- The Washington Times - Friday, May 21, 2004

D.C. officials are trying to reduce crime in the city’s neighborhoods by redeploying police and stepping up enforcement of city building and health codes.

The effort is aimed at boosting the confidence of residents who might help police if they believe their efforts will make a difference.

“Everyone ought to be able to sit on their front porch without hearing gunshots, without having drug dealers standing out there, or prostitutes walking down the street,” Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday.

Since May 2, officers in the city’s seven police districts have been redeployed under a plan designed to increase police presence, particularly in areas where crime has been a pernicious problem.

The number of Police Service Areas in the city has been cut from 83 to 44, with a minimum of 21 officers assigned to each PSA, except for one that includes Bolling Air Force Base. The goal of the realignment is to enable police and residents to become more familiar with each other, even as officers are working criminal cases.

Chief Ramsey said the new alignment will strengthen another anti-crime effort begun in January that focuses on crime hot spots. That initiative involves D.C. police and 19 other agencies in coordinated efforts designed to root out crime and force building owners to bring their properties up to code.

Inspectors make owners board up abandoned buildings; derelict vehicles are towed; vacant lots are cleaned; and rat-baiting efforts are increased as part of the $10 million program. The effort was begun in 14 areas of the city that accounted for 41 of the city’s murders and 581 other violent crimes over a 13-month period ending Jan. 20.

“We need to target the individuals whether in gangs or otherwise who are doing business in these hot spots,” City Administrator Robert C. Bobb said.

In the four months since the effort was begun, those areas have seen a 22 percent reduction in violent crime, while property crimes have been reduced by 8 percent compared to last year, officials said.

The police department recently has considered installing sound detectors to enable police to determine where gunshots have been heard, and officials are considering expanded the use of video cameras.

“We can provide for more surveillance using cameras and using monitoring,” said Mayor Anthony A. Williams, adding that the equipment can be used without compromising the civil liberties of law-abiding residents who live near the hot spots.

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