Councilmember White Talks Public Safety at ANC 8F

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Advisory Neighborhood Commission 8F (ANC 8F) met on Oct. 24. Commissioners Nic Wilson (8F01), Rick Murphree (treasurer, 8F02), Brian Strege (secretary, 8F03) and Edward Daniels (chair, 8F04), Clayton Rosenberg (vice chair, 8F05) were in attendance.

Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White (D) paid the commission a visit. Aware of the issues with juvenile crime in The Navy Yard, the councilmember touted his violence prevention work. He reiterated his support for the NEAR Act, which he pointed out was never fully funded or supported by the mayor. He also has sponsored ten public safety bills.

“There are lots of laws on the books, but it’s really about enforcement,” stated White. Pointing out the impact of the District’s struggles with its crime lab, “We don’t have the capacity in the police department to carry things out,” he stated.

White cited “conflict between DC detectives and federal prosecutors” as a particular problem. Citing distrust of the police and “no snitching” mentality, the community also needs to step up and cooperate, he said.

White cited the District’s difficulties staffing public safety agencies. “We can’t replace the officers as fast as they leave,” he said. Shifts are not a full staffed and officers are working too many hours, ending up exhausted.

“We need something in addition to waiting for Superman to come help us in this city,” said White. There is no real strategy, he said.

“The reality for me is that DC has never recovered from the Crack Epidemic,” said White. It resulted in lots of single parent homes with multiple kids. In addition, he argued, there has been a historic disinvestment. All of this drives the crime, stated White.

“The greatest influence on a youth is another young person,” said White, citing the importance of youth ambassadors and violence interrupters.

Youth accountability begins in elementary school, White argued. He cited the utility of community members, particularly violence interrupters, as the key to reducing crime. They can identify misbehaving kids early on and correct their behavior before it becomes criminal, he said.

White was questioned by community members and commissioners about the lack of programing at the Arthur Capper Community Center. He promised to look into the matter.

Transportation
Commissioners closely questioned DC Dept. of Transportation (DDOT) Ward 6 Specialist Abraham Diallo on the progress of the M Street SE Safety Corridor. The project involves the construction of dedicated bus lanes, island bus stops and protected bike lanes between 11th and Half Streets SE. It has halved the number travel lanes on M Street SE. Construction, which began in August and was to have been completed by the end of September, is ongoing. (See: https://www.hillrag.com/2023/07/21/construction-on-m-street-bike-bus-lanes-begins-aug-7/ and https://www.hillrag.com/2023/01/27/protected-bike-lanes-coming-to-m-street-se/)

“It shouldn’t be a work in progress when it is an accident waiting to happen,” stated Daniels. “Right now, M Street isn’t working,” pointing out the recent accident involving a struck police officer at the corner of M and South Capitol Streets SE due to confusing signage and construction barriers. DDOT’s earlier presentations in January and July as well as its Notification of Intent (NOI) gave the project’s western end at First Street SE, so commissioners were perplexed as to why the project had been extended all the way to South Capitol Street SE, especially since plans to bring that street to grade have yet to be finalized.

Lack of signage encouraged bikers to use the protected lanes before they were completed, a dangerous situation at multiple corners where automobile right turn lanes were left unsignalized leading to conflicts between cars and cyclists. DDOT will install signals to regulate traffic, Abraham stated. Chair Daniels asked him to return with an update at the commission’s next meeting.

Commissioners also received a briefing on the I-695 Freeway Bridge Rehabilitation Project, which will reconstruct all highway bridges and ramps from Second Street SE to Second Street SW. Design will be completed by February of 2024. DDOT plans a public meeting on the project shortly afterwards. Recent revisions to the project’s scope have added the NJ Avenue Bridge and the pedestrian underpass from Randall Field.

The whole highway deck will have to be rehabilitated, stated DDOT’s project manager. Two travel lanes will be maintained at all times. Lighting underneath the bridges is slated for replacement. There is yet no date for construction as the project is still not funded, but construction is likely to begin in 2025. The estimated duration is 24 to 36 months. The manager promised to bring the commission a detailed traffic management plan that will take into account stadium and special events.

Other Matters
Metropolitan Police Dept. (MPD) Lieutenant Kenneth Taylor briefed the commission on public safety. The last month has seen a spike in robberies, but a drop in burglaries. Motor vehicle theft, which includes carjackings, is up 80 percent compared to 2022. However, theft from autos is down. Moreover, MPD detectives have cleared four out of the current year’s six homicides with arrests. To be more specific, The Navy Yard in the last 30 days has had no homicides, two assaults with a dangerous weapon, five robberies, seven burglaries, 27 motor vehicle thefts, 16 thefts from autos and 48 general thefts. In answer to commissioner queries, Taylor stated that MPD has moved away from foot patrols due to volume of calls for service. Cars allow officers can stay mobile, he said. Taylor warned of the tremendous uptick in parking garage thefts throughout the city. Criminals piggy back in with residents on foot or in vehicles, he said.

The commission voted unanimously to write a follow up letter regarding the conditions at the Onyx, 1100 First St. SE. A representative of the building’s tenant’s association rep stated living conditions had further deteriorated. “The lion’s share of violations have not been remedied,” she said. Building management has taken measures that border on retaliation with people served with notice to vacate despite paying their rent, she stated. She accused the building’s managers of conducting in-unit inspections of apartments without notice and evicting tenants based on fabricated causes.

Commissions discussed issues at the Virginia Avenue Dog Park at New Jersey and Virgina Avenues SE. Despite repeated calls, the city has not fixed the dog water fountain. Commissioner agreed unanimously to send a letter requesting it be repaired.

The DC Council, reported Commission Wilson, has secured funds for a temporary library at The Capper Recreation Center while the Southeast Branch is under construction. Commissioners agreed to endorse ANC 6B’s letter to the DC Public Library requesting details on planned interim services and the specific timing of the Southeast Branch closure.

ANC 8F generally meets on the fourth Tuesday of the month. The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 28 at DDOT Headquarters at 250 M St. SE. For more information, visit anc8f.org.