June 4, 2008
Police to Seal Off D.C. Neighborhoods
2008_0604_police.jpgCan you say Police State? The Examiner has the scoop on a controversial new program announced today that would create so-called "Neighborhood Safety Zones" which would serve to partially seal off certain parts of the city. D.C. Police would set-up checkpoints in targeted areas, demand to see ID and refuse admittance to people who don't live there, work there or have a “legitimate reason” to be there. Wow. Just, wow.
Some of the words used to describe such a plan by those quoted in the Examiner story include "breathtaking" and "cockamamie," but that hardly begins to scratch the surface. Interim Attorney General Peter Nickles actually said that measures of this sort have "been used in other cities.” Which cities are those, Mr. Nickles? Warsaw?
Today's proposal appears to be a desperate attempt by the city to tamp down recent violence that has ravaged the city, especially in Ward 5. The "Neighborhood Safety Zones" would last up to 10 days. It's a struggle to think of words to describe such a plan other than authoritarian or ghettoization.
The full description of this plan from the mayor's press release is below.
The Neighborhood Safety Zone initiative has been developed to help increase security for those who live in high-crime areas around the city and to help residents reclaim their communities. The program will authorize the Metropolitan Police Department to set up public safety checks to help safeguard community members and create safer neighborhoods in the District by increasing police presence aimed at deterring crime.
The safety zones will be established only upon request by a District Commander where there is evidence to support the existence of neighborhood violent crime, such as intelligence, violent crime data, police reports and feedback and concerns from the affected community.
Potential Neighborhood Safety Zones must be approved by the Chief of Police, and will be in effect for a maximum of 10 days. Public safety checks will be established along the main thoroughfares of the established neighborhoods. Anyone driving into a designated area may be asked to show valid identification with a home address in that neighborhood, or to provide an explanation for entering the NSZ, such as attending church, a doctor’s appointment or visiting friends or relatives. Pedestrians will not be subject to the public safety checks.
“The Neighborhood Safety Zones is just another tool MPD will employ to stop crime before it happens. The Neighborhood Safety Zone initiative will help residents terrorized by violent crime to take back their neighborhoods,” said Chief Lanier.
Initiatives such as the Neighborhood Safety Zones have been accepted by federal courts as a legitimate law enforcement practice in keeping with the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. The constitutionality of the NSZ initiative has been reviewed by the D.C. Office of the Attorney General.
The NSZ will be launched next week in the Trinidad area.