- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2006

The D.C. Council yesterday passed without debate initial approval to legislation permanently authorizing the use of neighborhood surveillance cameras, the detention of some offenders until trial and the sharing of juvenile criminal records with police.

The anti-crime measures were part of a package of emergency legislation proposed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams and approved on a temporary basis in July after an increase in violent crime. The council renewed the measures, which were in effect for 90 days, in October.

Permanent legislation was separated into three bills that were introduced in September. The bills face another council vote, which will likely occur during a special session later this month.

The measure allows the placement of cameras throughout the District at the police chief’s discretion. The chief is required to notify only a D.C. Council member and an advisory neighborhood commissioner about plans to place a camera in their jurisdiction. The camera images are not monitored in real time; they are recorded and then reviewed if a crime in the area is reported.

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey oversaw the deployment of 48 cameras in high-crime neighborhoods during August and September at a cost of $2.3 million. The council approved $1.7 million in October to purchase additional cameras.

Police Chief-designate Cathy L. Lanier said last week that she thinks the neighborhood surveillance cameras are a “very good use of technology.”

The council gave initial approval by a vote of 10-2 to legislation that called for notifying the police chief about juvenile criminal information, including the conditions of release and any stay-away orders issued in family court. The bill would apply to juveniles arrested three or more times, for a crime of violence or for unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Council members Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, and Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, voted against the measure. Council member Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat, was absent for the vote.

Mr. Fenty, who was elected mayor last month and takes office Jan. 2, called the legislation an “antiquated” and “knee-jerk” approach to juvenile justice.

The council also passed by the same 10-2 margin an initial vote on legislation authorizing the detention of adult or juvenile robbery suspects and certain handgun offenders until trial.

“We need to send a clear message that we will not tolerate firearms,” said council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to send that message that it’s going to be a little harder to get released if you commit a crime using a firearm.”

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