Congratulations and thank you to Laura and Chris Amico for another phenomenal year of reporting.
This year’s reduction of homicides is welcomed news. While the milestone of fewer than 100 homicides is commendable - - each violent death serves as reminder of just how precious life is.
Healing takes a long time - - the pain never really goes away - - it only changes. Members of my staff have lost family members to homicide - - and I am in regular contact with parents and family members whose memories of their loved ones are particularly resonant during the holiday season.
As Ward One Councilmember and Chairman of the Committee on Human Services, there is nothing more important to me than people’s safety - - children’s safety in their homes, at school, and when they are at play. Adults too, have a right to be safe in their homes, travelling to and from work, and late at night. Families are stronger and communities are united - - when we are safe.
On September 11, 2012, at 3:45 p.m. near the 800 block of T Street, NW, twenty gun shots rang out in a matter of seconds. Dozens of children were nearby on an elementary school playground. Pedestrians were walking home from work. A resident was on her stoop when a bullet broke the window of a car parked within ten feet of her.
No one was killed and there were no injuries to innocent bystanders. But the sense of fear and concern is palatable in the neighborhood. We all wonder will we be as lucky next time.
Gang violence in Ward One and throughout the city has decreased over the last several years. MPD has made important arrests and many of the gang intervention programs I helped establish are working. Economic development with mixed income housing in troubled areas has also helped.
The September 11 shoot-out and those thought to be responsible involves three neighboring Wards. Councilmembers Jack Evans, Tommy Wells, and I are now working closely with MPD, residents of the three wards, parents and staff of the school, and other law enforcement officials on long term strategies and solutions. It will take time - - but all recognize we need to do more.
I bring the same concern to my work as Chairman of the Committee on Human Services. Children, young adults, and families in the custody of District agencies are likely to be more successful when they feel safe and supported. Some of those achievements include:
- Expanded eligibility for the Grandparents subsidy which keeps children and families together and out of the foster care program.
- Delayed reductions in TANF benefits for families that need assistance the most.
- Increased funding for DC based substance abuse treatment and counseling programs for juvenile offenders, youth in the foster care program, and homeless adults.
- Increased funding for Clean Teams hiring ex-offenders returning from federal prisons.
Best wishes to everyone for a safe and healthy Holiday Season.
Editor’s Note: Councilmember Graham’s column was submitted on Friday morning 9:30 .m. on December 14 - - prior to the world’s knowledge of the horrific events in Newtown, CT.