A reader from The Sonata shared highlights on the meeting minutes from the recent public meeting on August 19th regarding the issues surrounding the park at 2nd/Mass & H. This is the park that recently has been referred to as Cobbs Park…
Members of the Mt Vernon Triangle met earlier this week to discuss the safety/sanitation/crime/homelessness issues at the park located at 2nd & Mass NW (sometimes referred to as Cobb Park). Elected Officials included representatives from CM Wells’s office, the Deputy Mayor’s office, and ANCs 6E04, 6E05 and 2C02. ANC 6E07 Alfreda Judd (who represents the neighborhood in question) did not attend.
All invited city agencies sent representatives (DPR, DHS, DGS, DMH, MPD). The television station WJLA, which has been following the story, sent a reporter to cover the meeting.
Residents complained about the increasing (and well publicized) incidents of public urination, defecation, sexual intercourse, prostitution, and general harassment in the area. Some residents also expressed concern about the negative tone of email listservs / blogs regarding the homeless and reminded everyone in attendance that the neighborhood should not be trying to criminalize homelessness.
Commander Hickson of MPD-1D talked at length about the homelessness issue and the fact that 50+ arrests have been made in 30 days (most for minor offenses open containers of alcohol).
Key points from MPD:
- He assured the neighborhood that no hard drugs are present – MPD is using undercover officers, surveillance. The packets that are being exchanged are synthetic marijuana, which is a major problem in the city at the moment.
- If an individual or a group is blocking the entrance of the building the Code states that officers have to give them the opportunity to come into compliance by issuing a verbal warning. If subjects then move along, there are no arrests made.
- Prostitution is a misdemeanor, but it has to be witnessed by the officer or an undercover officer. DC does not designate “prostitution-free” zones with signs anymore because the Supreme Court ruled against NYC on a similar issue, costing the city millions.
- Police can work with communities to combat prostitution through traffic enforcement. For example, 2nd and K St. NE has no right turns after a certain time of day, which makes it harder for johns to circle the block.
- Police are patrolling the park every 2 hours during the day and squad cars are clearing people out at night because the signs state “Park Closes at Dusk.” Police cannot necessarily arrest people for being in the park at night; they must ask them to leave and can ban them from the park in the future.
Representatives from the Mayor’s office discussed long-term solutions to the homelessness crisis in DC (such as affordable housing initiatives), but none seemed to address the critical issue at hand (both for individuals in the park and residents in the area).
DPR wants MVT residents “to be present in our parks,” and “use them” to discourage undesirables. That message, while laudable, seemed to fall on deaf ears for residents who fear for their personal safety and have experienced loud & aggressive harassment while walking in the vicinity.
The idea of creating a playground in the park was discouraged by DPR and had previously been considered and rejected by a parent’s group in the area due to the busy and complicated intersection of H and Mass.
- Residents should continue to call 911 rather than 311; that is the only way the police can document actionable upticks and send the appropriate respons
- Mayor office to circle back to set up a progress report meeting, possibly by the September 17th MVSNA Meeting
- Commander Hickson wants residents to learn your Police Service Area (“PSA”), attend PSA meetings, get on listserve, get to know the Lt. responsible for our area
- Cdr Hickson offered the idea of a park clean-up; he will have officers on hand as escorts
- Create a “Friends of the Park” organization. Use the park- have movies, yoga, community nights, and anything that establishes a community base in the park.
- ANC member requested a walk-through with DPR to clean up the park, fix crumbling concrete, paint, cleaning, etc and find budget to support a clean-up effort.