Wednesday, October 16, 2019
Two hours ago at 12:20 a.m., a shooting involving three people occurred outside of Cook Hall at Howard University, my place of education. Any Howard student could tell you of the frequent and fairly homogeneous “crime alerts” delivered expressly to our University-provided email addresses. Howard, located by the Shaw neighborhood in D.C., unfortunately, must bear witness, and in some cases, such as today, play host to the increasing violence of the area. The police recently started working overtime to combat this issue though it is only a small part of the central malady: The District’s growing murder rate, which is up 11% this year. According to the Washington Post, this follows a 40% increase in 2018.
It is also worth noting that over twenty people were shot in Baltimore last weekend. Fifteen of these twenty shootings happened on Saturday the Baltimore Sun reported that it was one of the city’s bloodiest days of the last seven years. There is gravity in this statistic, considering that in 2015, the year of Freddie Gray’s widely publicized death while in police custody and the ensuing riots, along with the years following, witnessed the steepest spike in violence the city can remember. In 2015 and every year since the Baltimore murder rate has either hovered around or exceeded the mark of being ten times the U.S. average, and it is currently on pace to overtake last year’s tally of 50.7 homicides per 100,000, resulting in 309 total murders. The 2018 rate and death toll both are the lowest of the last four years but were still precipitous enough to render Baltimore the statistically most dangerous big city in the country by the Sun.
The trend of violence in Washington should not be considered separate from the record-breaking violence of Baltimore in recent years. Citizens in D.C., like Baltimoreans, are drunk on political and social unrest and grow increasingly distrustful of the police. USA Today notes the inexplicable trend in Baltimore (unless I may chalk it up to fear or a sociopolitical distaste similar to that of Washingtonians) that sees police presence and activity falling while violent crime is rising. Though Washington’s police force is actively trying to avoid this mistake by working later shifts, its residents’ fury is more than sated through the influence of the national government. One cannot walk two blocks in Northwest without seeing ‘F*** Trump’ graffiti plastered on unoccupied walls, sidewalk panels, benches, and a lot of the municipal amenities. The case of the DMV area is proof that obedience and concord cannot be expected of an indignant population and shouldn’t be.
Much of the DMV population falls into the binary of being concerned and maybe frightened or infuriated, which both inform and foster the presence of the other and are by no means mutually exclusive. When all six police officers charged with the death of Freddie Gray walked free, the people of Baltimore decided that they had enough. Some stayed home to lament the status of the American courts among their families or themselves while others armed themselves, committed to wreaking the same havoc they had just witnessed go legally unchecked. You may recall the chant during the riots that best described their philosophy: “No justice, no peace, no racist police.”
Baltimore’s violent streak is simply proportionate to the significance of the case that started it. Such is the case with the violence of D.C. and its residents’ steadily spreading political disillusionment. Fed up with seemingly inexorable gentrification (a specific instance is the retrofitting of the Shaw area, which may owe to its violence) and the daily annoyance associated with newsstands’ freshly grimace-worthy headlines about what the President is up to, Washingtonians are upset, and the city bleeds as a result. D.C. police may have an early jump on the issue as they try desperately not to follow in Baltimore’s sanguine footsteps, but their continued attention to the epidemic and preventative policies will be required to put out the fire in the long run.
Campbell, C., & Reed, L. (2019, October 15). Baltimore sees one of its most violent weekends in recent memory with 17 shot, leaving residents beleaguered.
Heath, B. (2018, July 12). Baltimore police stopped noticing crime after Freddie Gray’s death. A wave of killings followed.
Hermann, P. (2019, October 1). D.C. police chief, mayor authorize overtime to combat shootings, homicides.
Baltimore Sun (2019) Baltimore City Homicides.