‘Crime is down — it’s down the street:’ DC council member talks violence prevention after Deon Kay shooting

D.C. Council Member Trayon White held a virtual community safety meeting Thursday night to talk about hard truths and what is being done to mitigate violence in communities east of the Anacostia River.

“Crime is down — it’s down the street. Around the corner, in our communities,” said White, who represents Ward 8.

White kicked off the meeting with a moment of silence for 18-year-old Deon Kay, who was shot and killed by a D.C. police officer in the Congress Heights neighborhood the day prior.

D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham released body camera footage of the shooting and said Kay was well known to his officers, having been arrested several times. Later in the meeting, other leaders in the city’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement said they had worked with Kay as well.

“What we saw happen … is happening far too often in our community and around the country,” White said, before noting several shootings involving younger children in Ward 8 recently. “It’s coming upon us leaders to do something about it.”

White said it’s not just the job of the government and police department to fix it.

“I believe the community has a stake in the game,” he said. “We live here. We worship here. We go to school here. We work here.”

He lamented the lack of funding given to violence-interrupting programs around the city.

“If we don’t fund it, the crime picks back up,” said White.

D.C. official and representatives from community groups were also part of the two-hour long meeting.

“I believe that violence is a symptom of a larger system … a larger system that has equities of access,” said Dr. Roger Mitchell Jr., the interim deputy mayor for public safety and justice, pointing specifically to education, housing, health care, and environmental and criminal justice.

Other presentations came from people, such as Dana McDaniel with the Office of Safety and Neighborhood Engagement, who spoke about the Pathways Program and the work being done to get people involved with job training instead of a career in crime.

Leaders of nonprofit groups that work with the city also shared their thoughts.

“This is not one person’s job to solve violence in the District of Columbia,” said Dionne Reeder, who leads the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative.

But she said more help is needed to keep programs like that one going.

“A lot of our partners doing great work can not sustain themselves while they’re waiting on their reimbursements,” she said.

Also on the call was Ward 6 Council Member Charles Allen, who heads the D.C. Council Committee on Public Safety. He said the “traditional narrative of public safety” is something be reexamined in D.C. and other parts of the country.

“We have a lot of people that are impacted by gun violence,” said Allen, who conceded the city needs to do more for violence interruption programs and to educate city residents about what they do. “We have a lot of work to do in the District so our loved ones can lead lives of hope and promise, so they can be safe from all forms of violence.”

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