On Wednesday, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced the establishment of a new gun violence prevention center in Anacostia, acknowledging gun violence as a public health crisis that disproportionately affecting communities of color.
Bowser reported that 95% of homicide victims in 2020 were Black, and that 9 of those shot and killed last year were juveniles under the age of 17.
Bowser emphasized that these are tragedies for both individual families and the greater DC community.
“These losses inflict pain and trauma on so many people,” Bowser said. “Parents have buried their children, children are growing up without parents and our community is suffering.”
The announcement came during the Geb. 17 situational update. Bowser was joined by Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Robert Contee, Ward 6 DC Council member Charles Allen (D), who chairs the DC Council Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, and Ward 8 DC Council member Trayon White, Sr (D).
Bowser issued a Mayor’s Order that recognizes gun violence as a public health crisis in the District and creates a gun violence prevention emergency operations center (EOC) called Building Blocks DC, spearheaded by the District’s new Director of Gun Violence Prevention Linda Harllee Harper. The organization will be headquartered in Anacostia (2235 Shannon Place SE).
Bowser said the goals of the center are to focus on the 151 most vulnerable neighborhoods. These few blocks comprise 2 percent of District area, but 41 percent of violent offenses take place there.
The center aims to create clear protocols and coordinate a long-term strategy to combat this violence. The District is planning to invest $15 million for this effort.
Council member Allen praised the “smart, strategic” response to gun violence laid out by Bowser.
“This is a very important step for our city because it is telling the city that violence is not inevitable,” Allen said.
Council member White echoed Allen and encouraged the community to get involved with Bowser’s efforts.
“I’m excited about the inclusivity of this process and I look forward to saving lives,” White said. “I’m tired of doing the vigils and the funerals in the city that raised me because I think to myself that it may be me or my child.”
Sarah Payne is a History and Neuroscience student at The University of Michigan interning with HillRag. She writes for and serves as an assistant news editor for Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can reach her at [email protected].