DC’s rise in gun violence is partly linked to run-down properties

Angela Washington was the last line of defense for the residents of Oak Hill Apartments in the southeast, besieged by gun violence. So on the evening of September 21, the 41-year-old special police officer was shot dead.

Why it’s important: The district’s rise in gun violence is partly linked to run-down properties that city officials and residents say have become magnets of criminal activity.

  • Residents tie Washington’s killings to long-running miserable and dangerous conditions in the apartment complex.
  • Before Washington’s death, Oak Hill residents complained to their landlord about unlocked doors, sewage, rotting walls and strangers in vacant units.

The big picture: Washington’s killings were the 19th killings to occur around the Congress Heights neighborhood in the past two years, according to police data.

  • Across DC’s neighborhoods that are most plagued by gun violence are properties that are allegedly poorly managed by landlords who engage in violence, the attorney general’s office told Axios.
  • Homicide has currently increased by 11% compared to 2020, when the number of homicides increased for 16 years.

What they say: ““Almost always, when there is drug or firearm-related activity, there is also undisclosed property,” Jennifer Berger, head of the social justice department in Justice Minister Karl Racine’s office, told Axios. not being picked up, doors not secured [and] inadequate lighting. “

Oak Hill resident Cecelia Ginyard, 64, said the property has become more violent as conditions worsened and vacant units were unlocked.

  • When she moved in 18 years ago, “the kids could play out here without being chased down with bullets,” Ginyard told Axios outside in the complex’s courtyard.
Two residents of Oak Hill Apartments discuss the conditions at their complex in the courtyard.
Roshawn Petway (left) expresses frustration to longtime resident Cecelia Ginyard over the conditions in their units days after the killing of a special police officer. Photo: Cunaut Dil / Axios.

Another resident, Roshawn Petway, has struggled with a collapsing ceiling and mouse, and is afraid of the violence that surrounds her home with four children, the youngest a seven-year-old daughter.

  • “It took an officer to be killed on the property before the police department and the chief came over here,” Petway said in an interview with Axios after “all the murders that happened on this property.”

Status: Racine’s office has sued several landlords over dozens of properties plagued by violence.

  • Some settlements led to repairs and the hiring of special police officers such as Washington, who can carry weapons and make arrests on these properties.

Oak Hill has been on Racine’s radar. It was previously owned by the infamous landlord Sanford Capital, which in 2018 settled lawsuits over its properties by selling its residential units in the city.

  • The weekend after Washington’s killing, Sanford residents and subsequent property managers blamed the violence.

What’s next: In addition to tackling the mold, a persistent rodent infestation and vacant units, residents said they want the complex‚Äôs perimeter of 107 units to be secured with a fence and a locked gate.

  • Residents said the new property manager Noble Realty has only installed piles for a gate that has not been built.
  • Axios sent an email to Noble Realty and a recent property management firm, UIP, but did not receive a response.
An image of a run-down vacant unit shown by a resident of Oak Hill Apartments.
Roshawn Petway says there have been several dilapidated vacant units like the one shown above on her phone, which attracts strangers and makes the Oak Hill Apartments complex unsafe. Photo: Cunaut Dil / Axios

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