Police Suspend Trinidad Checkpoint Program

By Allison Klein and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 13, 2008

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier yesterday suspended the checkpoint program that screened people driving into the troubled Trinidad neighborhood, acting after a night that left eight people shot at six locations elsewhere in the city.

Officials have not ruled out setting up checkpoints in Trinidad and other areas in the future, but there are no immediate plans to do so, authorities said.

None of the violence took place in the 5th Police District, the section of Northeast Washington where police have stepped up enforcement after recent killings. Police began operating a checkpoint Saturday night on Montello Avenue NE, and it was up and running Wednesday, its last day in operation.

All the victims survived. They included three men, hit in a drive-by shooting; a woman, shot in the back; and an 11-year-old, grazed in the wrist when he and friends allegedly played with a gun, police said. In the other cases, a man was shot during a confrontation with police, a woman was wounded when she and a friend were attacked by a group of assailants and a man was shot leaving a carry-out restaurant.

Police said the shootings are not related. No one has been arrested in any of the cases.

Under the Neighborhood Safety Zones program announced by Lanier and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) last week, the chief may run a checkpoint for five days and then issue an order extending it for five more.

Messages left for Lanier seeking comment on why she stopped the Trinidad checkpoint were returned by her spokeswoman, Traci Hughes, who said there were a variety of reasons for ending the checkpoints, including that officers had gathered intelligence.

The program, in which all drivers must justify their purpose for being in a targeted area, has been criticized by civil rights groups, D.C. council members and residents who said police are overstepping their power.

"As crime occurs elsewhere in this city, they're going to have to go back to community policing," said council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who is holding a hearing Monday on the initiative.

"Checkpoints aren't going to stop crime," Mendelson said.

Under community policing strategies, officers work with residents to find solutions. Lanier did not seek community input before launching the checkpoint, a source of complaint from some residents. But other residents praised the effort.

Between Saturday and 5 p.m. yesterday, police ran the Montello Avenue checkpoint on 10 occasions, for about two hours each time. More than 700 vehicles were allowed through; 46 were turned away.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company