A week after a man stabbed another man to death inside the Petworth Neighborhood Library, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and police Chief Robert Contee visited residents who remain on edge following the attack.
With a crowd gathered outside the Petworth Metro Station Wednesday evening, Bowser expressed sympathy for the shocking violence and vowed to continue her efforts to fight crime with tough enforcement along with ample programs and resources to divert individuals from crime.
“We are a second-chance city, so it’s not my view that if you make a mistake, that’s the end of it for you, but you have to have consequences if you carry a gun,” she said. “You have to have consequences if you use a gun … there has to be consequences if you’re throwing an old lady off a bus. There has to be consequences.”
The mayor took questions from residents and walked through parts of the neighborhood to show a unified front against crime.
Police said an unhoused man stabbed another unhoused man seated at one of the library’s computers Thursday night on March 2. People were able to restrain the suspect until police arrived.
“When there’s a stabbing in the library that’s not far from here, and kids are present when that happens, there’s something different about it when it hits home,” Contee told the crowd.
Residents expressed frustration and concern about crime.
“We’re all afraid in this neighborhood now. My elderly relatives won’t take the bus to come and see me just two blocks up,” said Michelle Engert, a Petworth resident who also told Bowser that she hopes the city can do more than simply lock up offenders.
“I think we all, as a community, have a responsibility. And it’s not just jail and custody, but opportunity,” Engert said.
Contee told residents that officers riding mountain bikes have been added to the regular patrols in Petworth, while Bowser vowed continued efforts against crime.
“I feel very strongly about making sure that communities are safe,” she said.
For residents, the memories from last week’s killing in the library remain fresh; the daily sights in their neighborhood, including illegal drug sales, continue to cause dismay and discouragement.
“We have a situation of unhoused, impoverished, addicted people who are not getting the services that they need,” Engert said. “We have people working in the informal economy right on this corner. People are afraid to use the Metro and get on and off the bus.”