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Amid a growing opioid and crime crisis, Mayor Muriel Bowser declares public emergency

Howard University students reflect on Mayor Muriel Bowser’s legislative attempt to diminish the scourge of violent youth crime as well as the dangerous opioid epidemic that is plaguing the nation’s capital. 

Crime and violence have been rising in  the District since the pandemic. ( Photo Courtesy of Jon Musselwhite.)

A public emergency has been declared by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, in hopes of reducing the increase in opioid abuse and youth violence within the nation’s capital last Monday. 

Bowser issued the public emergencies against opioid use and crimes committed by youth which follows other acts of legislation the mayor has introduced this year to curb the spike in crime.

“The vast majority of our young people are doing the right thing – they are back in school, they are involved in extracurriculars, and in the evenings…they are where they need to be – supervised and safe,” Bowser said in a statement released by the Executive Office of the Mayor (EOM).

“But we need that to be true for all of our young people and if we have kids and teenagers who are not in safe situations, we need to connect with those families,” Bowser continued.  

According to the Metropolitan Police Department, there has been an approximate 47 percent increase in juvenile arrests since 2022, while between 2018 and 2022 the number of reported opioid-related overdoses doubled according to the Mayor’s Office. 

According to the EOM, fentanyl and related substances such as synthetic opioids, were involved in approximately 96 percent of the opioid-related fatal overdoses in the District in 2022. There has been an increasing percentage of these substances as fentanyl and its analogs are now linked to 98 percent of overdose deaths thus far in 2023. 

Delaney Leonard, a sophomore psychology major at Howard from Delaware, believes Bowser’s latest attempt to reduce D.C.’s crime needs a community investment element. 

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“I think if Mayor Bowser and the city government really wants to help the youth and start trying to mitigate some of these issues, then investing in the community is the only step that they can take,” Leonard said.

While Bowser’s declaration has been the most recent act in order to stifle the growth of crime, she has also enacted several policies to tackle the issue of crime throughout the city. Bowser implemented a curfew in September to address the recent surge in violent crime by enforcing curfews for children aged 16 and younger in designated areas in the city.

The Safer Stronger Amendment Act of 2023 (Bill 25-291) was introduced on May 16 by Councilmember Phil Mendelson, who serves as Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia, to address gaps in the city’s public safety and justice system. Additionally, on July 20, the Prioritizing Public Safety Emergency Amendment Act of 2023 (Act 25-175) was signed into law.

Rates of crime in the District impact native Washingtonians as well as transplants who have relocated including students who attend colleges such as Howard University. At the beginning of the fall semester, four Howard students were assaulted near Howard Plaza Towers, as previously reported by The Hilltop.

The Safer Stronger Amendment includes loitering limitations and criminal penalties for retail theft, and the Prioritizing Public Safety Emergency Amendment Act established regulations around pre-hearing detention. 

“Youth issues are often overlooked and I am glad that someone is paying attention,” Zoey Stephens, a freshman criminology major from Houston, said. 

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“I believe Mayor Bowser’s efforts to keep D.C. safe are much needed, people just need to pay attention to what she has to say,” Stephens added. 

Additional information on the legislative acts can be found on the mayor’s website

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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