Are DC’s violence interrupter programs doing what they’re intended to?

DC Council recently voted to cut Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request for $11 million to hire more officers. Instead, they approved $5 million as well as $6.1 million for other safety programs and initiatives to combat the surge in violence.

 DC Witness is an organization that has been tracking every homicide trial here for the past six years.

Their editor-in-chief, LaTrina Antoine, said their data shows violent interrupter programs might not be preventing violence as they’re intended to do.

The gun violence in the nation’s capital is receiving national attention – causing many to ask – what is the solution?

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The most recent high-profile shootings include a drive-by in Southeast which claimed the life of a six-year-old girl and shots fired outside of Nats Park leaving fans scrambling – ultimately suspending the game.

"This is the place where I do eventually want to raise a family and have kids of my own and to know and to hear some of the heartbreaking stories of what we hear in court – it frightens me," said Antoine.

Antoine said gun-related homicides have been increasing since 2018 – by double-digit percentages.

 She believes it’s a problem that is progressively getting worse due to the gun culture in the city.

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"A lot of people who are holding these guns really believe that this is their only measure of safety," said Antoine.

DC Witness told FOX 5’s Sierra Fox there’s no evidence that violent interrupter programs have cut crime in the city. In fact, they found where homicides are increasing is where violent interrupter programs are. On the other hand, in the areas where those programs are helping reduce crime – the violence is moving to surrounding neighborhoods that previously did not have any killings going on.

 "We are not in the position to say what is a solution or is not a solution," said Antoine.

Just to be clear, DC Witness isn’t saying these programs should not be funded. However, what they are saying is there needs to be more evaluation and assessment to look into why the programs seem to be dispersing violence rather than interrupting violence.

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Metropolitan Police sent FOX 5’s Sierra Fox this e-mail:

"At this time, we respectfully decline to participate. Please see our response below attributable to Chief Robert J. Contee, III.

Although I am disappointed that we received less than half of the additional funding for what we would be able to hire next year, we will be working to leverage all available resources to protect and serve the residents and visitors of the District of Columbia. With the budget approved by DC Council, MPD will have to operate at its lowest level in more than two decades, and with more than 200 fewer officers than we had in September 2020 for a city that continues to grow in size.  While I am pleased that we will be able to resume hiring in January, slightly earlier than originally anticipated, and will have additional officers to safeguard the city and support the health and well-being of the force, we will need to continue to think strategically and be flexible as a Department to do the best job we can for the residents of this city with a smaller workforce."

The DC Attorney General’s Office did not respond to request for comment or to connect Fox 5 with violent interrupter programs.