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D.C. Police to Check Drivers In Violence-Plagued Trinidad
One of Lanier's plans, the Safe Homes initiative, has yet to get off the ground because of a community backlash. The plan, announced by Lanier and Fenty at a news conference in March, called for police to go door-to-door in crime-ridden areas and ask residents whether they could go inside and search for guns. Residents and some council members voiced concerns that homeowners would feel intimidated by police. Lanier backed off, but said she plans to move forward soon by having residents call police to set up appointments.
Another plan, to arm hundreds of patrol officers with semiautomatic rifles, starting this summer, also got mixed reviews from residents.
Kristopher Baumann, head of the D.C. police lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he was concerned about public perception of the checkpoints and the potential that it could lead to more citizen complaints. He questioned Lanier's overall approach, saying, "There is no strategy and no mid-term and long-term planning.
"That's the biggest disappointment of Chief Lanier's tenure," Baumann said. "One thing we were excited about and optimistic about was, for once, we'd have strategies to combat crime and not just be reactive. But we haven't seen it. It's been a year and a half."
Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), who represents Trinidad and other parts of Northeast Washington, said he had informal discussions with Lanier in which she had mentioned the possibility of the checkpoint announced yesterday, but he got little notice before the news conference. Civil liberties are always a concern, said Thomas, who maintained that residents are so concerned about violence that they will be willing to give the latest program a try.
"I think the general consensus is that we have to do something because people live in fear," he said. "What would you rather have?" he asked. "A positive pattern of [police] checking things . . . or these folks who come into the community and wreak havoc?"
Staff writers Marcia Davis, Dan Keating, David Nakamura, Mary Beth Sheridan and Del Quentin Wilber and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.