News & Politics

DC Mayor Bowser Declares Gun Violence a Public Health Emergency

Shootings are up 33 percent. Her new program will attempt to address the roots of violent crime.

Image via iStock.

In a press conference today, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced she will sign an executive order that declares gun violence in the city a public health emergency. The executive order will establish a gun violence prevention emergency operations center, as well as an expedited process for city agencies to respond to violence epicenters.

Over the course of 2020, shootings increased in DC by 33 percent to 922 incidents. There were 198 homicides in the city last year. 95 percent of individuals who lost their lives to gun violence in DC in 2020 were Black.

The new program established by the executive order, named Building Blocks DC, will focus on addressing the root causes of gun violence in specific areas around the city. DC data shows 151 blocks that make up 2 percent of the District account for 41 percent of the city’s violent offenses. Building Blocks DC will zero in on those specific areas with targeted outreach, starting with parts of Historic Anacostia.

Engagement will be focused on those most likely to become victims or perpetrators of gun violence, including individuals who have been repeatedly arrested for gun-related offenses, those who have been the victim of gun violence, and those who have been directly impacted by gun violence.

The program aims to partner directly with neighborhoods to find workable solutions. The city hopes to connect individuals in these neighborhoods with government services and opportunities, and to put a vested interest in putting government resources towards clearing trash and abandoned cars, fixing streetlights, and addressing vacant buildings. Bowser has committed to a $15 million down payment for the program, and there will be additional funding in the 2022 fiscal-year budget.

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Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.