WASHINGTON - This year, Washington D.C. has seen an alarming amount of violence, especially in Ward 7. In the first five months of the year, there have been 53 homicides, up by three at the same point last year. In Ward 7, the homicide count has more than tripled compared to last year.
Back on May 16, the District had a very violent day as two people were killed and three others were shot in several shootings throughout the city -- most of them in Ward 7. One of the slain victims who was shot and killed that day was a mother who was carrying groceries into her home in the middle of the afternoon.
Former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, who is running for the Ward 7 council seat, wrote an op-ed article for the Washington Post about the tripling of the homicide rate in Ward 7. He wrote in part, "We must all join together to address this crisis now" and "There is no single remedy for reducing violence in our communities, but there are important actions government and elected officials must undertake."
Gray joined us FOX 5 News to discuss his frustration with the increasing violence in Ward 7 and what elected leaders can do to stop this crisis.
"I just felt something needed to be done to create an additional voice," he said. "We watched as homicides doubled by comparison to the same period last year. Not a voice was heard. And then [it] tripled. We are at 22 homicides in Ward 7 now in comparison to seven at the same time last year. As somebody who has been an elected official, somebody who is now a candidate for office, I think we have got to stand up and make our voices heard. That's what people want. They want leadership. They want action and I'm prepared to be a part of the effort to do that."
NEED FOR MORE POLICE OFFICERS
Gray said police staffing is a huge concern and he wants to see more officers out in the neighborhoods.
"It's probably one of the lowest levels we have had in the last decade," he said. "When I was the mayor, we got the authorized strength of the 4,000 police officers. We are down now to below 3,800, which is at a dangerous level. We have people who are retiring and leaving. What we need is to create more incentives to get police officers to stay past the point where they otherwise might retire."
He said many police officers are eligible for retirement as early as in their 40s and the city needs to do a better job to "give them reasons to stay and be a part of protecting our great city."
SET ASIDE POLITICAL BATTLES
In order for District leaders to help improve safety and crime prevention, the former mayor believes it is time for everyone to set aside the political posturing and focus on getting results to provide residents with a safer city.
"Well, we have seen it happen," said Gray. "We have had the council put proposals on the table. We have had the mayor put proposals on the table. Frankly, people want action. They are not interested in in people bickering or winning a debate. They are interested in being able to see their communities being properly protected."
MORE VISIBLE PRESENCE OF ELECTED OFFICIALS IN NEIGHBORHOODS
Gray believes elected leaders need to show more action when it comes to being part of the community. We asked the Ward 7 D.C. Council candidate about what appears to be a lack of outrage over the growing violence in the city and he told us:
"Again, that outrage has to start with our leaders in the city. I have been to any number of crime scenes in recent weeks. I was at the scene … where that woman was shot in her yard. I was at that scene and there were no other elected officials who were at that scene."