But some people in Columbia Heights don’t expect the drop in crime to last.
Last weekend’s “all hands on deck” initiative by District of Columbia Police Chief Cathy Lanier resulted in 650 arrests in two days, but residents in the Third District, the Columbia Heights neighborhood, say the stepped up patrolling should have started sooner.
Payne Mathews has lived near 14th and Harvard Street for more than 32 years. He says that while he was happy to see so many police walking the streets he does not believe the lawbreakers in the community were impressed.
“It’s too late for that,” Mathews said. “The young people are out of control here…doing their thing…Killing all day and selling drugs.”
The police scared some of them off the streets and cleared them out of the back alleys behind the La Casa homeless shelter, said Nathanial Carr, but he knows they’ll be back.
“The only way you can stop it is to enforce a curfew and when your police officers are not out here enforcing the law every day, what are you going to do?,” says Carr who has lived in Columbia Heights for more than 50 years. “They’re going to keep breaking laws until they let them know they’re out here. You break the law we’re going to lock you up.”
Glancing up and down 15th Street, Carr pointed to a group of young men standing in front of the new condominiums of the neighborhood’s newest residents. Next to the older houses and apartment buildings “the new housing in this community looks out of place with the gang-banging youth hanging in front of them,” said Carr.
The crime report for the Third District show that crime in 301, the number for the police service area in Columbia Heights and adjacent neighborhoods, has dropped dramatically in the last 30 days, said Lt. Moses Vines. “In the last seven days we haven’t had any burglaries or robberies or AW [assault with a deadly weapon]…In property crime and violent crimes we got a 32 percent drop in the last 30 days.”
Vines said concerned residents at the community meetings held on the second Tuesday of every month have told him that they see police officers grouped together just on Mt. Pleasant Street. “‘All hands on deck’ that was just for two days,” says Vines. “In general we are reallocating the manpower in 301… [They’re] going to be spread out in 301 and you will see them.”
Columbia Heights is north of the Capitol in the northwest quadrant of the Washington. While they appreciate any relief from crime, some residents believe the police chief’s summer anti-crime surge as a publicity stunt.
Chris Wallace, originally from South Carolina, just moved into a condominium on 17th Street in Columbia Heights but was familiar with the area before he moved. He sees the community and the district’s effort to stall crime as a reactionary response– not a proactive response to the recent spike in homicides.
“I am glad to see more police around, but once they think they got it under control they’ll beef up their manpower for something else whatever [is] political at the time, which will have them coming right out of the neighborhood to where ever the other neighborhood is,” said Wallace.
Wallace said this is going to happen because people in this city or any city across the nation want to take care of things after they have occurred — not address them beforehand.