How do you lower crime in D.C.? Mayor Muriel Bowser thinks the answer is, in part, stopping criminals before they start, and giving young people more positive outlets for their time and energy.
“Our position and philosophy, and what we have learned, is that a small group of people are responsible for a lot of gun violence, and that gun violence is particularly affecting concentrated areas,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser at a news conference outside the Kennedy Recreation Center.
The mayor’s proposed budget includes $1.7 million to hire life coaches to target those at risk of committing violent crimes in the future.
“We have engaged experts at the National Institute for Criminal Justice to help us identify those most likely to be involved or victims of gun violence. It is our goal to find, engage and transform their thinking, and to connect them to services, supports and opportunities,” said Linda Harllee Harper, the director of D.C.’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention.
“The idea is to have people who come from the same communities, who understand the culture and climate of community, who have respect in the community, who are able to engage. After they locate and engage, then they have to figure out how to convince, and continue to coach and mentor them into having transformational thinking.”
Bowser released top-line figures for her 2023 proposed budget this week, proposing $30 million to boost the police force to 4,000 officers and $500 million for D.C.’s affordable housing fund, among others.
Bowser said she believes another path to making D.C. safer, is having more safe and enjoyable activities for residents.
“Were going to double the number of slots for summer camp,“ Bowser said of the program that has run out of spaces in the past.
Her budget proposal includes $13.5 million for summer camp, and a number of other programs.
While the budget proposal is for Fiscal Year 2023, which begins in October, Bowser said she plans to put forward a supplemental budget that will take effect this summer that would provide some additional slots.
The money will also make some facilities more open to residents.
“We’ll be able to serve almost 60,000 residents by bringing back Sunday hours at our pools,” said Delano Hunter, director of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation.
“We’ll be able to activate Camp Riverview, which is a 100-acre campsite in Scotland, Maryland, to an extent that we haven’t since the 80s or 90s.”
Money would also allow the Department of Parks and Recreation to offer 1,400 more slots for learn-to-swim classes, to start new athletic offerings for kids, including golf and gymnastics, to fund 1,200 new opportunities for girls to be involved in team sports, and provide new recreation programs, including virtual reality, for the city’s seniors.
Bowser will go before the D.C. Council to talk in more detail about the budget this Friday.