Police to Step Up Patrols After Violence

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier promised action at a news conference yesterday in Trinidad after a night of shootings.
Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier promised action at a news conference yesterday in Trinidad after a night of shootings. (By Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)
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By N.C. Aizenman and Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, April 27, 2008

D.C. police are planning a citywide increase in patrols after a night of apparently unrelated shootings left four dead and as many as eight wounded in neighborhoods across the city, officials said yesterday.

After the spate of shootings and killings that broke out late Friday and early Saturday, three more people were shot last night, police said. One of them was wounded about a block from a police station.

"This is definitely a major spike" in violence, Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes said, referring specifically to the overnight shootings. She spoke by phone shortly after concluding three emergency conference calls with the department's command staff hastily convened by Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. The violence took place late Friday and early yesterday.

"We're not just going to be using every officer to patrol, like we've already been doing. We're going to start pulling from administrative positions, too," Groomes said.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) later joined Lanier at a news conference to decry the latest violence and promise additional action. The city has had 50 homicides this year, the same number as at this point last year. But in recent weeks, violence has been increasing, with 18 killings in April alone. Officials are concerned that violence, which typically spikes in late summer, is escalating early.

Particularly "frustrating," Groomes said, was the fact that one of the homicides -- a 2 a.m. shooting at Morse Street and Montello Avenue NE -- was the eighth slaying in the city's 5th Police District since April 14 and took place despite a major recent effort to boost police presence in the area.

"We had police patrolling just a block away when the shots rang out," Groomes said.

Officers found a 30-year-old man lying dead on Morse Street in front of the Joseph H. Cole Fitness Center, police said.

The Trinidad neighborhood around Morse and Montello was gripped by the crack epidemic during the 1980s and early 1990s, becoming one of the most dangerous in the city. However, residents who stood watching police question youths near the site of the shooting said Trinidad has since become more quiet. The community has a neighborhood watch, and residents recently started a garden club.

"It's not a hellhole. The crime comes and goes over time," said Michelle Gandy, who has lived in the area for 16 years. The biggest problems, she and others said, are caused by people who come from outside the area.

"But the police can't do anything about that," one resident said.

Fenty and Lanier had their news conference in Trinidad, where they were joined by D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5).

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