As I'm sure you're aware, there's been a lot of chatter about DC crime over the last few days. The tragic murder of Alan Senitt in Georgetown has gotten the most attention locally and nationally, but as as of this posting there have been fourteen murders in the last twelve days. Let me repeat that: fourteen people murdered in twelve days. Ten men, two women and a child.
I don't know how much attention would have been paid to this statistic if one of them had not been the murder of a white man by black people in a ritzy neighborhood. Frankly, I don't care. It's a damned waste of time to fret over hypothetical racism when people are being stabbed in the streets. I'm sure there are some who would say that as a white, middle-class person I don't get to make that judgement call. To them I say "Can we talk about this later? Someone is breaking into my neighbor's house and there's a body in the street a block down."
Having recently been on the periphery of a violent crime, I haven't felt safe in my home and my city for several weeks now. This latest spate of violence may bring attention to DC's violent crime problem, but who knows if any tangible results will come from it. In the situation I've referenced before in this blog, I was deeply disturbed with reaction of the police involved. It's hard to explain without getting into specifics, which is not appropriate for this forum, but they behaved in a supremely unconcerned manner, sauntering around the crime scene and not bothering to interview witnesses or, that I saw, even write anything down. At one point I pointed out a car across the street that had been recently broken into-- there was still glass on the backseat and the weapon-- a rock wrapped in a scarf-- was hanging out the window. When I pointed this out to an officer, thinking they might find it of note that a robbery had taken place across the street and on the same night as the incident they were presently investigating, he responded "we can't do anything until the owner calls it in." He didn't even bother to write down the license plate number. I wrote it down, along with as many notes on the scene and the officer's reaction to it as I could recall, along with his squad car number and my contact information, and sent it to police headquarters. I'm sure they'll never do anything with it. It's probably sitting in a box somewhere in Anacostia, or more likely, is resting in pieces at the bottom of a shredder. From what I've been told, the continued investigation of this particular crime has been more of the same: apathy, dropped calls and general callousness towards the victim.
I don't have a lot of faith in the DCPD. After reading a lot of the comment threads and blog entires about this issue, I'm losing a lot of faith in the power of DC citizens. Events like these should push us to measurable action, not a round of race-baiting and finger-pointing. Everyone is too scared of the very large and ill-defined task of reducing violent crime, and so they play the blame game. It's the yuppies' fault for being stupid and living in bad neighborhoods. It's the parents' fault for letting their kids run wild. It's the schools' fault. It's the cops' fault. It's because of racist condo developers; Congress; gangs; crystal meth.
One thing I'm particularly losing patience with is the gentrification blame game. People like me are damned if we do, damned if we don't. Yuppies who live in Northwest and the suburbs get all kinds of crap for fleeing and taking their resources and influence with them, yet are told that because they don't live in the rougher parts of town they don't get to comment on what goes on there. If they, as I do, live in "transitioning" neighborhoods and something bad happens, they get a reaction of "what did you expect? This is a city. If you can't deal, get out." It's a vicious cycle that doesn't go anywhere or help anyone, and I'm sick of it.
I fully expect that this latest surge of violence will, in the end, change nothing about the way DC law enforcement is run or tangibly address any of the underlying causes of the rise in violent crime. What it will do is stir a simmering kettle of tangential crap. People will use the violence as a further reason to attack one another's lifestyles and choices. They will get up in arms about perceptions of racism, and quibble over how much attention to race and socioeconomic status is appropriate. Little will be different and people will still get hurt.
It'd be nice if I'm wrong, but I'm not optimistic.