Friday, November 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

D.C.'s "Checkpoint Charlie" -- could it happen here?

Does D.C. crime plan go too far?

D.C.'s "Checkpoint Charlie" -- could it happen here?

We all know that Mayor Nutter's new police commissioner, Charles Ramsey, came her from Washington with a tough on crime approach that sometimes ran afoul of civil libertarians down there. Well, check out what his old hometown is up to now:

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier announced a military-style checkpoint yesterday to stop cars this weekend in a Northeast Washington neighborhood inundated by gun violence, saying it will help keep criminals out of the area.

Starting on Saturday, officers will check drivers' identification and ask whether they have a "legitimate purpose" to be in the Trinidad area, such as going to a doctor or church or visiting friends or relatives. If not, the drivers will be turned away.

The Neighborhood Safety Zone initiative is the latest crime-fighting attempt by Lanier and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who have been under pressure from residents to stop a recent surge in violence. Last weekend was especially bloody, with seven slayings, including three in the Trinidad area.

"In certain areas, we need to go beyond the normal methods of policing," Fenty (D) said at a news conference announcing the action. "We're going to go into an area and completely shut it down to prevent shootings and the sale of drugs.

I'd be interested in hearing what Nutter and Ramsey think of this. Seems to me that there's a line between flooding the zone with cops -- a good idea -- and stopping every citizen, which not only goes a little too far but, since it only applies to motorists and not pedestrians, may not even be effective.

The Washington ACLU is not impressed:

"My reaction is, welcome to Baghdad, D.C.," said Arthur Spitzer, legal director for the ACLU's Washington office. "I mean, this is craziness. In this country, you don't have to show identification or explain to the police why you want to travel down a public street."

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Will Bunch
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