Gun violence in the nation’s capital continues to be a serious problem: Last year, D.C. surpassed 200 homicides for the first time in 17 years. And this year could be a repeat, with 65 homicides reported as of Monday, compared with 64 this time last year.
As the District tries to turn the tide on the numbers, the National Institute of Criminal Justice Reform has released its recommendations on ways that it believes that could be achieved.
Before laying out its solutions, the organization noted that D.C. is fortunate that it has the talent, ability and resources to bring about a big decline in gun violence, though it said that is only part of the recipe for success.
“[D.C.] is lacking the political commitment, coordination, and a coherent strategy to reduce gun violence,” the report stated.
Some of the recommendations focus on prevention and intervention, which involve data-driven approaches to finding and helping those who are at high risk of committing or becoming a victim of violent crimes. Recently, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a plan that included this recommendation: the “People of Promise” initiative.
The institute also recommended a focus on the “root causes” of gun violence. Among younger residents who have run-ins with law enforcement, some of the factors of concern include homelessness, removal from foster care, school suspensions, psychotic disorders and living in areas of high crime, known as “hot blocks.”
There is also a call for the District to set up a real-time incident review-and-response center, or a “Peace Room,” which would serve as an emergency operation center for gun violence.
The center would help with the sharing of intelligence, as well as with police and community outreach information, and it would send outreach workers — in addition to first responders — to the scenes of shootings.
The institute also calls for weekly law enforcement meetings to review every shooting that occurred over the past seven days.
The recommendations call for D.C. to hire and retain 62 life coaches, 50 violence interrupters and 20 outreach workers. Violence interrupters would respond to shootings to help a victim’s family and provide crowd and rumor control; outreach workers would help high-risk people find and enroll in services; and life coaches would be teamed up with those people to help them develop both life and safety plans.
Among other recommendations is for D.C. police to expand their violence-reduction units, which are specially trained officers who focus only on gun violence. The District is also encouraged to use lobbyists to push Congress to fill judicial vacancies.
There is also a recommendation for a “guaranteed income initiative” pilot program that would select 200 Black families in wards 7 or 8 who have children younger than 10 and household incomes below $50,000. Those families would be given a monthly stipend of $750.
The goal, according to the report, is to reduce homicides, non-fatal shootings and armed robberies involving guns by 10% over the previous year.
While it called for more study on the topic, the report didn’t address domestic violence, because data shows it’s not a significant driver of shootings — though it called for study on the topic.
“NICJR’s DC Gun Violence Problem Analysis found that 5.6% of homicides and 2.3% of non-fatal shootings in DC are due to domestic violence,” the report stated.