DC establishes gun violence prevention center as part of new approach to gun violence


WASHINGTON (WDVM) — D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced steps made to end the cycle of gun violence in the District at a press conference Wednesday morning.

A new mayor’s order recognizes gun violence as a public health crises and facilitates a first-of-its-kind gun violence prevention emergency operations center. The center has four goals, Bowser said.

  • Focus on the people and places contributing the most to gun violence;
  • Mobilize whole of government to respond;
  • Create clear protocols to deal with urgency of the situation
  • Coordinate the development of a long-term strategy to reduce gun violence

The mayor’s order allows the emergency center to be staffed with top personnel from various DC government agencies.

The center is part of a new comprehensive gun violence prevention program, Building Blocks DC. The initiative is a whole-government approach to addressing gun violence.

Bowser said there was a 33% increase in people shot from 2019 to 2020, and a 19% increase in homicides.

Bowser said 95% of 2020’s homicide victims were Black. There was also a rise in juvenile and female victims.

“We all understand the urgency to reverse these trends so that we can save lives,” said Bowser. “But we know that we must act, and we must act differently.”

Linda Harlee Harper, the city’s first gun violence prevention director, will head the emergency center’s staffing and lead Building Blocks DC.

“Building Blocks DC will be taking a whole of government approach, in partnership with our most impacted communities, to address the urgent needs of our residents and co-create safe places,” said Harper. “The Gun Violence Prevention Emergency Operations Center will be our infrastructure creating a process to coordinate collective action.”

The Building Blocks DC program is funded with an initial investment of $15 million, and will be supported with additional funding in the upcoming Fiscal Year 2022 budget. 

According to a Wednesday report, there were 49 new positive coronavirus cases Tuesday, bringing the District’s overall positive case total to 39,180. Three residents died of COVID-19, bringing the city’s total to 985 deaths.

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