Thomas Outlines Safety Plan on Eve of Checkpoint
Saturday, June 7, 2008
D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr., who represents the Trinidad neighborhood where police will kick off a controversial anti-crime checkpoint, called on Mayor Adrian M. Fenty yesterday to produce a long-term solution.
Thomas (D-Ward 5) held a news conference at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center on the eve of the launch of the "neighborhood safety zone," where officers will stop motorists trying to enter the 1400 block of Montello Avenue NE.
Civil liberties advocates and some council members have questioned the plan's constitutionality. When the program begins today, it could look more like a block party as news organizations, the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union descend on the street.
"We are not in the business of taking away their rights," Thomas said. "But we will say this: Lawlessness will not be tolerated."
Fenty (D) was at his side. The mayor was an unexpected guest at the news conference. He had been at the recreation center for another event and stayed for Thomas's.
Thomas's comments focused on his 10-point action plan, which includes expanding job training, GED programs and drug and alcohol counseling, and offering mental health services at such places as libraries and recreation centers. Social ills are at the root of the crime epidemic, he said.
It was the same plan he tried to unveil last month at a news conference that was canceled because he had to rush to the scene of a homicide.
Fenty backed Thomas's plan yesterday, noting that his administration is working on some of the same issues. "We got to focus on jobs. We got to focus on recreation. God knows you got to focus on education," he said.
The focus turned to civil liberties during the question period. "I'm a tremendous fan and supporter of the ACLU," Fenty said, adding that his administration had vetted the initiative for its potential effectiveness and potential infringement on rights.
William Shelton, chairman of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission that includes Trinidad, said residents are anxious to see what happens. "The neighbors are a little concerned about being stopped at every front," he said. "They also want to know that it's not a short-term fix."