DC expands safety programs amid spike in gun violence

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled a plan Thursday to expand several safety programs in the District by adding more workers and money.

Two programs, the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE) and the Pathways Program, will receive roughly $14 million, she said.

“We know that gun violence is a public health emergency,” Bowser said at a news conference at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center. “When we think about the young people who have died senselessly on the streets, having a lifetime ahead of them and gunned down.”

ONSE uses violence interrupters — D.C. residents who intervene in disputes and cut off shootings before they happen. That program will receive nearly $10 million in federal funds from the city to add neighborhoods of Congress Park in Ward 8, Shaw in Ward 2 and Edgewood in Ward 5.

Del McFadden runs the program. He said the city would see a higher rate of shootings without it.

“Anytime a shooting takes place, the (violence interrupters) go in to both communities to make sure there are not retaliations,” he said. “That has happened numerous times. I know for sure that if it were not for the violence interrupters, the number we’re looking at presently would be much higher.”

The Pathways Program finds jobs, training and education for residents at risk of using violence. It will receive $4.5 million in federal aid, Bowser said.

Residents, ranging from 20 and 35 years old, are referred into the program.

“A lot of us know a person who seems off on the wrong track,” Bowser said. “We’re concerned that if they don’t make different choices, they might not be with us. But we know their hearts; we know they want to live. That’s who these programs are for.”

A third method to reduce gun violence comes through grants to nonprofit groups focused on anti-violence effort, Bowser said. Those groups can apply for a grant totaling more than $1 million.

The expansion comes as the city is still reeling from a recent spike in gun violence.

The latest occurred over the weekend when D.C. high school student Larelle Washington died several days after he was shot in Northeast.

“These are very long-term interventions, ” Bowser said. “These are not acute fixes, and we need both.”

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