- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There is a neighborhood adjacent to Washington that is under siege. But the police can’t turn things around on their own. On any given day, residents and visitors to the Trinidad area of Northeast are forced to traverse unfamiliar streets because D.C. police have barricaded the neighborhood as an anti-crime tactic - and when law enforcers accomplish that they are intent and in effect creating a police state in the nation’s capital. Granted, there is considerable blood being shed in Trinidad. But how undemocratic to set up check points.

The mayor, the police chief and the city’s attorney general have said this move is necessary. They have said that in order to stem the violence they have to forbid anyone who has no legitimate business in Trinidad from entering the neighborhood. So what they do is barricade the streets and demand that everyone provide identification and an explanation for entering the “forbidden zone.”

Sound familiar? It does to anyone who read, experienced or heard tell of apartheid (apart+hood), which in South Africa restricted the free movement of blacks. Remember now? Wear an ID card at all times despite the fact that the government had stripped you of citizenship.

Well, the intent behind the Trinidad do-not-enter policy is wedded to a lack of community policing. You do remember community policing, don’t you? Community policing was the initiative that sprang front and center in the 1980s when crack cocaine began ravaging Los Angeles. The bloodletting and unrelenting violence led law enforcers and law-abiding residents alike to concede they had unintentionally divorced one another. “Don’t snitch” rather than “Good evening, Officer Friendly” became the norm.

Ever since the Clinton administration began barricading entire blocks after the 1995 Oklahoma City terrorist attack, law enforcers in the nation’s capital have been dreaming up keep-away policies that make a mockery of America being the land of the free and the home of brave. City Hall should willingly reverse its shortsighted ways because the city will never be in a position to hire enough officers to block in (or block out) the bad guys. The Metropolitan Police Department can, however, join hands with residents, community-based groups and local businesses to take our neighborhoods back from ne’er-do-wells. Somebody needs to remind the mayor and police chief that it was community policing - hand-in-hand relationships - that helped the nation’s capital shake the moniker “Murder Capital.”

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