Youth guidance program aims to quell juvenile violence in DC

Four days into the new year and the nation’s capital is facing a surge of juvenile violence to start 2023.

Of the now 13 people shot in D.C. in the past three days, five of them were kids under the age of 18.

It’s a problem that has everyone talking with government officials and community leaders trying to find ways to put an end to the violence.

Just days after the district reflected on the more than 200 lives lost to violent crime in 2022, D.C’s Police Chief Robert Contee III yet again answered calls from the community after a quadruple shooting off Georgia Avenue that left an 8-year-old boy injured. 

"Anytime we have anyone that is shot, that is murdered in the streets of the District of Columbia that is unacceptable," Contee said at the time.

RELATED: Teen killed, another injured during shooting at DC Metro station in violent start to 2023

That shooting comes just a day after five separate shootings on January 2nd that injured three teens and killed a 17-year-old.

"This is an epidemic, and we need help," said Stedman Allen, a program specialist with Youth Guidance DC.

Martez Toney of Southeast D.C. was shot and killed right outside the Congress Heights Metro station.

"Martez was the life of the party. He had this aura about him," Allen said.

"He wanted more for himself. But he didn’t have the right direction if that makes sense, the right leadership."

Statistics from D.C. police given to FOX 5 in November show almost two times as many kids died from gunshot wounds in 2022 compared to the year prior.

The frightening statistic leaves many to wonder about how to combat juvenile crime.

"When our young people become active participants in crime, it’s a result of hopelessness and oftentimes helplessness. When they become victims of crime it ends up being a tragedy, and we see a lot of that taking place here in D.C.," said Rasheem Rooke, executive director of Youth Guidance DC.

While D.C. saw an overall decrease in crime in 2022, the recent string of violence caused Mayor Muriel Bowser to veto the District’s new criminal code, claiming the bill doesn’t make Washingtonians safer.

RELATED: Mayor Bowser vetoes controversial new criminal code

"None of us can be satisfied with young people using weapons and killing each other," Bowser said.

The mayor is also pushing for consequences for young people who use guns.

Youth Guidance DC works face-to-face with teens, including Martez Toney, who was in and out of their guidance program. The organization says it will take a community effort.  

"We are combating things that have been baked in since they were toddlers," Rooke explained. I think D.C. government, Metro PD, nonprofits, DCPS should all come to the table and talk about these solutions but talk about it from a big-picture perspective that says we will have to roll up our sleeves, create a plan, and execute the work."

D.C. police said there is still no suspect information for either Martez Toney’s death or the shooting that happened on Georgia Avenue.