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Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary

Community Views on the March 30, 2010 South Capitol Street

Maia Shanklin Roberts Testimony – 4/19/20210

Good morning, Chairman Phil Mendelson, my name is Maia Shanklin Roberts.

I am the Executive Director for Peaceoholics. It is my goal this morning to
present strategy and to encourage the Council to evaluate our city’s best
practice models and make a long term commitment to strengthening our
communities and eliminating Homicides in Washington, DC.

The South Capitol Street shootings are yet another externality of the social
and economic dearth in our communities. The horror and pain that now
plagues that neighborhood and those families is inexcusable. I have
witnessed firsthand, the cry of mothers and fathers who will never hear the
voices or the feel the touch of their children. I have met over 30 youth, both
male and female, who are searching for answers, opportunity and to escape.
Yet, this is not the first or the last time. This was just one community
amongst many, 30 youth among hundreds who will wear RIP t-shirts to masks
the pain and desperation seated in their hearts.

So what do we do now? I argue that the solution has already been presented.
The antitheses of violence are strong families, access to opportunity and
positive youth development. The lack of a comprehensive strategy that
coordinates each element has allowed such violence to maintain itself. In the
last three years, there has yet to be a true collaborative effort by community
and government to develop a strategy. Instead we have bear witness to the
rise and fall of the Violence Intervention Program in Wards 7 and 8; Gang
Intervention Program in Wards 1, 2, and 4; MPD’s Hot Spot Initiative; the
Mayor’s Focused Improvement Areas Initiative and the Coordinating Council
on Youth Violence Prevention forwarded by Council member Graham, just to
name a few.

The lack of cooperation and coordination has been crippling. The

community’s inability to rely on our government and its systems to
concentrate resources effectively has caused unnecessary dissension and
deterioration. This then creates competition causing good programs to
become underfunded and over utilized. Consequently, our youth and families
never receive the services most needed.

In summary I ask the following:

• A Comprehensive Strategy to address positive youth development,
strengthening families and access to opportunity that pulls in the
organizational history and experience of organizations like the
Peaceoholics and the Coordinating Council on Youth Violence
• Commitment to the concentration and leverage of resources to sustain
programs that work.
• A City-sponsored evaluation of government funded programs to
ensure quality and effectiveness
• More effective collaboration between government and community
organizations such as the Peaceoholics as a united front to positively
effect change in our affected communities
• Informed legislation that speaks to the reality of our communities and
practice that rehabilitates youth, adults and families.

I have sketched broad strokes in this initial proposal and more in depth
conversation is needed to develop viable, programmatic solutions to these
issues. I welcome more discussion and meeting with you to move this
process forward. I will be contacting the appropriate individuals in your
offices along with other stakeholders and sponsors to move this process