Alcohol Curb Works

The moratorium on sales of single cans and bottles of beer in Mount Pleasant has brought our neighborhood tremendous benefits. ["Grocers Upset by Ban on Single-Beer Sales," District Extra, Oct. 21]. The Mount Pleasant neighborhood was the first in D.C. to invoke a ban on single sales.

The fight for the moratorium was courageous and somewhat controversial, but Mount Pleasant has a very high concentration of licenses for a modest residential community. Prior to the moratorium, easily carried and concealable alcohol was all too available for those from inside and outside our neighborhood prone to public drinking, often to excess, exposing our children to a disagreeable, unhealthy and dangerous lifestyle.

Tree boxes were littered with emptied quart bottles of malt liquor and beer. The public character of our neighborhood was threatened, and the day-to-day quality of life in our community suffered. The overabundance of ready-to-chug alcohol was a major contributor to public drunkenness in our community.

Our neighborhood since has seen dramatic improvements, which became evident almost immediately once the single-sale moratorium took effect almost four years ago: Alcohol-related police incidents are down significantly, and our children are seldom discomfited by public drinking and drunkenness. There is noticeably less public urination, less panhandling, much less litter, and far fewer empty bottles and cans in our tree boxes and yards.

More people are enjoying our commercial areas. A much more wholesome and reassuring quality of life pervades our community. In short, life in Mount Pleasant is more pleasant.

We are a caring community. Mount Pleasant supports several outreach and treatment programs, and many give graciously of time and money to help those who suffer and are in need. Mount Pleasant residents also support a healthy business community: Walking to nearby shops and services provides a low-impact, healthful lifestyle. Our moratorium has not put any shop under. Our business community lives on, supporting us as we struggle for a safer and more wholesome place for our neighbors, ourselves, our families and our children.

Laurie Collins

President, Mount Pleasant

Neighborhood Alliance

Insurance Story Unfair

The article "Judge Ups Sentence in Insurance Fee Scam" [District Extra, Oct. 21] quotes David Tompkins, an attorney representing many of the individual victims of an insurance scam, as claiming that my office and the office of the U.S. attorney are treating the insurance companies, rather than the consumers, as the victims of the scam. "It shows where the priorities for the D.C. insurance commissioner's office and the U.S. attorney's office are. They think the insurance company is the victim. They didn't consider all these people victims."

In fact, both were victims. The insurance agent was sentenced to two years in prison for taking premiums from her clients and pocketing the money instead of forwarding it to the insurance companies whose policies she "sold" to her customers. The consumer thought, incorrectly, that he or she was insured, while the insurance company never received payment for the policy and in most cases was not even aware that a policy had been issued.

Our department discovered the scam, investigated it and brought it to the U.S. attorney for prosecution. Once the agent admitted guilt, we went to work to try to identify the individual victims and protect them.

Since many of them were low-income people who paid in cash or by money order, identification was difficult. We seized the agent's records and used copies of receipts she had issued to try to track the victims down. We placed a notice on the agent's office door directing people to contact us if they had paid money to the agent. More than 100 have done so to date.

We then issued a letter to every insurance company writing auto and homeowners insurance in the District, telling them that if any person was issued a policy written on their company by the fraudulent agent, they were obliged to pay any legitimate claims for damages during the policy period, even if they had never been paid or had never heard of the policyholder. Our goal is to make sure that no individual victim of the scam is injured. We told the companies that even though they were also victims, they had more money than the individuals who were defrauded and could better stand the losses.

We are not aware of a single instance where the company has failed to pay claims under these policies.

My agency is made up of hard-working people who put in many extra hours trying to find and help the individual victims of this fraud. It is our job to protect the people of the District of Columbia, and we do our job well. It does not help morale when The Post prints an unsubstantiated and incorrect comment by a self-interested lawyer who is trying to put together a lawsuit.

Fair journalism requires that anyone, even a government agency, subject to attack in the press be given an opportunity to respond. We were not given that opportunity in the original story, leaving your readers with the impression that the accusations are true. They are not.

Lawrence H. Mirel

Commissioner of Insurance,

Securities and Banking

District of Columbia