Notes from the February MPD 5D Citizens' Advisory Council meeting
I attended last night's Fifth District Citizens Advisory Council meeting at the 5D station on Bladensburg Road. For those of you who haven't attended a 5D CAC meeting yet, it's a good opportunity to engage with 5D leadership and other public safety agencies and officials directly.
Councilmember McDuffie spoke, as did 5D Commander William Fitzgerald. A few notes:
There are parallel "violence interruption" programs - one through the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE), and one through the Attorney General's Office, called the "Cure the Streets" initiative. There are slight differences between the programs, but in general, they enlist returning citizens from certain neighborhoods to engage high-risk individuals and help prevent violence before it occurs.
Commander Fitzgerald lauded the programs. He wishes they were larger. He specifically noted the positive effect the program has had on the Trinidad neighborhood. To maintain credibility, the violence interrupters have limited interactions with MPD. But Fitzgerald certainly viewed their efforts as complimentary to MPD's efforts to stem violence.
These programs are profoundly limited - in geographic scope, in numbers, and funding. MPD's budget is over $500 million. To date, the violence interruption budgets have been below $1M each. Cure the Streets operates in two sites in Ward 5 (and Ward 8); the ONSE program operates in Wards 6, 7, and 8, with remaining resources split between Wards 1-5.
The NEAR Act, spearheaded by Councilmember McDuffie, launched the ONSE and its violence interrupter program. But the Act is broader, and also encompasses risk assessment, trauma intervention, and data collection.
Commander Fitzgerald emphasized that we can't "arrest our way out of this problem." He did, however, did voice support for the recent move to charge felons in possession of firearms in federal courts. Both Fitzgerald and representatives from the Mayor's office noted that this will lead to enhanced penalties for offenders, and better coordination with federal investigators.