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Hill East residents struggle with rise in homicides

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Residents of the District’s Hill East neighborhood met Thursday to discuss countering crime on their streets, a wearisome topic for a neighborhood desperate to maintain positive changes.

A shooting death at 17th Street and Independence Avenue Southeast two weeks ago marked the seventh homicide in the past year related to the corner, which is notorious for drug dealing and suspicious loitering.

"We’re getting real frustrated that this is continuing," said Neil Glick, Hill East resident and 6B Advisory Neighborhood commissioner. "If we don’t take any action, we’re going to be in trouble — no one’s going to live in a shooting gallery."

One of the nation’s most dangerous neighborhoods in the early 1990s, Hill East saw a pause in homicides from 2001 to 2004 as a result of community activism and gentrification.

The break in violence spurred property values and drew new residents.

But the resumption of homicides has many residents worried — so worried they are afraid to devise a plan out of fear of calling attention to the problem and lowering property values.

First district Commander Diane Grooms said the corner of 17th and Independence, like many others in the District, has a long history of drug dealing that isn’t easily broken.

"It’s the same group — the group that’s been there for a while," Grooms said. "Sometimes I wonder, with all the new revitalization, who are these buyers? How much money are they really making?"

Grooms said the corner is "minimal" in its activity compared to others in the city, but that police presence will continue at the same level.

Besides the homicides, the Hill East area has the lowest crime numbers in the first district.

"We don’t have burglaries; we don’t have a lot of robberies or car break-ins," Myers said. "But we have drug dealing and killing. At what point is enough, enough — at what point do the police crack down, and the community rise up and say ‘No more’?"

Thursday’s meeting resulted in community members committing to a "Summer of Peace," led by Glick, where residents and local churches make a special effort to support police.

A deadly corner

Homicides at 17th and Independence, SE:

» June 17: James Kelly, 17, was killed by a drive-by shooting.

» June 10: Donnell Jones, 24, of the 1700 block of Bay Street, SE, died from gunshot wounds.

» March 7: Michael Beckham, 31, died from gunshot wounds. Three men were arrested, all linked to the corner.

» Feb. 27: David Reed, 30, of the 1700 block of Bay Street, SE, died from gunshot wounds.

» Feb. 28: Damien Anthony Turner, 26, died from gunshot wounds at 18th and Independence, SE.

» March 2005: Charles Ingram III, 27, died from gunshot wounds.

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