WASHINGTON (AP) — With visitors and tourists coming, officials in the nation’s capital are deploying more police officers and hundreds of civilian peacekeeping teams in an effort to keep soaring violent crime rates from ruining the holiday weekend.
According to the interim police chief for the Metropolitan Police Department Ashan Benedict, the safety of citizens and visitors remains the MPD’s first concern. Unsafe and illegal behavior will not be allowed in the District of Columbia, Ashan Benedict added.
Ashan Benedict stated that the MPD will deploy a “very, very robust” contingent of cops, although he did not provide specific numbers. He stated that they have a great number of officers ready to perform their duties.
Visitors and residents can enjoy the Independence Day Parade on Constitution Avenue, as well as the annual Capital Fourth concert on the National Mall, which is followed by a fireworks display. In northwest D.C., a smaller local march will take place and the local government is hosting a performance at Freedom Plaza near the White House featuring Washington’s characteristic Go-Go music.
In recent years, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration has struggled to deal with progressively growing violent crime rates. Although Ashan Benedict and local officials claim that overall crime rates have decreased, murders and carjackings have gone up, giving the public the impression that crime is getting worse. The subject was the principal topic when Bowser successfully ran for a third term in office last year.
With an increasing number of homicides, including the recent murder of a 63-year-old lady, June has been a bloody month. Over the Juneteenth holiday weekend, 11 individuals were shot and four were killed, three of them were under the age of 18.
“We recognize that gun violence is a challenge,” said Lindsey Appiah, deputy mayor for public safety on Friday. She wants to make sure that they have a presence in those neighborhoods where the crime rate is unfortunately high.
Muriel Bowser and Ashan Benedict are now in an awkward position due to the public’s perception of the continuous case of killings or homicides.
And, as the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has bugan aggressively using its power to review local laws and openly criticize both Bowser and the DC Council, DC crime has become a national headline problem. Bowser, Ashan Benedict, and members of the council were called before the House Oversight Committee earlier this spring for a heated discussion about local crime numbers.
The DC Council’s extensive revision of the DC criminal law was finally overturned by Congress. The proposal gained backing from scores of Democratic lawmakers and was signed into law by President Joe Biden, an embarrassment for predominantly Democratic Washington. A second House of Representatives attempt to reject a package of police accountability and reform laws failed.
For July 4, Ashan Benedict and the mayor’s office is gathering groups of civilian violence interrupters and community leaders into “Safety Go” squads that will be deployed in 28 different “hot spot neighborhoods” throughout the city, according to Appiah.
The teams formed by Ashan Benedict and the mayor’s office, made up of between eight and ten civilians, will be entrusted with “helping deescalate any conflicts or negative activities” before police intervention is required, according to Appiah.
Such squads have previously been deployed on previous July 4 weekends, as well as other significant public occasions such as Labor Day and Halloween, and Appiah claims they have been helpful in lowering gun violence in the past.
Ashan Benedict also warned against recreational or celebratory gunfire that has become a regular July 4 issue.