A recent gang-related shooting in northwest D.C. prompted Metropolitan Police to increase its presence in the area and improve communication between residents and city officials.
A war between two Latino gangs, La Mara R and 1-5 Amigos, in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood has led to at least five deaths since the summer. The latest spate of violence resulted in the death of a 1-5 Amigos member, killed in a gun battle on Mount Pleasant Street.
Lt. Robert Conte, of MPD’s intelligence branch, said the city has stepped up patrols and arrested several gang members.
He said MPD has teamed up with community and church groups to create a gang intervention program and an hour-long radio program during which gang members can anonymously voice their reasons for joining gangs and discuss community issues.
“This is probably the first time that we have approached the gang violence in this fashion,” he said. “You can’t just arrest your way out of the situation.”
MPD has placed extra officers on patrol in the area from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., Conte said. The city has also assigned more bilingual officers to the area to foster communication in the heavily Latino neighborhood.
Eugenio Arene, executive director of the Council of Latino Agencies, said the causes of gang-related problems cannot be solved by current law enforcement methods.
“You have to have a comprehensive understanding of gang violence,” he said. “Many young Latinos immigrate after their parents and find out that their parents are often in a difficult situation, not having much time for the family.
“Peer pressure and this option for a sense of belonging often drives young Latinos to gangs,” he added.
Arene said few resources have been devoted to gang violence, adding that Latinos have had to help themselves deal with gang problems though programs such as the Latin American Youth Center.
“The demand to solve this problem is high, but so far D.C. has done little for this,” he said.
In Mount Pleasant, a neighborhood just east of Adams Morgan that is frequented by tourists and students, residents and business owners are still jaded from the shooting, which occurred a few weeks ago.
“There is definitely an elevated sense of fear, especially among Latinos,” said Dominic Sale, a member of the Mount Pleasant Advisory Neighborhood Commission. “There is an urgency to deal with this problem quickly and forcefully.
“We’re still feeling effects from the Mount Pleasant riots 10 years ago, and this has definitely opened old wounds in the community,” he added.
Sale stressed the importance of increased communication to help deal with gang-related issues.
“One-third of Mount Pleasant is Latino, and we’ve been working to bring them into the mainstream since before the shooting,” he said.
Dos Gringos Cantina, a coffee shop on Mount Pleasant Street, only experienced problems when MPD closed off the street and held a press conference after the latest shooting, the owner said.
Some students, while unaware of the recent violence, said they are always careful when they travel outside of Foggy Bottom.
“I kind of knew it was not the safest area, but I’ve always been with people, so I wasn’t worried,” senior Megan Malinconico said of Mount Pleasant.
“This makes me slightly concerned. I know I definitely wouldn’t go to Mount Pleasant,” said freshman Caitlin Senior after being told about the shootings.
Conte said people should still travel to Mount Pleasant.
“This is not the type of situation you can predict,” he said. “You should always be careful and mindful of your surroundings.”