Hilleast Residents Angry Over Gun Violence

Cmdr. Contee and Chief Lanier Addressed Recent Shootings

Residents of the Hilleast line up to share their frustrations and concerns about violent crime in their neighborhood June 29 at St. Coletta of Greater Washington. (Photo: Christine Rushton)

At a June 29 meeting, frustrated Hilleast community members demanded answers as to why violent crime persists in the 1700 block of Independence Avenue SE area. A recent crime surge sparked a meeting at St. Coletta of Greater Washington — the murder of Stephanie Goodloe on June 18 by the 700 block of Kentucky Avenue SE, the shooting that injured one and shattered several car windows on June 26 by the 1700 block of Independence Avenue SE, and more gunshots reported near Potomac Gardens on the 1200 block of G Street SE.

Residents met with ANC 6B commissioners, MPD First District Cmdr. Robert Contee, MPD Police Chief Cathy Lanier, Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Klein and members of the Attorney General’s Office for DC. Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen also attended.

Several longtime Hill residents called out the police for not stopping loitering, open drinking of alcohol and an active open air drug market on the sidewalks in front of their homes. One woman said she moved to her corner home in 2004, but left three years later because she feared for the safety of her young children  

She leases her home now, and said she doesn’t understand how police consider “engaging” with the loitering groups enough to stop them. The groups, typically teenagers, move from one corner of the block to the other when police ask.

And residents said the people in the groups don’t live in the neighborhood.

“Their fire arms are bigger than your firearms,” she said, adding that she has observed the issue persisting for more than a decade. “I refused to raise my kids here.” 

ANC 6B07 Commissioner Daniel Chao also brought up the question of manpower and where police can patrol on a consistent basis. He worries that police not arresting people for minor incidents — like drinking in public — in order to stay out in the community on patrol, will let people in violation think they can get away with acting illegally.

Contee and Lanier explained that if the people aren’t committing a crime, police can’t arrest them or ask them for identification on a public street. Officers talk with the groups to keep watch on what they do, though.

Lanier added that it will take a combined community effort to change the local culture that attracts this kind of behavior — an investment in local recreation centers, activities, ANC and neighbor involvement.

Police have dedicated a mobile camera and lighting unit to the 1700 block of Independence Avenue SE to monitor any crime in the area for now, Contee said.

“I could say crime is down, but the reality is when people are afraid because bullets are flying, that’s not comforting,” Contee said.