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D.C. Shifts Away From Centralized Gun Crime Prevention Center

A year ago, Washington, D.C,. Mayor Muriel Bowser launched a new initiative to tackle gun violence that many say has lost its way, the Washington Post reports. The program, Building Blocks DC, approached the problem by focusing prevention and intervention efforts on the city's most dangerous blocks and opening a Gun Violence Prevention Emergency Operations Center. There, workers would coordinate to send violence interrupters to quell disputes, organize job creation efforts, and clean up blighted streets. After unabated shootings and a carjacking surge, the operation center is being phased out. The effort is now being described more vaguely, sometimes as a framework overseeing programs from different agencies, which has caused critics to levy charges that Bowser's government has lost its sense of urgency. Some community members saw the operations center as a key selling point of Bowser's plan, and believed that a director empowered to marshal resources from multiple sources in the city's government could be effective. Doing away with both of these Buildings Blocks aspects has left some feeling that the city is back to business as usual.

Others maintain that the operations center was only supposed to be an emergency stopgap to jumpstart the fight against gun violence, and that employees of the operations center have been shifted to other city departments. Moreover, the fundamental mission of Building Blocks has not been altered: to disrupt the cycle of violence that some researchers say is predictable and preventable. The National Institute of Criminal Justice Reform released a report stating that a few hundred people were responsible for nearly 70 percent of the D.C.'s gun violence. The idea behind Building Blocks is to identify actors such as these, offer them services, and coach them into a better lifestyle. Grant recipients, who received $750,000 last summer, have been largely pleased with Building Blocks, though some are not certain how they fit into its overall scheme.

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