Washington D.C. has been growing rapidly, facing a trend of gentrification that has sent home prices and rents rising. Despite the growing pains, Mayor Muriel Bowser has managed to maintain order across the city of 650,000 residents. It all comes down to years of investment in community policing, said Bowser.
“We worked long and hard to build trust in the community,” Bowser told Fortune’s Leigh Gallagher on Tuesday at the 2015 Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington D.C. “Now, we’re making sure we’re making neighborhoods safer and stronger with a comprehensive approach.”And it’s worth noting that, despite problems with violent crime, Washington has avoided the kind of rioting that ravaged nearby Baltimore.
Bowser recently put in place a $15 million plan to build up the police presence in the city’s neighborhoods. The initiative includes an investment in body cameras; the city is also placing officers in key communities during both good times and bad so that police and residents build lasting relationships. The plan also includes harsher penalties for violent crime.
The investment is timely. During this summer, Bowser’s first as mayor, Washington faced escalating violence. A 43% jump in murders has consumed Bowser’s attention in recent months. The crime problem has been diverting her time away from building new “pathways to the middle class,” as she promised in her campaign last year. (Washington wasn’t the only major city seeing an uptick in homicides this summer: New York, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia all reported an increase in fatal gun violence.)
Bowser is continuing to invest in the police force, but she acknowledges that trust between officers and the community is fragile and requires constant care. “We are grateful that we have a force that respects the community, but we know we always have to be mindful” of the relationship, she said.