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Winter 2005 issue of In-Sites magazine, published by the Community Capacity Development Office (formerly Weed & Seed Office), Office Justice Programs (OJP)CCDO Home pageHomeLetter From the DirectorOJP SealLetter From the U.S. AttorneyPhotos representing weeding and seeding efforts: two police officers smiling at the camera, three individuals painting over graffiti on a wall, woman holding a potted plant. About In-SitesFind Past Issues Submit Stories Subscribe Letter from the U.S. Attorney banner
Photo of Kenneth L. Wainstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.
Kenneth L. Wainstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

Over the past few years, we have seen tremendous progress in the effort to reduce violent crime here in the Nation's Capital. Through the tireless efforts of federal and local law enforcement and our community partners, homicides have declined by 21 percent since 2003, marking the lowest homicide rate in two decades.

We have used the principles of community policing and community prosecution to build public safety partnerships with a variety of organizations, including the faith-based community, schools, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. In order to maximize our impact, we have coordinated the efforts of our Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), Weed and Seed, and Public Housing Safety programs. We have combined the resources of these initiatives, and the talents of their respective members, to focus on combating our most prevalent and persistent crime issue: street gangs.

Gang-related crime is an entrenched problem in DC. The most prevalent form of gang (or crew, as they are commonly known in this city) is built around neighborhood-based associations. These street gangs control the distribution of narcotics in a group of blocks within a defined area. They identify themselves by neighborhoods, and inter-gang disputes spread to all areas of the community, including clubs, schools, parks, and playgrounds. According to PSN data analyses, including homicide incidence reviews and gang audits, more than half of all homicides in the District in 2002 involved some element of gang activity; 61 percent of suspects and 39 percent of victims were linked to gangs. Although drug trafficking triggers many of their violent disputes, these gangs are increasingly engaging in organized acts of violence unrelated to drug trafficking, most notably armed robberies, home invasions, murders-for-hire, and inter-gang retaliations.

To combat this serious problem, the U.S. Attorney's Office worked with its local and federal partners to develop the Homicide Reduction Strategy, created in early 2004 specifically to reduce gang-related homicides. This joint federal-local strategy draws upon the efforts of the U.S. Attorney's Office, Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), FBI, DEA, ATF, USMS, DC Attorney General's Office, and Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA). The strategy includes five elements: (1) Suppression: An intelligence-based process for targeting a different neighborhood gang every few months for sustained investigation and arrest operations by local and federal law enforcement; (2) Deterrence: “Call-Ins” of gang members on probation/parole, in which we highlight previous sweep operations to illustrate what happens to gangs that become the focus of our attention and we warn them that the entire gang will be held responsible if individual members engage in violence; (3) Intervention: Working with community-based groups on prevention, school-based education, and community outreach; (4) Investigation: Training for police and prosecutors, as well as improved evidence collection and intelligence sharing; and (5) Prosecution: Creation of a Homicide Section in the USAO to focus on those murderers responsible for a disproportionate amount of the District's gang-related violence.

To further strengthen our intervention and prevention efforts, the U.S. Attorney's Office joined MPD and other community partners to create the Violence Intervention Partnership (VIP). This collaboration of law enforcement, the community, and service providers was established to combat gang-related violence in the most violent neighborhoods of the city. The VIP is modeled after the highly successful Gang Intervention Partnership (GIP), which was established to combat Latino gang violence. To date, we have joined a dozen community-based groups in the target areas, and we are addressing systemic issues such as truancy, delinquency, and recidivism with programs for conflict resolution and at-risk youth mentoring.

In addition to PSN and the VIP/GIP programs, we are fully engaged in a number of other fruitful partnerships. We are working closely with CSOSA in their reentry effort to help ex-offenders return to the city and become part of law-abiding society. We participate in regular orientations for recently released offenders, in which we discuss the consequences of failing to follow the law and/or their conditions of release. In addition to this deterrence message, the sessions also provide ex-offenders with referrals to resources and services that can assist their transition back to the community.

We also are participating in the Public Housing Safety Initiative to address violent crime and gang activity in public housing. We are working closely with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the DC Housing Authority to streamline the process for evicting criminals from federally subsidized housing, thus making these neighborhoods safer.

Finally, we are working with city agencies and law enforcement to address the conditions that encourage criminal activity. Each week, police and prosecutors meet with representatives from city agencies to deal with abandoned cars, street lighting, drug nuisance properties, and other conditions that breed crime. Addressing these issues has succeeded in both reducing crime and improving the quality of life in the affected communities.

I am proud of the collaboration between law enforcement and the community in the Nation's Capital, and I am gratified that these efforts are helping to make our neighborhoods safer and better places to live.

Kenneth L. Wainstein
U.S. Attorney
District of Columbia