It’s that time again.
A new school year is beginning and, along with it, comes a new cohort of eager young minds ready to partake in D.C. Witness’s seriously taxing business of tracking and reporting on homicides in Washington, DC.
Although my opinion may be biased, I think these interns and all of the past interns that D.C. Witness has tutored and mentored since 2015 will gain a perspective that is lost in today’s academia. These interns will get to see, up close, the ramifications of violent crime on a city and its residents. These interns will also get to partake in data collection that could help solve DC’s homicide problem.
What more could a student ask for?
D.C. Witness not only equips interns with stronger data tracking, note-taking, communication and writing skills, it also provides them with an educational experience on the court process. Each semester there is an intern who is astonished by the court process and how different it is from “Law and Order.”
An intern told me that even though she was an avid viewer of crime shows, it was shocking that the murder defendants she reports on could have been someone she passed on the street going home.
I can relate to the shock.
Before I began my tenure at D.C. Witness as the nonprofit organization’s editor-in-chief, I, too, was a bit sheltered from the sheer reality of crime and murder in not only DC, but also in my hometown. Both areas have held the title of the murder capitol of the United States in previous years.
Like any average American, I thought the law was open and closed. If a person was charged and convicted of a murder, they did something to deserve the conviction and needed to pay the consequence. I looked at homicide as more of this cinematic event that only happens in Hollywood type scenarios by heartless villains.
But, that is not the case. Interns at D.C. Witness see a presence of humanity in some defendants, a gesture not often shown on television.
As a third party sitting in a courtroom and seeing a case unfold, you notice the tragedies that homicide wreaks in its wake. You see the families suffer. At times, you even see how one ill-thought action turns into a consequence that takes away decades of a person’s life.
The emotional toll is heavy.
After being at D.C. Witness, I have realized that the atmosphere of homicides is not sensational but rather an occurrence of where the city is lacking resources. D.C. Witness has tracked that not only do a majority of homicides occur from petty disputes, but that most of the homicides have occurred from gun-related shootings. As we track each homicide, our data shines more light on the root causes of these murders.
D.C. Witness believes the underlying causes of these homicides need to be addressed if we ever hope to get a handle on the number of murders that happen in the city.
As I instruct interns, all of whom come from various colleges and universities both inside the city and around the world, I marvel at their passion to help DC deal with its homicide problem.
I look forward to the work my next group of students, ranging from criminal justice majors to communications majors, will produce this semester.