View Full Version : Black neighborhoods on lockdown

lord patch
06-25-2008, 05:23 PM
National News
Black neighborhoods on lockdown
By Nisa Islam Muhammad
Staff Writer
Updated Jun 25, 2008, 03:34 pm


Police chief, mayor say blockades helped stem crime, opponents say
'lazy policing' could violate the constitution

Many fear militarization of police is a sign of problems to come (FCN,

SWAT teams and helicopter patrols in Chicago (FCN, 05-06-2008)

WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - District of Columbia officials claimed a
victory after a six-day takeover of the Trinidad neighborhood, one of
the city's high crime areas, resulted in no acts of violence but
others questioned the tactic and its ability to have long term

"It's just lazy policing," Ron Hampton, executive director of the
National Black Police Association told The Final Call. "What they're
doing is stopping people normally coming through that area or those
passing through to other parts of the city. It's very easy to claim
that this type of policing works. But restricting peoples' movements
in that area might be a violation of their constitutional rights."

"What they should be doing is going into that community and engaging
them, know the people who live there and work with them
collaboratively to remedy the problems there. The people who live
there are willing to work with the police. They didn't talk to the

Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the blockades could be used in other
areas of the city if crime rises to high enough levels. No specific
formula, however, was given to determine what would constitute a high
enough level of crime for the operation to be implemented.

History of drugs, crime in the area

The neighborhood's name comes from the Caribbean island where the
owner of the land lived in the 1800s. In the 1980s, when crack cocaine
was king and Rayful Edmonds was the D.C. kingpin, the Trinidad
community was the launching pad for a drug empire that spread across
the city.

Today the neighborhood is mostly Black and about 30 percent Latino.
Last year there were 21 homicides in the Trinidad community. In the
first five months of this year, there were 22 murders in the
neighborhood. Other areas of the city have seen crime stabilize and
even decrease, but not Trinidad.

"This is bigger than just a policing matter," explained Ward Five
Councilman Harry Thomas, Jr. The Trinidad community is a part of his
ward. "Walk these neighborhoods. If you look around these are
peaceful, law abiding citizens who need our help. We have to do
everything we can to protect them as public servants."

"We need to save this community from a true sickness of violence," he
said at a June 4 press conference. Councilman Thomas supported the
high profile operation.

"What the residents are saying is they want to feel safe and the
number one way is with police action," said Mayor Adrian Fenty June 4
as he announced the implementation of Neighborhood Safety Zones.

"The Neighborhood Safety Zones are established in partnership with the
Attorney General's office," he said, "We want to completely shut it
down and prevent the continuing drug sales and shootings."

He explained that after months of meetings about how to address rising
crime in the city, a decision was made to go beyond normal policing.

The city defines a Neighborhood Safety Zone as a geographic area
designated by the chief of police in response to high levels of crimes
and violence. The purpose is to provide high police visibility,
prevent and deter crime, and create safer neighborhoods by prohibiting
vehicles with no legitimate purpose from entering the area.

According to Police Chief Lanier vehicles are often used in committing
serious crimes, particularly armed violent crime. In April and May
2008, the city saw 33 incidents of shootings or homicides in which a
vehicle was involved.

"We want to take away all the things that facilitate a criminal's
ability to commit a crime. There were 14 shootings or homicides since
April 1, where the suspect was in a vehicle," explained Chief Lanier
at a press conference. "We want to reduce the level of violence and
disrupt the criminal activity."

The Neighborhood Safety Zone was established in Trinidad June 7
andpolice conducted 10 checkpoints.More than 700 vehicles entered the
restricted area; 46 vehicles were prohibited from driving
through.Officials arrested one driver for possessing an open container
of alcohol.There were no shootings in Trinidad while the Neighborhood
Safety Zone was in place. The operation ended June 13.

