DC neighborhood leader calls for more police patrols after 2 children shot in Brightwood

A D.C. leader is calling for more police patrols after two children were shot in the District's Brightwood neighborhood.

The shooting happened around 4 p.m. Wednesday following a fight that started when a passenger was assaulted on a Metrobus near 14th Street and Fort Stevens Drive. The fight continued onto the street after everyone was told to get off the bus. Police say at one point someone pulled a gun and fired shots.

Three people, including a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old, were struck by the gunfire. All three were hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

FOX 5's Melanie Alnwick spoke with ANC Commissioner Kim Patterson Thursday who said residents in the neighborhood are very concerned about the safety of their children and don't feel like police are answering their questions about what actions will be taken.

"I don't think they're getting the answers from D.C. Police - action - what's going to happen next to stop the crime, reduce the crime and make them feel safe in their home," she said.

Patterson said a reduction in police patrols - particularly bicycle patrol officers - has had a detrimental effect on neighborhood safety.

"We had an excellent bike police patrolman who went through our alleys and streets - day and night - and that program was cut. We want that back. We felt safe and the crime really was reduced," she told Alnwick.

"We also want to see more police patrols – not sitting on the corner, five blocks away near the church, just sitting there. We would like them to come through our neighborhoods and be more effective. We want cops to walk around our neighborhoods – we want to see them again. We just feel an absence."

Patterson said that absence of police patrolling the area is seen, not only by neighbors, but by criminals too.

"We knew him, we knew him by name, we want him back – and he's still on the force, he's just been transferred because that program is no longer here," Patterson said. "We just want to feel safe again."

Authorities are continuing their investigation into who fired the shots that injured the two children and are expected to provide surveillance images of the suspects.

The latest shooting comes as officials continue their investigation after a D.C. government employee is suspected of shooting and killing 13-year-old Karon Blake over the weekend. Six children have been shot in the District since the start of 2023. Two of them were killed.

DC council member says violent crime in DC part of mental health crisis

D.C. Councilmember Robert White told FOX 5 that the solution to curbing violent crime starts with focusing on the mental health crisis in the city, and getting people the resources they need. 

"What they know is that police alone won't solve this problem. Police know that, too," Councilmember White said. "So, when we're talking about public safety, we cannot get stuck on this. Do we need more police or fewer police? We have to know that regardless of the number of police you have, you need other resources. Police show up after somebody has been shot. We need fewer people to get shot."

Data shows the 2023 police budget is $545 million compared to $539 million dollars last year.

Mayor Muriel Bowser proposed a long-term goal of having 4,000 officers within the next few years.

Currently, there are around 3,387 officers and the goal is to hire 348 more this year.

Two years ago, D.C. Council trimmed the police budget – listening to calls for a smaller force during protests over racial justice after the death of George Floyd.

There were also efforts to have more mental health workers step in.

READ MORE: 2 children injured after Metrobus altercation; Police search for shooting suspects

This reduction reportedly left the Metropolitan Police Department with its lowest staffing levels in two decades.

Now, the conversation is turning around after rising rates of homicides, gun violence, and carjackings coupled with slower responses to emergencies as well as mounting overtime pay for officers. 

Many D.C. residents we spoke with feel that having more of a police presence isn’t necessarily the answer.

"It’s going to happen in a big city regardless. Maybe it’s on the law enforcement to be more active and try preemptive measures instead of just showing up when things happen."

"I think people should just be held accountable, so others are aware of the consequences they’ll face," one woman said. 

Another resident told FOX 5, "It’s going to happen in a big city regardless. Maybe it’s on the law enforcement to be more active and try preemptive measures instead of just showing up when things happen."