Commentary: The Reign of Terror on Capitol Hill
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by Richard Lukas
Since this past spring, there has been much talk about what can now be considered a skyrocketing surge of crime in the District, especially on Capitol Hill.
The majority of D.C. residents are good, hard-working, law-abiding citizens. However, we are being terrorized by a small percentage of “irrational actors.” (Perhaps faced with such economic and social challenges, in their minds, these unlawful actions are quite rational.)
What can we do or expect to stem the tide of violence and criminal activity in the near term?
I say this because I have no faith whatsoever that an adequate response can come from our elected officials or the police. I believe that those at the top are thoughtful and well-intentioned. However, our D.C. leaders lack the forthrightness needed to select the immediate policies that are required to combat this reign of terror.
Mainly, our elected officials are loathe to address publicly, what we all know privately:
- There is a very active segment of marauding at-risk youths who find satisfaction from terrorizing people on a daily basis. (I can’t believe that all these crimes are connected to synthetic marijuana.)
- “Hot spots” of criminal locations do indeed exist, whether part of our public housing complexes or notorious transit connections. (No, we do not get rid of providing housing and public transportation to D.C. residents. But sentinel stations could be a solution.)
- In light of legitimate national concerns around police brutality, D.C. could be criticized for being heavy-handed if there were stronger police measures enacted. (There must be more aggressive approaches that are humane and within the law that could be considered.)
Consequently, my longtime friends and neighbors have given up on leaving their homes at night — and some even walking alone or with their children during the day. The now exorbitant rents and home prices that we pay — and their respectively high property taxes — only afford safety behind our closed front doors.
Where are the daily, weekly or routine updates from our officials on what is being done to recognize and address this new normal? At the very least, there should be one-stop web pages on DC.gov and our councilmember sites providing updates and proactive approaches being taken. But to recognize the problem in such a transparent and systematic fashion might only be perceived as a sign of defeat by our leadership.
Having lived on the Hill for more than 15 years, I have never seen such comprehensive fear from the neighborhood, and it is very sad.
So what can we really expect in the months to come?
Things will get worse.
I say this because as the days get shorter, the window for the criminal activity that is occurring under darkness grows wider. And, yes, I recognize that statistically crime goes down in colder months. However, this reign of terror changes everything.
Hopefully, our elected officials will eventually act. But I am not holding my breath.
Instead, I will follow the practice of my neighbors and just try not to be a walking target. Our streets are not safe. In the long term, I do think that things will get better due to the slow churn of progressive policy reforms being made in our education system and social services, but also due to the increased density through city development. (Even though people like me could never afford that $500,000 one-bedroom condo!)
Some will disagree with my assessment; some will agree. But I fully believe that we should be candid about what is happening by our irrational and rational actors alike.
Lukas lives in Hill East and has worked in community development for more than ten years.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hill Now.
Photo via Flickr/nullvalue