DC violent crime concerns continue after Shaw neighborhood shootings

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WASHINGTON -- There are more violent crime concerns in the District after a recent American University graduate was shot and killed outside of the Shaw-Howard U Metro station over the weekend.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is trying to assure the public that overall crime is flat. However, that is not true when it comes to homicides.

The Shaw neighborhood is on edge after 23-year-old Matthew Shlonsky was killed in the middle of a busy street late Saturday afternoon. It happened right across the street from a daycare that was closed.

"Our daycare is sitting right at the corner here of 7th and S [Streets], so it means we're surrounded with lots of glass, and the same way something happened to that young man, I'm concerned certainly that something could happen here as well," said Linda Jackson, executive director of the Northwest Settlement House.

Last Tuesday, there was a triple shooting just blocks away near 7th and O Streets just steps away from a 31-year-old woman who was killed by a stray bullet on Memorial Day.

"We're concerned, we're fearful," said Jackson. "We are responsible for 50 young children every day. We also have a staff of about 25 people."

The question is what do city leaders like Mayor Bowser and Police Chief Cathy Lanier have to say and what is being done?

"This city is among the safest cities anywhere in the United States, and while we are experiencing a spike in crime -- overall -- our crime statistics are flat," Bowser said.

However, the murder rate isn't flat. It is up 30 percent from last year as the District has had 94 homicides this year.

Over the past week, the Shaw neighborhood has been in the forefront in violent crime with a triple shooting outside a popular recreation center and the murder of Shlonsky outside of the Metro station.

"We had bad behavior, lawless behavior going on in Shaw in broad daylight and the police weren't coming by to break things up," said Martin Moulton, a resident in the neighborhood for the past 14 years.

Residents in the Shaw neighborhood said they are fed up. There have been a slew of senseless shootings, including several murders.

Last week's triple shooting at a recreation center just blocks away from Saturday's murder was likely due to a craps game.

"We have a lot of homicides this year that are either related to a robbery of a craps game or a dispute at a craps game," said Lanier.

Moulton said he is still waiting for the police chief and the mayor to come to his neighborhood and address the crime issue.

At Monday afternoon's new conference, Moulton told Chief Lanier, "I called about the craps shooting right outside the Kennedy Recreation Center on several occasions, including on the grounds of the recreation center and no one did anything until someone got shot there."

Lanier responded, "Well, I will tell you we made plenty of arrests for craps."

When we asked Moulton if he believes Lanier him a fair answer or gave him any resolution, he said, "Well, I think everyone saw her run away and she didn't just stop. She's usually extremely responsive and friendly, but we all saw her walk away as if she couldn't respond to my questions."

A so-called community outreach post has been set up in the Shaw neighborhood since Wednesday because of the ongoing violence. It is manned 24 hours a day by officers meaning they are not patrolling or responding to calls. It is something they are instructed to do despite a large number of unfilled officer vacancies.

"We're very concerned about what has been going on," said Jackson. "Safety is a real issue here."

Chief Lanier said there is not one specific cause that is causing the spike in murders.

The police union continues to point to staffing shortages saying there are nearly 500 vacancies in the department because people have either quit or retired. The union said it is clear and Chief Lanier needs to beef up the force.

We asked Chief Lanier if she believed stepping back on the police's vice units may have been something that contributed to the uptick in violent crime.

"Actually, the vice units, we didn't centralize the narcotics unit until June -- our spike started before then," she said.

D.C. police insists violent crime is only up one percent from last year. However in the past month, during the same time frame the vice units have been centralized, there has been a jump from 17 percent to 31 percent in homicides here in the District.