Get to know D.C. with our daily newsletter
We dive deep on the day’s biggest story and share links to everything you need to know.
Summer’s coming. The days are lengthening. The weather’s warming up. And police are reminding us that bad kids are going to be everywhere. Hey, that’s our language—not theirs, according to Yvonne Smith, MPD Community Services and Youth Outreach organizer.
This message is circulating around the MPD listservs:
“Some of you believe that you have bad kids in your neighborhood. Particularly during the summer months, we get phone calls from people saying, ‘I wish you can drive a van around here and pick up these bad kids.’ I read email messages from people who want “bad kids” to stop throwing rocks, stop hanging outside, stop terrorizing the community, stop playing in the streets, stop bringing firecrackers into the neighborhood, etc…To avoid feeling like you have uncontrollable “bad kids” in your neighborhoods, show them love by directing their families to the information below.”
What follows Smith’s introduction is a list of suggestions, resources, and programs for youth. But, the best part of this message is the way Smith just puts it out there—and I’m being completely serious about this—that residents should stop just whining and calling the police and be more proactive in their neighborhoods.
Not complete nonsense, though it’s not always easy to show people “love” by telling them what to do. Still, I’m wondering how the neighborhood folks are going to react. The tone of Smith’s message is reminiscent of a brief e-mail former Third District Lt. Ralph Neal sent back in January. He urged community members to come to his monthly meetings only to receive a barrage of angry responses from people saying:
-“The fact is PSA 308 leadership is a failure no matter how many times the enablers come to the rescue.”
-“Oh now I get it. Shootings bring out the yellow tape. The yellow tape brings out the media. The media brings public attention. The public attention brings politicians and police chiefs, who stand on street corners shaking their heads, promising more results. The police get more resources to have more meetings. So we just need more people to volunteer to get shot in order to get more resources, action or results.”
–“Lt. Neal…are you serious?…I find it interesting that there have been responses that encourage meeting attendance…but there has been no answer as to if you will work to get a curfew in place for teens? Or the status of implementation of shotspotter to help you deal with the gunfire? Or the possibility of bringing back some of the “no loitering/drug zone” orders?“
Neal ended up apologizing. He was transfered to the second district weeks later. I’m not saying there was a connection. But…
It seems, unfortunately, to be a bold step to urge community action. A few hours after her original e-mail, Smith further expounded her decision to write about “Bad Kids.” Thus far, at least on the 5th District listerv, the response has been favorable.
“Thank you for your updated email. It was timely and sensitive. I believe it reflects the concerns and desires of the majority opposed to the minority who would prefer to house our children in cages.”