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Anti-Loitering or Unconstitutional?

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) is once again proposing a bill that would prevent two or more people from gathering in "hot spots," areas known for criminal activity.

Graham said at today's Committee of the Whole meeting that he proposed similar anti-loitering legislation in July 2005 and in February 2007, and concerns were raised questions about infringing upon civil liberties. "I have wrestled with this issue for years," he said.

The new bill, he said, contains provisions that would observe "lawful assembly."

This time around, Graham also picked up some co-sponsors: Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large), David Catania (I-At Large) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2).

By Nikita R Stewart  |  February 17, 2009; 11:02 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. Council  
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Before people get up in arms about the strictness of this rule, remember that the drug dealers in DC keep their stashes in alleys and sit on stoops, not in "possession" of anything for hours at a time while they commit minor crimes like harassment and only "possess" the drugs for brief periods where they send a runner to pick up the drugs. I've seen people get rousted by the police once, twice, 3 and 4 times and every time the police come away empty-handed.

Guns are being fired indiscriminately and innocent neighbors are getting shot. Many DC neighborhoods are halfway through gentrification as young college-educated professional families buy houses, spend $100k to fix them up and are getting ready to send their children to school. DC needs to shake loose the ingrained criminals who produced a corrupt DC for years and simply put, have no business living in a modern civilized city. They are creeps on the sidewalk leering at underage girls, selling cocaine and pot, drinking out of paper bags and littering 7 days a week. I say the police should get all the support from us to protect our children from real and present violence.

Anyone living in a suburban neighborhood should think twice before submitting some poorly-thought-out "Devil's Advocate" response because one such "neighborhood crew" in Adams Morgan was accused of multiple muggings and rapes in the 1990s. Support these guys and you support rapists.

Posted by: bbcrock | February 17, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Why are our leaders so willing to give up our First Amendment rights? I grew up in Washington, DC and should be able to stand anywhere I choose. The US Constitution says we have the freedom to assemble peaceably and I don't think a city councilman should be able to take that away. I don't "support rapists" but I do support my right to stand at a corner with a couple of friends while we decide where we want to go next.

Posted by: ahs78graduate | February 17, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

bbcrock -- all those things are problems, but how does a loitering bill address them?

Posted by: ah___ | February 17, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Yes, different times call for different measures. Loiterers can certainly be intimidating. When you worry about friends or family walking to the metro, because a bunch of people are loitering on the street, something has got to give. Many times, some find chairs and take up the entire sidewalk and you have to walk around them - in the street - just to get by.

I once saw a policeman break up a crowd and they left peaceably. This made the public sidewalk more inviting and walkable.

You will never get a walkable community for families in certain areas in places like Anacostia if people are concerned for safety when walking to matro or corner stores. Especially during the summer on a Friday after work. What works for locals ingrained in certain communities over decades doesn't seem to fly for the newcomers that are needed to help stabilize communities.

First, let's properly define loitering and take it from there.

My thoughts....

Posted by: Anacostiaque | February 17, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

I feel sorry for my city when lawmakers are willing to infringe upon the rights of law abbiding citizens to punish a few bad seeds. Yes we all know DC has an open air drug market problem but the answer is not to say I cant enjoy being outside in my own neighborhood. The answer is to provide the same protection and security as those neiborhoods were more affluent people live. And to the person from the first post your comments make it sound like your are uncommfotable walking down the street if anybody at all is standing there. Grow a pair and learn to get along with everyone in your community. How about we attack poverty the root cause of the problem? Thats never suggested as a solution.......

Posted by: das_tae | February 17, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Look, we all know about our freedoms and the knuckleheads are the first to site them. Be real, though, this legislation aims to tackle the problem of "patrons" just hanging in front of a store without buying anything substantial or "neighbors" hanging around a homeowner's stoop and the persons don't live at the house. Just as "opponents" bring up rights, what about the rights of businessowners to keep their storefronts clear to ensure consistent commerce; what about the rights of seniors or singles or anyone not to be intimidated or just nervous or just plain annoyed with the loud talking, loud music, discarded trash, asking people to keep it down, etc. I speak to people hanging out and they speak back sometimes. Still if there's going to be positive change in neglected neighborhoods we've got to be cognizant that perception is reality. Graham seems to limit the legislation to hot spots of public safety. Can we start there at least to see if there's some positive change instead of always getting our hackles up right out of the box?

Posted by: DeanwoodCitizen | February 17, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

here we go again Jim Gramham with your idelogical thinking, you and I know if this rule is passed that anytime these zealous police of Washington DC see two or more law abideing blacks they will harass them, they do it now to my friends and we are only standing there meeting and greeting and sometimes the conversation might run over 5 minutes. Lets not take away all liberties that have been provided by the US constitution.

Posted by: rickyjohnson1 | February 17, 2009 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Graham is attempting to address a major problem in the city with an incremental solution (subsequent steps will be dictated by the results of this bill, if passed). This is not a slippery slope to a police state, or anything remotely near it; instead, like many other cities and counties, they are instituting a no loitering statute to deal with a very real problem. Open air drug markets are not the exception in certain parts of DC, but the norm. This bill is not to dissuade DC residents from meeting outside of their homes, but to give the police a tool to make drug transactions more difficult, among other scenarios.
This city is in need of a lot of modernization, and it is honorable for Graham to take up this cause specific and needed cause.

Posted by: DCobserver | February 17, 2009 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Just about every major city has an anti-loitering law. If you're a law abiding citizen, you have nothing to worry about. This is to target drug dealer and people loitering outside of small businesses and other people's houses. Kudos to Jim Graham!

Posted by: sgrahamuva | February 17, 2009 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, we have to many bad seeds on the streets of D.C. and most happen to be black males. I too am a black man, but all my black male friend are educated and are not criminals. This is sad but very true. For those of you who are against this piece of legislation, the ACLU is going to step in and challenge this law as they have with illegal immigration. We law abiding citizens in D.C. and every major city have to suffer at the ignorance and criminal activity of "savages".

Posted by: Ward4DC | February 18, 2009 12:39 AM | Report abuse

This will not solve the problems. The problem is the culture. No laws or police enforcement can, as we have seen countless times before, change the culture of the ignorant blacks in the Washington DC ghetto. Just today in another article about the singer Brown assaulting his girlfriend, Rihanna, and a person interviewed in DC said, they should not ban his music, because amongst other things, she admitted, the radio station plays much worse music. She acknowledges that the station she listens to plays music with content that is bad, but she still "be listening to those Joints Yo YO!" Blacks will always have problems with drug abuse, alcoholism, and crime, because they allow themselves to stay locked in that destructive and counter-productive culture. It is not exclusive to the poor ghetto community either, it is bleeding over in to the suburbs and the middle class blacks also!

Posted by: Black101 | February 18, 2009 8:41 AM | Report abuse

This is so funny. Jim Graham wants to enact legislation to keep black U.S. citizens from hanging on the streets of D.C., but he, Mayor Fenty, and the D.C. Council will not address illegal immigration or illegal aliens in the District of Columbia. You have Salvadoran gang members in both Wards 1 & 4 in D.C. and I don't hear D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham or Muriel Bowser saying or doing anything about it.

Posted by: illegalalien | February 18, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse

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