D.C. Police Patrols Triple After Violence

By N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 28, 2008

D.C. police officials spent much of yesterday in meetings to coordinate a massive citywide increase in patrols after a wave of violence swept through the District during the first 24 hours of the weekend.

Unrelated shootings, which began about 11:23 p.m. Friday and continued until just past 8 p.m. Saturday, left four men dead and at least 11 people wounded, and a woman was seriously injured in a stabbing on Eaton Road in Southeast early Saturday. Two of the shootings might have occurred in Prince George's County, police said.

Although the 50 homicides in the city this year are the same as the number this time last year, city officials fear that the increase in violence might continue.

In response, about 1,200 officers were deployed throughout the city Saturday night and Sunday morning, nearly three times the norm, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said.

Since Saturday morning, top police officials have expanded their usual daily conference call to three calls a day to try to better manage communications between specialized units and beat officers.

"Increasing patrols and visibility is the main strategy, but we have put out a full-court press with all of the law enforcement packages and tactics and partnerships we have," Lanier said yesterday.

So far, the stepped-up police presence appears to be yielding mixed results. Two of the shootings occurred about 8 p.m. Saturday, after the boost in patrols was launched. One of those shootings occurred within a block of the 6th District police station.

Similarly, one of the homicides early Saturday morning occurred in a Northeast Washington neighborhood to which police had already directed additional personnel after seven earlier shootings there this month.

D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), whose district includes that neighborhood, attributed the shooting there to the "brazenness" of criminals rather than any police failure.

"I'm very satisfied with the police, because, at every turn, where I've asked for additional resources, they've brought them," he said.

Lanier pointed to several instances Saturday night in which uniformed police confiscated at least eight guns.

Officers apprehended individuals who were firing an assault rifle about 10:30 p.m. near the 5600 block of Georgia Avenue NW. Officers also took guns from two groups who were firing at each other in the 4200 block of Blaine Street NE about 7:30 p.m.

Although the decline in temperature and resulting drop in people outside late Saturday and early Sunday likely contributed to the lack of injuries and homicides, Lanier said, "there's no question that the presence of so many uniformed officers has been a great deterrent."

Although three of the homicides appeared to be random events, she said, police were investigating whether the homicide in Northeast, which occurred at 2:07 a.m. Saturday at Morse Street and Montello Avenue, was connected with previous shootings and rivalries in the neighborhood.

Thomas said he was urging police to investigate whether the increased violence in his ward might be connected with a large number of arrests in the same community about a year ago, particularly because several of the homicide victims were in their late 20s or early 30s rather than adolescent boys.

"Some of those people might have been released while they await trial, and there could be issues with people returning home from prison trying to regain their territories or thinking that people snitched on them. That creates rivalries, too," he said.

Thomas said he has been speaking with ministers who serve the area about how to prevent violence by mentoring residents released from prison and providing more services to youths. He and others have scheduled a community meeting for 7 tonight at Turkey Thicket Recreation Center, 1100 Michigan Ave. NE.

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