D.C. police surrounded a shelter for the homeless in Northwest Washington early yesterday, concluding a 10-day effort dubbed "Operation Gotcha" that police said was designed to reduce a large number of outstanding arrest warrants.
Sgt. Joseph Gentile said that 87 felony and misdemeanor bench warrants were served and 57 arrests made since the operation began Oct. 10. He said that charges on warrants in the 1st Police District, ranged from petty crimes to robbery and assault. No arrests were made for homicides, he said.
The number of outstanding warrants in the city's six other police districts were not available.
Carol Fennelly, a spokeswoman for the Community for Creative Non-Violence, the organization that petitioned the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics to place an initiative on the Nov. 6 ballot that would guarantee shelter for the homeless, called the arrests "harassment."
"It's outrageous," Fennelly said. "The city government has been trying to discredit us as a community. It's very interesting that they are staging this three days before the initiative case is heard in court."
The city has filed suit in D.C. Superior Court to knock the initiative off the ballot. That lawsuit is scheduled to be heard Monday.
According to Gentile, the operation "did not single out any particular organization" and "was not politically motivated."
Gentile said that the operation was to "clean up the books" and reduce the number of outstanding warrants in the first district, which numbered 276 before the operation began. He said that all the warrants, some of which dated from 1983, were checked to "make sure that they were still in effect" and had not expired.
Gentile said that police went to the addresses listed on the warrants and attempted to serve them. If the person named had moved to another part of the city, he said, police served the warrant there.
He said that 21 persons with outstanding warrants had listed their address as the shelter, located at 425 Second St. NW. Police arrived at the shelter yesterday at about 6 a.m. and asked those leaving the building to provide identification. Eleven residents of the shelter were served with warrants and arrested, police said.