In Face of Protests, Police Call Area Checkpoints a Success

Drivers will have to show identification to police before gaining permission to enter the Trinidad neighborhood.
Drivers will have to show identification to police before gaining permission to enter the Trinidad neighborhood. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
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By Keith L. Alexander and V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, June 8, 2008

D.C. police began checking drivers' IDs last night in a neighborhood that has been plagued by homicide, and although the policy found critics, among them at least one motorist, a police official said it went well.

"We did not hear any gunfire," said Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes, expressing her belief that the program had satisfied one of its main goals: curbing the spate of shootings that has been troubling the Trinidad neighborhood and much of the surrounding Northeast Washington area.

Seeming less impressed by the procedure, Herbert Temoney, 50, a neighborhood resident, said police had been cordial when they stopped his car at Montello Avenue and Owen Place NE and questioned him.

But he was skeptical, stating that stopping motorists at checkpoints may not be an adequate response to the killings.

"I think it's a bit like closing the door after the horse got out," he said.

Earlier yesterday, before the traffic checks began, many people gathered to complain about the policy, which they said was another example of ineffective over-policing.

"They're out here putting tickets on cars of residents when they should be out here walking around getting to know the neighborhood and learning who lives here and who doesn't," said Diane Kemp, a 16-year resident of the area who was ticketed a few months ago.

"Now we have checkpoints, one more way of hurting those of us who live here."

Representatives of several civil and housing rights organizations protested the plan as they gathered in the 1400 block of Montello Avenue NE. Eleanor Johnson, of the D.C. Coalition for Housing Justice, said the police were "creating a police state."

"Neighborhood Safety Zone" signs were on light poles throughout the area. They warned: "Vehicles entering this area are subject to stop. Operators must provide identification."

About 15 demonstrators decried the checkpoints, saying they violate the residents' rights. "Trinidad, yes; Baghdad, no!" they yelled. "Don't turn Trinidad into Baghdad!"

Mark Thompson, chairman of the District's NAACP Metropolitan Police and Criminal Justice Review Task Force, said residents of the neighborhood should have had an opportunity to weigh in.

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