Mayor, police chief meet with concerned DC residents about increase in violence

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A recent spike in crime and murders in Washington D.C. has the mayor and police chief on alert. They both spoke with concerned residents at the Fifth District police station Thursday night.

People who live in this district asked for answers regarding crime in their Northeast D.C. neighborhoods.

Open air drug markets was one topic residents focused on. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said police have changed their focus and are now targeting big suppliers instead of low-level dealers.

"Another very troubling issue that is coming up in our city is the use of synthetic drugs," Mayor Muriel Bowser told residents at the meeting.

Over the last few weeks, the city has seen people overdosing on these synthetic drugs. FOX 5 saw emergency crews treating people for apparent overdoses nearby the Community for Creative Non-Violence shelter, the District's largest homeless shelter, on two separate occasions.

Mayor Bowser blames synthetic drugs, in part, for the wave of crime in the city, including the spike in murders compared to last year.

"It's nothing like marijuana," Bowser said. "It's very dangerous. It's more like PCP. The drug is dangerous to the person who is ingesting it or smoking it or doing whatever they're doing with it. But it's also dangerous to all of us because it produces in that person really psychotic behavior."

This is why she is asking city council to give the police chief emergency power to shut down businesses caught selling it.

Chief Lanier added it has been hard dealing with the crime spike because her All Hands on Deck program was delayed this year.

"I could not implement All Hands on Deck this year as early as possible," said Lanier. "However, what I did do is implement a lot of overtime."

So far this year, there have been 64 homicides compared to 52 at this time last year, according to Chief Lanier.

City officials and community members also discussed crime prevention. For example, the D.C. summer jobs program was expanded to include 1,000 youths this year.