- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 26, 2003

Hundreds of District residents voiced their concerns yesterday about the city's escalating crime rate and offered solutions during the Mayor's Forum on Crime & Prevention at Eastern Senior High School in Northeast.
The objective of the daylong event in the packed school auditorium was "Building Partnerships for Safer Neighborhoods."
"I have made crime one of my top three priorities. Education and public safety are the linchpins." Mayor Anthony A. Williams said shortly before residents split up to attend 11 workshops in classrooms throughout the school.
"The police can't [stop crime] alone. Citizens can't do it alone. We have to work together," he said.
Artists and activists, politicians and preachers, students and stay-at-home moms weighed in on a broad range of issues during workshops on combating prostitution, quality of life problems, homicide, youth crime prevention, former offenders' re-entry into neighborhoods and society, and victims' issues.
In Room 159, residents discussed the Metropolitan Police Department's purported insensitivity to the families of murder victims. A panel of seven persons comprising clergy, advocacy groups such as ROOT Inc.(Reaching Out to Others Together) and No Murders D.C., a representative from the U.S. Attorney's Office and members of the police force listened as residents asked about guns and questioned police policies concerning crime scenes.
Southeast resident Priscilla Cornelius interrogated Lt. Dave Jackson, a panelist in the homicide workshop about crime-scene policy. She cited the indifference of police officers to her plea to kneel near her son, who lay shot in the street. Mrs. Cornelius said she found out four hours later that her son was dead.
"I could have been with him for his last hours. I think the police need to change the way they deal with the survivors. I identified myself as being his mother. I didn't know where he was shot in the leg, in the thumb. I didn't know," she said.
Lt. Jackson, representing the District's police force, said officers must protect the integrity of the crime scene.
"When police get to the scene, they don't know the people. And there's a process. Sometimes it takes more time than others to establish identity. How do we know if the person [trying to get on the crime scene] isn't involved with the shooting? But I'm not saying that police should not be more sensitive," he said.
A real estate investor who attended the homicide workshop told the group that he had recently moved and said he felt safer on the streets of New York City, with its population of more than 7 million, than he does in the District. He was politely told that the District is not New York, which has 40,000 police officers.
D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey came into the homicide workshop toward the end and listened for a while before joining the discussion. He didn't shift blame but pointed out to the audience that there are some deep-seated problems in the District.
"We have a real problem with dysfunctional families, an illiteracy rate of 37 percent. Children are constantly exposed to violence the news at 11 there's 20 minutes of violence followed by sports and weather. [Children] don't realize death is forever," he said.
Earlier in the day, people packed into classroom 152 for a workshop on "Youth Crime Prevention." Representatives from Bell Multi-Culturall School, Weed and Seed, the Alliance of Concerned Men, and police fielded questions and talked about keeping children and young adults safe.
John DeTeye, the site coordinator for Columbia Heights' Weed and Seed, a Department of Justice program in four sites throughout the District, talked about truancy among youth in the city. The Weed and Seed program promotes partnerships with residents, schools, organizations and police to foster community safety,
He said 3,000 District students who should be in classrooms every day are not. He pointed to the successful campaign the public school system mounted for immunization and suggested that the school system mount a campaign against truancy.
"Truancy is the gateway to crime. A lot of young people are disconnected from their families. None of us know what the truancy laws are. What are parents rights and responsibilities? The district public school system will say they have brochures, but there's no systematic way to enforce them," he said.


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