Lanier: "More Extreme Tactics" Necessary
Police Chief Cathy Lanier and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty today announced new measures to fight a rash of shootings in Ward 5, saying officers will be stationed in designated neighborhoods and stopping all vehicles attempting to enter. Anyone with no legitimate reason to enter, authorities said, will be turned away. A list of what the officers will be looking for will be posted on the city's Web site today, Lanier said. The so-called "Neighborhood Safety Zones" will be in effect from 5 to 10 days and the searches will not apply to pedestrians.
The move comes after 8 people were shot and killed over the weekend in one of the most violent stretches in years. So far, 22 people have been killed in Ward 5 this year, compared to 21 in all of 2007, Fenty said.
"We need to use a lot more extreme tactics," Lanier said. The checkpoints won't be up "24 hours, but they will be brought up consistently."
The tactics already are causing some to complain that they violate civil liberties, but Interim D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said a similar effort in New York city several years ago was upheld in court.
"We're not picking on people," Nickles said. "If people want to sue, the courthouse is open."
Neighborhood reaction was mixed. Ward 5 activist Robert Brannum stood with the mayor and said: "It's worth trying. The community needs to feel safe and they want to see the police taking action to make the neighborhood safe."
Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) said some neighbors won't even come to their doors out of fear of violence. "Overwhelmingly, what I see is people in fear. We're not here to violate anyone's civil rights."
Thalia Wiggins, 24, who walks dogs for a living, said she sometimes is fearful while walking them. Still, Wiggins was mixed about Lanier's announcement, saying she would like the city to try to combat crime through social and educational programs.
"At least they're trying to do something," she said. "I can't blame them."
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