"The call from the community is to stop the violence and that's what
we're going to do," said Chief Lanier. "The residents are saying to
us, 'Why are so many people from other neighborhoods coming to my
neighborhood, selling drugs and committing violence?' We are talking
to everyone coming into this neighborhood."

The mayor said additional services from major city departments such as
employment, social services, health, parks and recreation would be
made available to the community.

"We are picking the highest crime areas and all resources of the
government will be made available. I am giving the chief access to
services. We want to infuse the areas with whatever resources are
necessary to drive crime down," said Mayor Fenty.

The Neighborhood Safety Zones are the latest in the police chief's
efforts to control escalating crime. The year started with her plan to
have officers go door to door in high crime areas asking permission to
enter and search for guns.

The plan had the ACLU going door-to-door telling residents not to let
the police in.

"Mr. Chairman, at the outset, I wish to state that we agree with the
police that the scourge of guns and violence proliferating many
District of Columbia neighborhoods is an unacceptable situation," said
Johnny Barnes, executive director of the ACLU of the National Capital
Area as he testified before the city council in April.

"But, we disagree that police practices should conflict with
fundamental constitutional rights and freedoms. While well
intentioned, this proposed program of the police, it seems, is lazy
law enforcement, 'quick fix' law enforcement that, in the end, is
likely to do far more harm than good," said Mr. Barnes.

Next was the police chief's plan for officers to carry semiautomatic
rifles while on patrol this summer. Her rationale? "We want to be
prepared. I want officers to have what they need to be safe," she

Are safety zones legal?

"These provisions are fully constitutional and are supported by the
U.S. Attorney General," said Peter Nickles, interim attorney general.
According to the promotional material developed by the city, "The U.S.
Courts have found that such zones are constitutional when limited in
scope, and when conducted for a legitimate law enforcement purpose."

Mr. Nickles met several times with the U.S. Attorney General's office
as the plans for the Neighborhood Safety Zones were being formulated.
Prosecutors raised questions about its constitutionality and the plan
was revised several times, according to officials.

When all was said and done police officers would only stop motorists
and ask if they had legitimate reasons for coming into the targeted

Others are not convinced that the Neighborhood Safety Zones are legal.

"These blockades are nothing new," said Mr. Hampton. "In the 1980s
horse blockades were used in the 3rd District at 14th and Girard. Cars
couldn't drive by and the ACLU got an injunction. You can't deny
access just because people don't live there."

In the 1980s, a massive war on drugs called Operation Clean Sweep
allowed police officers to establish roadblocks, confiscate cars and
infuse drug areas with undercover officers. Operation Clean Sweep ran
for two years and resulted in more than 50,000 arrests. But the D.C.
Court of Appeals later found it to be unconstitutional—in a case that
involved a street roadblock.

"This just isn't good police strategy," said Mr. Hampton. "They use
good police strategy in Capitol Hill, Upper Northwest and in
Georgetown. They use something that involves the community. That
doesn't happen in most neighborhoods. The citizens are ready to say
what they want. The question is are the police ready to listen."

The ACLU is considering a suit in response to the Neighborhood Safety Zones.

At Large Council member Phil Mendelson opposes the blockades. He told
reporters the blockades "engender community hostility and create a bad
rapport with the neighbors." He plans to convene a hearing to discuss
the initiative.

Mary Robinson, a resident of the Trinidad community, also questions
whether anything will change with the departure of police officers.

"The people committing these crimes aren't dumb. They know once the
police leave, it's back to business as usual. I want to feel safe but
not just for six days. I want to feel safe from now on."

Mr. Hampton believes the answer is community policing. "You have to be
in the community and engage the residents. Talk to the people and get
to know them. They know what's going on in their neighborhood. The
people are willing to work with the police because I've talked to

"There's a better way to secure a neighborhood. The people who support
this method only do so because they believe nothing else will work.
This community is like any other one filled with Black and Brown
people. They need services."

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06-30-2008, 11:13 AM
It is what it is. Accept it!

07-01-2008, 03:28 AM
all of them ?