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More police don't ensure public safety
(Published November 3, 2003)

"Greater police presence" – the mantra of many well-meaning D.C. citizens who earnestly want their city to be safer – will not stop youth-related gun violence in the District of Columbia.

That’s one lesson to be learned by the entire Washington community from the tragic shooting death of 16-year-old Anacostia Senior High School junior Devin Fowlkes on Oct. 30 as he gathered with teammates in front of his school to prepare for football practice.

Two Metropolitan Police officers – stationed in front of the school to prevent trouble as students left a homecoming dance and pep rally – watched helplessly as Fowlkes was gunned down, allegedly by a 15-year-old Anacostia student who police believe was shooting from across the street at the occupants of a passing car. Fowlkes, a star running back on the Indians’ varsity squad, was caught in the crossfire and died a short time later at Howard University Hospital.

The police officers were able to react quickly in the aftermath of the shooting, pursuing the fleeing shooter and the involved vehicle. But their presence at the scene of the crime ensured no one’s safety. A 15-year-old girl, also standing in front of the school, received a graze wound.

Unfortunately, this incident was not the first of its kind in the District. Even more unfortunate is the prospect that D.C. community and political leaders may not learn any more from Fowlkes’ death than they have absorbed from the killing or maiming on the District’s streets of many other young people in recent years.

More police are not the answer.

Greater communication and rapport with the District’s young people would be a step in the right direction.

The D.C. government is failing miserably to meet the needs of its youngest constituents for guidance and support. And the Washington community as a whole has grown incredibly complacent in its acceptance of misguided political policies that rob the District’s children while claiming to help them.

The community needs to begin listening to its children.

The community needs to begin learning from its children.

Why are so many teenagers in the District packing pistols? Why are so many school-age children roaming D.C. streets during school hours? Why are so many D.C. teenagers having babies? Why is membership in a crew or gang more attractive to a growing number of D.C. youths than more wholesome group activities? Why isn’t it cool to attend school in D.C.?

Those are only a few of the important questions that adults in the District need to stop assuming they can answer on their own.

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator