DC public meeting to discuss crime lasts almost 10 hours

There were a lot of sleepy eyes at the Wilson Building after some D.C. councilmembers stayed until the very end of a hearing on crime that started Wednesday night and lasted until 3 a.m Thursday.

Reducing violent crime and efficient emergency services are two things that city residents seem to be most concerned about these days. In the last 24 hours, both of those issues have been getting a lot of attention.

At D.C.'s emergency call center Thursday, a ceremony was held for the first graduating class in five years. The new call takers and dispatchers have been in serious need. The center has been running at just 12 people, the bare minimum for the entire city.

"It wasn't 12 all the time, but 12 was our minimum. We've upped that to 17," said Chris Geldart with the Office of Unified Communications.

But this is only one fix to a bigger problem. First responders are having a hard time getting to emergencies because vehicles need repair, and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says the public needs to be educated about when it's okay to call for an ambulance.

"In some cases they need to go to the emergency room. In some cases they need to go to the doctor. In other cases we know that we have a lot of calls that do not require us to send an engine and an ambulance," said Bowser.

Meanwhile, at Wednesday's nearly 10-hour meeting on crime, public officials and worried residents all wanted a chance to address the spike in violence. D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier didn't testify until almost 3 a.m.

"One homicide is one too many. We should be outraged whenever it happens. Obviously, 111 is a crisis," said Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie.

McDuffie, who chaired the meeting, says time is crucial and taking the ideas of all and putting them to work needs to happen now.

"We've got to keep our foot on the gas pedal and don't let off until we take a dent at this systemic problem that happens across the communities in the District of Columbia," McDuffie said.

At the meeting, some people suggested reviving vice units that the chief did away with, getting all District agencies involved in the crime-fighting plan and even reaching out to organizations that have helped calm violence in the past.