many people in need of support. When we leave trauma untreated, it leads to a vicious cycle of violence.
We have not had a coordinated, thoughtful response to addressing mental health. I will lead an unprecedented expansion of mental health support services and do so in culturally competent ways. This means investing in both government mental health services and the community-based organizations doing incredibly important work.
7. Support Survivors of Violence
Supporting survivors of violence is our moral duty, and is necessary to interrupt the cycles of violence that too often repeat themselves. But our city has still not made the necessary investments in supporting survivors, and waitlists for services are impossibly long.
I will increase investments so we can provide wrap-around services to all survivors of violence. We will fund the Office of Victim Services while also helping community organizations build capacity to provide support services in a culturally competent manner.