By: Amanda Menas
In the wake of the murder of Wendy Martinez on September 17, Chief of Police Peter Newsham and Councilmember Jack Evans were available for questions at the Logan Circle Neighborhood Crime Meeting. ANC2F Commissioners hosted this meeting. “It’s hard to say anything but horrifying,” Chief Newsham said at the beginning of the meeting.
He went on to describe the homicide as a random act of violence that occurred when Martinez ran westbound on P Street, arriving on 11th Street at 7:56 p.m.. The weapon was left on the scene and with the help of community members calling in tips, the suspect, 23-year-old Anthony Crawford, was identified by name at 14th Street and Girard Street. Crawford had no significant violent criminal record. No motive was identified at this time, and there was no relation to the victim.
Specifically, Newsham said that while Crawford has a history with the drug “K2”, “to tie drug use to this incident is a little bit of a stretch.” Friends of Martinez’s who were in attendance called for the packaging of the drug to be publicized so community members can be aware when it is in their neighborhoods.
When addressing the fact this crime closed so quickly, as compared to many homicides across the district which disproportionately affect communities of color, Councilmember Evans pointed to the media cameras in the back of the room. “I don’t decide what cases receive media attention.” Newsham went on to say that whenever a crime occurs, it is talked about at the police station and taken very seriously.
Before taking questions, Newsham went into the current state of crime in the city, showing that as the population increases, calls for police service are also increasing. However, the response time remains consistent. Additionally, reports of violent crime in the city decreased between 2009 and 2017. Homicide between 2017 and 2018 has, however, increased across the city, with 40 percent of homicides occurring in Ward 8.
Questions to both Newsham and Councilmember Evans focused on drugs and the homelessness epidemic. Newsham spoke respectfully about the mental health and substance abuse problems that affect some D.C. residents. While acknowledging “procedural hurdles”, he focused on the Department of Behavioral Health’s ability to bring some individuals in for mental health evaluations to help them.
Furthermore, Newsham said a combination of mental health professionals, community members, and the police would be the only way for individuals to receive treatment and for behaviors to change.
“Do not stigmatize every homeless person based on this incident. It is extremely rare,” Newsham said. Councilmember Evans alternatively continued to highlight the homelessness epidemic, calling it “intolerable.” Although community members in attendance provided opportunities to discuss affordable housing and the lack of safety some individuals experiencing homelessness feel in shelters, Councilmember Evans said these individuals “like the lifestyle.”
While the two were available, questions regarding prostitution, drug use at the Shaw skate park, and other minor crimes were brought up. A proposed solution was to increase police visibility in the ward. While police force’s size decreased in the last three decades due to community members in parts of the district saying officers are causing an unsafe environment, those in attendance at Monday night’s meeting hoped for increased patrols.
Councilmember Evans summarized the tone of the meeting. “People feel scared, whether or not the numbers are down.”
“This part of the city is a very, very safe part of Washington, D.C.. I know it’s very hard to hear me say that,” said Newsham. “To some degree it seems to be a random assault, and we just don’t see that in Washington, D.C.”