First 4 D.C. Crime Cameras To Be Set Up This Week

By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 10, 2006

Four neighborhood surveillance cameras will be installed this week on D.C. streets as part of the city's crime emergency plan, which will bring as many as 48 cameras to some of Washington's more violent areas in the coming weeks.

The first cameras will be installed in the Northeast, Southeast and Northwest quadrants, on blocks where robberies, drug dealing and assaults frequently occur, police said. All will be encased in bulletproof boxes.

As if to underscore the crime problem, which has been marked among juveniles, a man was killed yesterday at one of the sites, and a 15-year-old was charged in the death. Ricardo Jones, 22, of the District was fatally shot at 14th and Girard streets NW about 12:30 p.m. Last night, the teen, a male who had been arguing with Jones, was charged as a juvenile with second-degree murder while armed, police said.

Had the cameras been up, investigators could have checked whether the killing was recorded. Cameras will roll 24 hours a day but will not be monitored live.

"It's not a panacea," Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said. "It gives us a chance to see some crimes being committed in public places."

The cameras are part of the 90-day crime emergency package passed by the D.C. Council last month in response to a summer crime surge. The package also authorized 300 new police officers and a 10 p.m. youth curfew.

Police were given $2.3 million for the cameras, primarily for hardware and to set up a wireless network. The city will begin installation today.

On Monday, cameras will go up in five other locations, Ramsey said. He said he will publicly identify those after he receives the approval of council members, who must back cameras in their wards before they are installed.

In choosing the locations, Ramsey is required to consider crime data and recommendations from Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and civic associations. There are also practical concerns, such as the placement of utility poles to hold the devices.

The cameras will go up in about 48 blocks. Police plan to install half this month, and the rest next month. The emergency legislation expires in mid-October.

Ramsey wants the cameras to outlive the legislation: "Hopefully, the council will vote in favor of keeping them permanently."

The cameras will be attached to poles. Signs will alert people to their presence.

The first four sites have had problems with crime. Ramsey said the 1500-1700 blocks of Benning Road NE have been beset by robberies and homicides. The 400 block of O Street NW has problems with drug dealing. And the 1200 block of Valley Avenue SE has seen carjackings and other crimes.

Cities such as Baltimore, Chicago and Los Angeles have used neighborhood cameras for years, and officials there say they have helped reduce crime. In Baltimore, for example, police have noted a 15 percent drop in violent crime in areas with cameras.

Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have denounced the cameras, saying they are not effective, are susceptible to abuse and are voyeuristic.

Johnny Barnes, executive director of the ACLU of the National Capital Area, said, "We're about to spend money on the cameras that could be used for other law enforcement techniques, such as more police, streetlights, other things that work in law enforcement."

Staff writer Allan Lengel contributed to this report.

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