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To Live and Die in D.C.

No matter how many statues of Christopher Columbus are felled, beheaded, or legally removed, his murderous legacy lives on in the city named for him.

The terrifying volume of murders and other violent crimes in the District of Columbia is a topic The DC Voice has covered extensively. Unfortunately, it is an issue that continues to get worse. The District’s murder rate, which grows every year, remains on pace to surpass last year’s mark—there has been a nineteen percent increase in homicides as of yesterday. The city’s murderous bend has, at this point, reached nearly satirical levels, for the overall rate of crime has dropped eighteen percent while murders continue to mount. Perhaps the latest victim of this tragic trend was seventeen-year-old Christopher Brown, who was shot and killed at a block party on Dubois Place SE last Sunday. Reports stated that the four assailants, who are at large, fired more than one hundred rounds of ammunition, injuring twenty-one others and an off-duty police officer. One day later, rounds fired into a car by a still uncaptured assailant on I-395 could have claimed two more lives, but thankfully did not.

Wanton violence of this sort was the trademark of the city’s namesake. One might even expect violence from a city that is named for a bloodthirsty imperialist, that serves as the headquarters for a hawkish, despotically-minded white supremacist, and that is patrolled by a police department with an exceedingly questionable track record. And never mind that its airport was named for a man who opposed legislation aimed at ending the racist, murderous Apartheid regime in South Africa. In consideration of all this, it’s almost as if violence is the city’s brand. One can’t take many steps in the District without finding some remnant of a violent history, or, worse, some indicator of its violent present.

The website, which provides, among other things, crime index numbers for American cities, is fully cognizant of the city’s fatal bend. A crime index number is a value from one to one hundred that indicates what percentage of American cities the city in question is safer than. For example, a city with a crime index number of one hundred would be the safest city in America, as it would be safer than one hundred percent of American cities. Now, I of course didn’t expect Washington’s number to be high or even average. I also didn’t expect the number to be three. Three. Meaning that ninety-seven percent of American cities are safer than D.C. The city can almost literally not get any worse in terms of the lack of safety. There are countless speculations as to what compels and amplifies the trends of crime and homicide in the District, but I believe it would benefit us more to focus on stopping it rather than understanding it.

This is a tall ask. Cities like ours harbor a great deal of animosity, indignation, hopelessness, and confusion, and I believe confusion to be one of the factors most responsible for the crime rate. Many Washingtonians are confused by the question of whether or not they should trust the police, confused by why their loved ones continue to be cut down in the street, either by police or residents, confused by why their schools are being shut down, confused by whether it’s even worth it to pursue an honest living when death could come at any moment. The municipal and federal government will need to work to alleviate this confusion and reinstate hope among the city’s constituents if they wish to get to the root of this issue. Though I may only have some loose ideas of how this is to be achieved, I know for a fact that the arrests and assault of protesters while murderers remain at large is far from the answer.

Myles Walker

Myles Walker

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