A video with further discussion between DC News Now’s anchors Chris Flanagan and Tasmin Mahfuz and reporter Leonard N. Fleming is included at the bottom of this story.
WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — It’s been a violent start to the New Year in the District, but Deputy Mayor Lindsey Appiah isn’t deterred.
Appiah said the Metro Police Department that she oversees is constantly strategizing ways to combat crime while murders, auto thefts and assaults with deadly weapons are up.
“We absolutely do need to reduce crime. That is what we have been charged with,” Appiah said. “Gun violence is too high in our city and in our country.”
Bowser said Appiah, 42, “attacks her work with urgency” when the mayor introduced her in a news conference earlier this month.
“I believe that public service is a higher calling. And for me, I have been in public service since 2009, serving in state service or local government which I love,” Appiah said. “I believe in serving people.”
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The Massachusetts native said her Ghanaian father and American mother — who spent time in foster care — molded her.
Her main role and the mayor’s expectation is to make sure all DC residents feel safe, she said. But the deputy mayor admits she has her work cut out for her.
“If you ask if we have a crime problem, we believe that if anybody’s a victim of crime in our city, that’s an issue,” Appiah said. “Whether it’s a problem or not, it’s a problem that people are being victimized by crime.”
The proliferation of guns in the District makes that difficult, she said.
“I think we have a gun violence issue. I distinguish that because overall in the past nine years, violent crime and overall crime are down,” she said. “The District of Columbia has a significant amount of guns. We have a lot of legal guns and a lot of unlawful guns.”
Given the District is grappling with rising crime among juveniles, her years of experience at the DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services as general counsel and then interim director gives her unique perspective on how to address them.
But with more guns on the street, that helps to fuel juvenile crimes like carjackings and murders.
“The value of life seems lessoned and our young people really have adopted some of that,” she said. “The willingness to use guns combined with the availability of guns has brought us where we are.”
And her relationship with Police Chief Robert Contee?
“I love Chief Contee because he loves this city,” she said. “So my relationship with the chief is one of support because it’s a big job.”
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Appiah still has “acting” deputy mayor on her title because the City Council has yet to confirm her. Bowser will be sending her name to the council by the end of the week, a spokeswoman said.
Appiah said this is the right job for her, and she’s ready to carry about the mayor’s edict to keep the city safe.
“I believe strongly in the mayor, her leadership and the priorities she’s set for us,” she said. “So I would never even put my name in if I didn’t believe that I was someone who could really help to steady and bring strategic oversight and partnership to all of the public servants that serve in this space currently.”