City Tackles Water St. Safety after Homicide

Photo by Brian Kapur/The Current
Two men were shot last month, one fatally, on Water Street NW under the Whitehurst Freeway
Two men were shot last month, one fatally, on Water Street NW under the Whitehurst Freeway

By Grace Bird

Current Staff Writer

Following last month’s fatal shooting under the Whitehurst Freeway, officials are taking steps to improve public safety in the Water Street NW corridor, which include improving lighting and installing security cameras.

While proposed changes often divide Georgetown residents, worries about crime-conducive conditions along the waterfront draw a firm consensus: Something must be done. “It has definitely been an ongoing issue in Georgetown,” Joe Gibbons, chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith), said in an interview.

In the early hours of July 8, a double shooting in the 3500 block of Water Street killed 19-year-old Kennedy Javier Amaya-Olivares and left another man injured. The homicide took place in the area near the road’s terminus at the Capital Crescent Trail beyond the Key Bridge.

Following the incident, the D.C. Department of Transportation repaired about 100 streetlights around the waterfront and installed two wall-mounted lights. “DDOT night inspectors reported, and residents confirmed the area is now properly illuminated,” agency spokesperson Maura Danehey wrote in an email.

The agency is also considering installing parking meters on the 3500 block of Water Street, which officials hope will dissuade drivers from loitering on the quiet roadway. However, the department does not plan to eliminate parking from this part of Water Street, according to Danehey.

“Although combatting crime does not fall under our jurisdiction, we support other agencies by installing such assets as streetlights, and evaluating parking scenarios,” Danehey wrote.

So far this year, the Metropolitan Police Department’s crime data show 20 incidents on Water Street NW. In addition to the July 8 homicide, these include an April 22 armed robbery, two burglaries, four thefts from parked cars and 13 additional thefts.

Representatives from the U.S. Park Police, the National Park Service, the Georgetown Business Improvement District, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Transportation Department and ANC 2E met recently to discuss “some of the ongoing concerns in the area,” U.S. Park Police Lt. Christopher Cunningham, commander of Rock Creek Station wrote in an email. According to Cunningham, the park police have increased their presence near the waterfront since the shooting.

Meeting attendees, Cunningham wrote, discussed adding lights to Water Street, the Whitehurst Freeway and the remains of the former Aqueduct Bridge, as well as installing security cameras on the freeway or adjacent properties. The Georgetown BID raised the idea of painting over graffiti or commissioning a mural near the aqueduct. National Park Service officials additionally agreed to assess the feasibility of building a fence to restrict access to the old Aqueduct Bridge.

According to BID director Joe Sternlieb, his organization has also begun a study on the feasibility of increasing Water Street’s commercial activity. The team would make recommendations according to the study’s findings by the end of the year, Sternlieb said.

ANC 2E member Lisa Palmer raised a concern about illegal nighttime drag racing competitions on Water Street. From her window, Palmer said, she frequently watches in horror as drivers tear down the wide, secluded dead-end road. 

“It’s not safe to be a driver, it’s not safe to be a pedestrian,” Palmer said. “It’s not safe.”