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Mayor targets 6 crime locales

(Published November 29, 1999)


Staff Writer

Mayor Anthony A. Williams has selected six neighborhoods that he has dubbed "Capital Communities" as the focal point for his administration’s efforts to rebuild the city’s most distressed areas.

"This name signifies the focus on and involvement of the community, the investment of capital resources, the location of the community in the nation’s capital, and the goal of turning the community into a first-rate – that is, ‘capital’ – neighborhood," according to the mayor’s "Citywide Strategic Plan."

Portions of the city’s Capitol Hill, Shaw, Trinidad, Capitol View and Bellview neighborhoods are targeted in the mayor’s plan. Copies of the plan were available to participants at the mayor’s Neighborhood Action Citizen Summit, which was attended by about 2,600 people Nov. 20 at the Washington Convention Center.

Participants at the summit told the mayor that building and sustaining healthy neighborhoods – which the mayor ranked as his fourth priority among six stated goals – was by far the most important goal to them. Fifty-four percent of the attendees ranked healthy neighborhoods as the most important or second-most important priority for the city.

"Last summer we began an intensive effort in six pilot neighborhoods to reduce crime and increase safety," Mayor Williams related Nov. 18 in opening remarks for his Neighborhood Action initiative, describing the start of his administration’s Capital Communities effort..

"We brought together community leaders, police and District agencies to pool our resources and work cooperatively," he said. "We shut down drug markets, enforced housing code violations, cleaned alleys, improved lighting and built a strong working relationship between local police officers and members of the community.

Williams said the efforts already have resulted in reduced crime for the targeted areas, although his strategic plan notes that "a sustained effort" for two to three years is needed to completely turn around severely distressed neighborhoods.

"And we’re not going to stop with these six neighborhoods," he said. "This is the kind of approach that we can and will use street by street, block by block until every neighborhood in this city becomes healthy and sustainable."

One Capital Community has been targeted in each of six police districts. Only the Second Police District in Northwest Washington was left out because, according to mayoral aide Erik Christian, no distressed neighborhoods – defined as having serious crime problems, such as homicides and other violent crimes, open-air drug dealing and other conditions that create a high level of neighborhood fear – exist in that district.

Traffic flow problems are the administration’s primary focus in Second Police District neighborhoods, Christian said, while Patrol Service Area lieutenants in Capital Communities are coordinating city agency activities to help reduce crime and improve the areas’ overall living environment.

Specific targeted neighborhoods are identified by Metropolitan Police Department Patrol Service Area (PSA) numbers:

*PSA 109 – a primarily residential Capitol Hill neighborhood around Massachusetts Avenue and E Street SE. The area is plagued with trash, weeds, abandoned autos, graffiti, abandoned buildings and illegal drug sales.

*PSA 311 – a Shaw neighborhood around Ninth and O streets NW with a mix of private homes, public housing, apartments, a large playground and businesses. Police believe a local crew is responsible for much of the area’s crime problem and city agencies’ efforts to clean up the area have failed to make much of a dent in the persistent trash, abandoned vehicles and graffiti.

*PSA 414 – an area around Hobart Place NW, north of Howard University, that is largely inhabited by senior citizens, retirees and low-income families with children. Abandoned properties and persistent debris are blamed for supporting an illegal drug problem that has existed in the neighborhood for 15 years.

*PSA 508 – an area in the Trinidad neighborhood around Montello Avenue and Queen Street NE, which is home to a middle-class community of primarily single-family homes. Police say the drug trade has been entrenched in the area for generations and six gangs call the neighborhood their home. Prostitution also is prevalent in the area.

*PSA 603 – an area around Division Avenue and 49th Place NE that includes Woodson High School, the Lincoln Heights public housing complex, a methadone clinic, businesses, and a park frequented by heroin users. Public drinking, gambling and loitering are commonplace.

*PSA 710 – an area around Galveston Place and Forrester Street in Far Southwest Washington, where police say children report smelling marijuana on their way to school. Drug dealing occurs day and night, centered around numerous vacant and deteriorating small apartment buildings. Trash and abandoned autos litter yards and alleys behind apartment buildings.

Christian said crime reductions have been made in the targeted areas of Capitol Hill, Trinidad and the Hobart Place NW area.

"We’re not declaring victory yet, but we’re making substantial progress," Christian said. "This is going to be a continuing process that will take a number of years."

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator