- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2003

Metropolitan Police have begun enforcing a 1996 antiloitering law designed to disrupt drug sales on city streets.
The Anti-Loitering/Drug-Free Zone Act, enacted by the D.C. Council, allows the chief of police to establish a drug-free zone anywhere in the city for as long as 120 hours. During that time, loiterers in the zone can be arrested after having been warned to move on.
Police spokesman Kevin Morison said the law was not enforced before this month because officials were not sure about how to enforce it. The District has no law against loitering, he said.
"Officers can ask people to disperse, but if they're not blocking entrance to a building or impeding traffic or anything, then there's no recourse to do anything about loitering," Mr. Morison said.
"What's unique about this law is that there is a loitering charge. When this law is in effect, the mere act of failing to disperse after warning is an offense," he said.
The first two drug-free zones were established April 3-7 in the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood north of New York Avenue in Northeast, and in the Deanwood and Lincoln Heights neighborhoods in Southeast.
Drug-free zones are being enforced in Mount Vernon Square south of New York Avenue and in the Congress Heights neighborhood near Greater Southeast Community Hospital. Those zones were established Wednesday and are to end tomorrow.
Some teenagers in the neighborhoods said police regularly tell them to disperse if they are standing around in groups on sidewalks.
"That's everyday life. It happens to us all the time," said Craig Davis, a 17-year-old Dunbar High School student. "They do that all the time, without the drug-free zone."
Dunbar student Carlos Lambright, 18, said, "A lot of times we're innocent and not doing anything and they just harass us."
Police have not yet tabulated the number of arrests made in the drug-free zones.
Mr. Morison said police plan to enforce two drug-free zones each week "for the foreseeablee future."
The next two should be set up this week and will be in Police Districts 4 and 5 in Northeast.
Officials have made the zones smaller after experimenting with the first two earlier this month. The first two comprised five police service areas; the current ones each comprise one police service area.
The city's seven police districts are divided into a 83 service areas, the smallest geographical subdivision for policing.
Mr. Morison said that enforcing the drug-free zones will not detract from citywide antidrug operations.
"Police can enforce drug laws anywhere, anytime. The purpose of the drug-free zones is to enforce the loitering problem. We hear about it all the time. We're trying to get at some of those dealers on the corners," he said.
Lisa Hairrison, 37, lives in an apartment complex at the corner of First and K Streets NW, just north of Gonzaga High School. Drug dealers loiter on First Street just south of New York Avenue, she said.
"It used to be so bad that you had to say, 'Excuse me' the drug dealers were so deep when you came out your front door. But now it's a little better," Miss Hairrison said.

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