From Cody Telep. Follow him on Twitter @codywt, email him at cody[AT]borderstan.com.
About 45 residents, government officials, and community leaders attended a public meeting on improving public safety hosted by the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 2B) Wednesday night at the Jewish Community Center (see Wednesday: ANC 2B Hosting Public Safety Forum at JCC).
The meeting, entitled “A Safer Dupont,” was moderated by new ANC 2B Public Safety Liaisons Kishan Putta and Noah Smith.
The goal of the meeting, as Smith described, was “to reach out to the community and hear from residents and business owners about what concerns they have regarding public safety. This meeting was really a listening session and opportunity for folks to influence what Kishan and I plan to work on in the next few months.”
Auto and Smartphone Crimes
Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) gave opening remarks and touted the improvements in public safety in the District in recent years.
The 40 homicides as of June 20 are a decrease from 52 at this point last year and put D.C. on pace to have less than 100 homicides for the first time since 1963.
Evans also pointed out that thefts of electronics from automobiles and robberies involving smartphones are increasingly a problem and residents need to be more conscious of their surroundings and take precautions to avoid becoming victims of crimes of opportunity.
ANC 2B Chair Will Stevens (ANC 2B-08) noted that the ANC meeting agenda is often dominated by regulatory applications and so liaisons and other public meetings like this one are an important way for the ANC to be more proactive about issues like public safety.
Road Safety, Biking Discussed
The meeting included discussion of both road safety issues and crime and law enforcement concerns. A number of representatives from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) attended the meeting to hear resident concerns. Shane Farthing, executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), recognized that as a result of the 20 percent growth in bicycling in the past year, there may be some conflicts between bikes, cars, and pedestrians.
While bicycle riding on the sidewalk is only prohibited in the Central Business District, WABA encourages all riders to avoid sidewalk riding entirely. Residents encouraged DDOT to improve signage explaining the boundaries of the Central Business District and also recommended improvements to the bike lanes on 15th Street NW.
A draft DDOT report on bicycle facilities includes a number of recommendations to improve the lanes, including better traffic signals for southbound bikers. A number of residents also expressed concerns about traffic signals in Dupont Circle and the inability for cyclists and pedestrians to safely navigate the circle.
Hassan Naveed of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) provided statistics on bias crimes in the District. There were 91 such offenses citywide in 2011, up from 68 in 2010. Fifty four of these were related to sexual orientation or gender identity, up from 45 in 2010. Naveed encouraged victims of any bias-related crime to call 911 first, but also contact the Metropolitan Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) and GLOV. The GLOV website has a number of safety tips and victim resources.
A number of MPD officers were in attendance, including Second District Commander Michael Reese, Third District Commander Jacob Kishter, and Police Service Area Lieutenants John McDonald (PSA 208) and Nicole Lindsey (PSA 301).
Possible Joint PSA 208 and 301 Meetings
McDonald and Lindsey announced they are considering combining their monthly PSA meetings, because of the overlap of issues and concerns in PSA 301 and PSA 208. As a good example, the meeting location at the Jewish Community Center is in PSA 208, but across the street to the north side of Q Street NW is the south boundary of PSA 301. Meetings for both PSAs are currently held on the third Tuesday of the month, but this date may be changed to avoid a schedule conflict with the Meridian Hill Neighborhood Association monthly meetings.
Kishter reminded attendees to call 911 if they see any suspicious activity and also encouraged residents to make use of MPD’s text tip system if they want to report information anonymously. The number to text is 50411. For minor property damage or theft, residents can also make use of MPD’s Online Reporting Tool.
Bicycle-related issues emerged again during the law enforcement portion of the meeting as a concern of residents. MPD officials admitted that bicyclists are not cited often for failure to obey red lights and other traffic signals, although bicycle officers are directed to enforce traffic laws. Commander Kishter noted that bicycle thefts are fairly common and that residents should have pictures or other identifying information so they can claim a stolen bike if it is recovered. Bike owners are also encouraged to register their bike with the free National Bike Registry.
Putta and Smith will follow up with the concerns at the meeting and plan to hold a series of discussions on public safety issues in the Dupont area.
Kishan expressed his satisfaction with how this first meeting turned out: “Despite the hot-weather advisories, we had a full-house and productive, non-heated discussions between us, the residents, the police, the interest groups, and the government. We’re not going to solve every problem to everyone’s satisfaction, but, by continuing the kind of collaboration that we had tonight, we can work together to improve many aspects of safety in our neighborhood.”