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Mayor Bowser issues emergency amid juvenile crime and opioid crisis

Washington, Nov 14 (Prensa Latina) D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has declared a public emergency in the District and says her office will utilize new tools to combat two critical issues plaguing the city: the ongoing opioid crisis and the rise youth violence.

Bowser’s office says the public emergency declaration will allow the D.C. government to “respond more efficiently and urgently” to these two problems by authorizing “expedited procurement, the disbursement of funds, and the activation, implementation, and coordination of mutual aid agreements between the District and federal, state, or local jurisdictions, as appropriate.”

When it comes to the opioid crisis, new data shows that between 2018 and 2022, fatal opioid-related overdoses in the District have more than doubled, from 213 to 461. And in 2022, 96% of these fatal opioid-related overdoses were from fentanyl.

As part of the emergency declaration, D.C. agencies including the Department of Behavioral Health, D.C. Health, and D.C. Fire and EMS will be required to input suspected non-fatal overdoses into a common data tracking system. The goal is to strengthen responses by strengthening internal information sharing.

Bowser’s office says this will “provide a complete picture of opioid-related fatal and suspected non-fatal overdoses as they occur,” to help District leaders identify hotspots and deploy outreach teams and harm reduction support to them.

When it comes to cracking down on juvenile crime, D.C. residents have been calling for action from city leaders and the Metropolitan Police Department for months, if not years.

The mayor’s emergency order notes that in the first nine months of 2023, there were 458 arrests of juveniles for robbery, including carjacking, homicide, or assault with a dangerous weapon — a 10% increase from 2022. Data also shows that juveniles represent about one-third of the total arrests for carjackings this year, coming in at a staggering 151. FOX 5 asked for clarification on this data.

According to D.C. Police’s carjacking dashboard as of Monday, juveniles accounted of 66% of the carjacking arrests, with 863 carjackings reported so far this year.

Additionally, the Mayor’s Office says from January to October of this year, 97 juveniles have been shot — 15 fatally — and in just the last five weeks alone, five kids on court-ordered electronic monitoring have been killed.

“This number alone tells us that we have to provide more intervention for kids who are in trouble,” Bowser said during a press conference Monday. “To that end, this public emergency will allow us to increase capacity more quickly and efficiently across the continuum of placements for kids that are ordered by judges into care.”

Bowser says the District is looking to immediately secure more spaces for placements and address capacity issues within the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services at both the Youth Services Center secure facility and youth shelters.

Part of the order will help speed up construction at the detention center to add ten new beds. It will also incentivize private providers to open additional shelter homes, group homes and shelter beds.

Another measure in the emergency order calls on the Deputy Mayor for Education and D.C. police to establish Safe Passage roving teams to reduce school-based violence, as well as deploy “additional Public Safety Go Teams, which shall be community-based, non-law enforcement public safety teams made up of credible contacts including violence interrupters, credible messages, Safe Passage workers and roving leads to serve District neighborhoods most impacted by youth crime.”

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