In response to a series of violent robberies around the Capitol Hill neighborhood, D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells wants to increase lighting in the area.
Brightening the dark areas around the Hill is tricky, however, because a large part of the neighborhood falls within a historic district. Wells says that designation makes "acquisition and installation of new equipment a complicated and lengthy process."
To help increase lighting, he wants to trim back the trees and foliage that tend to create dark areas on the leafy, green streets around Capitol Hill. Wells will be working with the Urban Forestry unit of the D.C. Department of Transportation, the agency responsible for street lighting under the Home Rule Act, to ensure trees are not blocking lamp posts and to identify areas that could benefit from additional lighting. Neighborhood lighting was a recurring theme during a recent public meeting Wells organized to talk about safety concerns following three attacks on women near the Eastern Market and NoMa Metro stations.
Representatives from the Metropolitan Police Department joined the Ward 6 councilmember to talk about ongoing concerns and make sure cops and residents were on the same page about the urgency of the crime problem. More than 75 residents attended.
In addition to the Eastern Market attacks on women, members of the community wanted to talk about what they see as a disturbing trend of violence along Barracks Row.
Such concerns also hit home with the congressional community. In November 2013, freshman Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., was struck in the back of the head and robbed in the Eastern Market neighborhood as she headed back to her Washington apartment after dinner at a local restaurant. Meng was robbed of her handbag as she fell to the ground. The congresswoman sustained injuries to her knee, hand and face.
Wells said it is crucial not only that Ward 6 communities remain safe, but that residents feel safe in them, hence his focus on bringing more light to dark streets.
As a result of recent violence, police have also increased patrols in the area.
On the day of the meeting, more than eight police cars responded to an incident near the Eastern Market Metro station. Wells called the "overwhelming response" a direct result of increased patrols,"and indicative of the sort of presence we can all expect going forward."
Police are also encouraging Capitol Hill residents to sign up for their Listserv for daily updates on safety issues. To register, Wells advised community members to send a note to MPD-1D@yahoogroups.com.
Wells is also encouraging residents to consider joining the efforts of the Orange Hat ad hoc neighborhood watch group. The group meets every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. at the intersection of 11th Street and South Carolina Avenue Southeast.
"I cannot overstate how important it is for all of us to look out for one another," he said. "If you see a crime being committed — or hear a cry for help — call 911. It is not only the most effective way to quickly get help, it also creates a record that is incredibly useful in terms of my oversight role as chair of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety."