A community meeting was held on Saturday, April 30 at the American University Law Center for residents of Ward 3 in light of recent crime in the area, some of which affected the Wilson community. The meeting was led by Mayor Muriel Bowser, Councilwoman Mary Cheh, DC Police, Metro Transit Police, and Wilson administrator Alex Wilson who attempted to address the concerns of residents regarding safety in the area.
One specific concern addressed was safety issues for students at high traffic hours around arrival and dismissal, with large numbers of students who commute by public transportation. The greatest problem is a lack of officers in the area due to the generally low rates of crime, which prompted the community to come up with alternative solutions.
Parents in the neighborhood proposed the possibility of staggering arrivals and delays at Wilson, Deal, and Janney in order to decrease the number of people commuting at one time and therefore, the strain on metro police. Officer Apgar from Metro Transit Police also supported this notion, explaining that it will make his job, that is typically worse from 3:00 to 5:00 pm, easier. However, the general reaction among adults in the meeting was unenthusiastic.
Other suggestions community members had for this issue included having adults from the area, like the MPD, Metro, school staff, and volunteers, dressed in colored vests along the toe-path from the schools to the Metro, to manage those walking and ensuring their safety. Although specific jobs for these adults were not fully outlined, the idea would presumably make it safer with a pair of watching eyes on students as they came and left school each day.
One measure supported by Bowser is creating harsher penalties for those who commit crimes to metro-goers. She also reminded the group that the DC government pays $340 million a year to ensure students ride free, and because Metro is being paid for student trips, they should treat students as valued and respected customers.
At the end of the meeting, the crowd seemed to come to a consensus, agreeing that Wilson students aren’t the ones to blame in these most recent cases of crime. “It’s not Wilson kids that are the criminals, it’s Wilson kids that are the victims of the recent crimes,” Alex Wilson said. On top of that, they also agreed to make the community safer overall with more officers on bikes and segways in the area to help expand the security, not just for Wilson students.
Although many residents were concerned about the crime in the area, in reality crime rates are decreasing. “Our neighborhood is very, very safe,” Principal Kimberly Martin explained. Even with the robberies where Wilson students were victims, Martin sees them as isolated events and believes that the police are doing all they can. “I am pleased with the responsiveness of the mayor’s office and the police department,” Martin said. •
PHOTO BY JACKSON FOX-BLAND