Race to Equality: Concentrated poverty and the impact of crime

As part of FOX 5's series "Race to Equality," we are exploring the role of poverty in majority-Black neighborhoods and the violent crime that inequality forces neighbors to endure.

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Neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River have historically been underserved, which has transformed them into the poorest and most violent sections of the District.

According to a D.C. Police Department annual report from 2018, the majority of violent crime happened in police districts 6 and 7, which correspond with Wards 7 and 8.

Troy Donté Prestwood, chair for advisory neighborhood commission 8A, says his neighbors deal with the trauma from violent crime almost daily.

"My neighbors are in trauma. They're in PTSD," Prestwood said.

One June 12 surveillance cameras captured a violent shootout on Simms Place in Northeast. Adults had to drag a child into the house as dozens of gunshots pierced the warm air on that Friday afternoon. No one was hurt.

But the District has also seen similar shootings end more tragically, including the 2018 shooting death of 10-year-old Makiyah Wilson. Surveillance video also captured a deadly drive-by shooting in February on 3rd Street Southeast.

"We're talking about communities that have kind of been, I don't know what to call it, left to rot almost, while other places have been poured into," said Latisha Chisholm, an educator and social worker at Anacostia High School.

Chisholm says the cycle of poverty and stress can lead children especially unable to cope and prone to poor decision making.

One recent example Chisholm cited was the recent arrest of 16-year-old Michael Mason of Southeast.

Police say Mason is responsible for four murders and several other violent crimes.

As part of our series, FOX 5 is also presenting solutions to these long-standing problems relating to racial inequality.

Prestwood and Chisholm agree that a good education is key to help overcome poverty and the impact of violence.

Dr. Willow Lung-Amam, associate professor of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Maryland, says a possible solution is protecting communities from the negative effects of gentrification.

"If we're not investing in communities in ways that are also protecting the rights of residents who have lived there and who have kept them afloat during hard times then we're also not creating a more equitable landscape," Dr. Lung-Amam said.