About 180 illegally parked cars were towed from heavily congested streets in Georgetown during the weekend as part of a stepped-up campaign by D.C. police against mounting crime and rowdiness, according to city officials.
The crackdown, which included a temporary parking ban on several blocks of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street NW, drew widespread praise from Georgetown residents, business people and city officials.
"The police have taken back control of the public space of Georgetown very effectively and very forcefully," said William A. Cochran, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission chairman in the Georgetown area. "Right now, the community is 100 percent behind what the mayor and the chief of police are trying to do."
According to police, 102 illegally parked cars and other vehicles were towed from Georgetown streets Saturday night. On Friday night, city parking officials said, 80 vehicles were towed.
Some drivers were cited for violating the temporary parking ban, while others had their cars towed for infractions elsewhere in Georgetown.
On Saturday night, police reported issuing 108 jaywalking tickets, 68 traffic citations for moving violations and 320 parking tickets. Twenty-one arrests were made, mainly for disorderly conduct and drinking in public, police said. Tickets were issued for similar violations Friday night.
District police and other city agencies have targeted Georgetown for the special enforcement measures because of recent increases in crimes, such as muggings and vandalism; disturbances caused by crowds of youngsters, especially on warm weekend evenings; and mounting complaints from merchants and residents. The temporary parking ban was aimed at reducing disorderliness and crime along with easing traffic bottlenecks.
Officials said rowdy youngsters often gathered around parked cars and vans. In addition, parked cars may obstruct a police officer's view of an incident, such as a purse theft.
Parking is prohibited on Wisconsin Avenue between K and N streets and on M Street between Wisconsin Avenue and Key Bridge on Fridays and Saturdays from 6:30 p.m. to 4 a.m. The Georgetown parking ban was described as a 30-day experiment, but officials said yesterday it likely will be extended.
"What we see now is just the beginning of the warm weather," said Lt. James Swinson, a watch commander for the 2nd Police District, which is overseeing the crackdown. "It's my understanding that we intend to do this through the summer months."
During the weekend, eight city tow trucks were used to remove illegally parked cars from the restricted sections of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street and from other Georgetown streets and alleys. The cars were taken to a special impoundment lot, set up on K Street NW near Key Bridge.
To retrieve their cars, owners had to pay a $50 towing fee along with fines for any outstanding parking violations. City officials said cashiers were kept on duty at a D.C. office at 1111 E St. NW until 5 a.m. Saturday and yesterday to allow drivers to pay these penalties. Nevertheless, more than 40 cars and one motorcycle remained impounded in the lot yesterday.
Officials said the E Street office will reopen this morning.
The parking ban was first imposed during the previous weekend, officials said. About 150 cars were towed at that time but, officials said, towing fees were not initially levied.
Frederic R. Caponiti, the city's parking services chief, said the crackdown appeared to have reduced traffic tie-ups and resulted in "more orderliness" and a "perception of open space" on Georgetown streets.
"The reaction was very, very favorable," he said, noting that at one point youngsters cheered tow truck drivers. Caponiti said he saw only one violent incident, a brief clash in which a car owner was arrested for assaulting a tow truck driver.
Many drivers appeared to have ignored no-parking signs, believing the ban would not be enforced, Caponiti said. "Most of the people I ran into felt a little foolish." One car owner, he added, was forced to pay $280 in parking fines in addition to the towing fee.
Mayor Marion Barry walked through Georgetown Friday night with other city officials to observe the crackdown. He said that similar measures may be imposed elsewhere if the moves prove effective in Georgetown.
"All responsible merchants are happy with it," said David Roffman, chairman of the crime committee of the Citizens Association of Georgetown and editor of the biweekly Georgetowner newspaper. "This is one measure that's going to correct the situation."