The Metropolitan Police Department’s Second District Commander reported three Van Ness and Forest Hills apartment buildings to the division of the Attorney General’s Office that handles ‘nuisance’ properties because they failed to implement the recommendations that could reduce the problems that lead to many police officers. service calls.
At a public meeting Dec. 16, 2D Commander Duncan Bedlion said police look for patterns when a building generates a large number of calls for service. MPD works with building owners and managers to do a security assessment and make recommendations. Often, he says, buildings are quick to implement MPD suggestions. Some are not.
“If they don’t follow through and we continue to see violent crime or drug-related crime, we let our partners in the Attorney General’s Office know, those who work specifically in the section “harmful building”Bedlion said.
Bedlion said in a follow-up email to Forest Hills Connection that his department asked the attorney general’s office to review 3003 Van Ness Street, Saratoga at 4601 Connecticut Avenue and Chesapeake at 4607 Connecticut.
Ward 3 council member Mary Cheh told Forest Hills Connection that she called the Dec. 16 meeting because “in recent months there has been a marked increase in calls for MPD service and an apparent increase disruptive behavior in and around the Van Ness region.”
A resident raised concerns about marijuana use and groups gathering at night in Forest Hills Park, but most of the concerns centered on disruptive behavior in apartment buildings in the area.
Bedlion said the number of reported crimes in the Second District has been relatively stable. However, “there is one significant area where we have seen an increase, and that is what we call ‘assaults with dangerous weapons'”.
The majority of those assaults in Van Ness and Forest Hills are related to domestic violence, Bedlion said, and “one of the hardest assaults to prevent.” The most recent was a stabbing in an apartment at 3003 Van Ness.
Harry Gural, president of the 3003 Van Ness Tenants Association, thanked Bedlion for the MPD’s help, saying he knew the building had been a problem and that police interventions had helped residents file complaints against owner Equity Residential. But he questioned Bedlion’s assertion that the number of crimes in the Second District is stable. He said the crime statistics from the MPD Crime Cards app for PSA 203, the Second District Public Safety Area that encompasses ANC 3F, showed an increase in crime from 2018 to 2021, compared to the previous three years. Other 2D PSAs saw a decline.
In response to concerns in apartment buildings and on the street, Cheh and another commentator asked Bedlion to increase the presence of the MPD, in the hope that greater visibility would have a deterrent effect.
Kim Farmer, a community member who has worked with police on activities at Forest Hills Park, welcomed the idea but said bringing in more police would not solve the underlying problems in the buildings .
“I just feel like we keep talking in circles about you know, whether the police do this or the AG’s office does that, but…the police show up again and again – that’s hostile and it is a bad use of the services. And that doesn’t solve the problem,” Farmer said.
After attending further community meetings with the MPD and DC housing agencies, she said: ‘We know a lot of these people need a lot of help and for the past few years they haven’t received it’ .
Amy Schussheim, a resident of Connecticut House at 4500 Connecticut and a retired Veterans Administration social worker, made an impassioned appeal for help with her building. She said she was helping previously homeless bond tenants – single mothers with children – who arrived without adequate furniture, food or clothing, and without any social workers on the premises.
She described a situation where a child was hanging from an upstairs window and an incident where large pieces of furniture were thrown from a window above hers. She also said a family was starting fires and, when notified, turned off their unit’s smoke detector. Schussheim said after a recent fire, firefighters told residents gathered in the lobby that they would stop coming because there had been too many prank calls from the building.
“I don’t want to see people on the street, but you don’t just put someone in an apartment with no furniture, no food, no clothes for the kids. These kids don’t go to school every day,” Schussheim said. “We need the city’s help, and we’re not getting it.”
Tawana Holland of the DC Department of Social Services pointed out that the district does not place formerly homeless people in apartments. “When our residents receive a voucher, they choose where they want to live,” she said.
“Residents come to your neighborhood because there have been other places in the city where they have been traumatized for many, many years. And when they get a voucher, they want to have a better life, they want to go to a neighborhood that they perceive as safer and more welcoming for them.
Holland said residents who are relocated by DHS receive furniture. However, she said, she could not speak to the situation of every low-income resident. “Some are connected to the Department of Behavioral Services, and some have no service at all,” Holland said. Residents also have the right to refuse services, she said.
ANC Commissioner 3F02 Alexandria Appah, a resident of 3003 Van Ness, warned of confusing voucher holders with crime. Appah spoke of serving on two ANC 3F committees with voucher holders “who are committed to serving this neighborhood.” She urged residents at the meeting to join ANC 3F committees to work on issues such as these and to get to know more community members. She also encouraged other residents of 3003 Van Ness to report issues to management, the tenant association, and herself.
“We will continue to pressure the building because I think there are things they absolutely need to change to make residents feel safer,” Appah said.
In a follow-up email, Cheh told Forest Hills Connection that some steps that needed to come out of the meeting included more MPD 2D resources in the area, for DHS to consider providing services to voucher residents, and for the agency facilitates community conversations between new residents and longtime residents.
David J. Ross, the DHS chief of staff, endorsed the idea of facilitating community conversations when Cheh and other attendees spoke about it at the meeting. He said he was reorganizing his staff with this in mind.
“Maybe we could do a better job of helping the transition,” Ross said. “Sometimes what I’ve seen is that we ask case managers to work with community members to solve problems and that’s not what case managers are trained to do. That’s not what they’re hired for.