By Reginald Stuart
WASHINGTON, DC — A Baptist minister with a 24-year career of work in the National Park Service was unanimously confirmed this week by local political leaders to head the local law enforcement ranks of the nation’s Capitol.
Pamela Smith, a D.C. native who has long lived in the city, went to work this summer as interim Chief -of-Police amid rising incidents of crime of all sorts in the nation’s capitol and its suburbs. She has promised local citizens to energize the city’s under-staffed Police Force and combat the surge of car jackings, retail store thefts by sporadic mobs of vandals, in most cases young people and juveniles.
It’s been less of a celebratory time for the first few months on the job for Chief Smith, the first woman chief of police for the city. For sure, she hit the ground running with the Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city’s entourage of local lawmakers and volunteers, seeking peace in the streets.
The impact to date, has been repeatedly derailed by more negative surges overshadowing positive news.
Earlier this week, Mayor Bowser, who has spent much time issuing notes of condolences to numerous families around the city who’ve lost loved ones to recent deaths on top of covid-19 losses, issued an emergency order aimed and responding to the city’s opioid crisis and surge in youth violence.
Opioids, fentanyl and similar illegal synthetic drugs have “inflicted profound harm” on the city’s communities, Mayor Bowser said, in hoping to give Chief Smith backing. Regarding the youth crime outburst Chief Smith faces head on…“This violence is having a devastating impact on our victims, their families, communities and the District as a whole,” she said, in a statement.
The “opioid crisis,” as the Mayor describes it, was linked to 96 per cent of the fatal overdoses in the District in 2022. Opioid related fatal overdoses have more than doubled from 213 to 461 deaths per year, from 2018 to 2022. In 2023, fentanyl overdose deaths account for 98 percent per of all overdose fatalities.
As for young violence, in the first nine months of this year, there have been 458 arrests of juveniles for violent crimes, 10 per cent more than the total arrest in 2022. These crimes include robbery, carjacking and homicides.
Between January and October of this year, 97 juveniles suffered gunshot wounds including, 15 homicides This includes one young lady killing a childhood friend during a dispute at a fast-food restaurant over who had the best tasting sweet and sour sauce. Several young people died in a crash of four vehicles driven by a young teen-ager who had been drinking.
The reading of tragic examples of violent deaths of young teens in D.C. goes on and on. Chief Smith has called for greater community outreach, hoping her presence as an officer of the law plays well with her being a preacher. Numerous groups have stepped in with mentoring programs for students, scholarship programs and stop-gap employment.
At the same time, the federal government, which still retains ultimate rule of the city, continues to keep its finances fragile and limits the City’s efforts to have strict gun control laws. Congress did manage to avert another shutdown (temporarily) in the absence of approving a new federal budget for the year. Thousands of the city’s young people rely on their parents who work for the federal government. The saga continues as Congress stumbles to approve a new fiscal budget.