- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 26, 2006

Adams Morgan merchants will hire unarmed security guards to protect visitors at night amid increases in crime and the Metropolitan Police Department’s inability to continue to provide more patrol officers.

Crime in the popular Northwest nightclub and restaurant area increased by as much as 46 percent and was highlighted by several violent attacks late last year and early this year. The police department responded by putting more officers on the streets but have scaled back efforts, which has merchants and residents again worried about crime.

“We are still pressing with the police department and really emphasizing that they need to be present there,” said Constantine Stavropoulos, a restaurant owner and co-president of the Adams Morgan business district. “Just having our people there is not going to solve the problem.”

A group of restaurant and bar owners in the area want to hire about four unarmed security guards to monitor and report suspicious activity, in addition to providing directions and other assistance to visitors. The guards will function like those in the “golden triangle” area of downtown and will not have the power to make arrests.

The group had planned to hire five off-duty officers to patrol the area. However, their $30-an-hour fee and a $30,000-a-year liability-insurance policy were too expensive, Mr. Stavropoulos said.

In late January, Larry McCoy, commander of the 3rd District, which includes Adams Morgan, said that in response to the crime increases he would temporarily put officers assigned to the area on duty during bar-closing hours.

The number of officers increased to 23, from about five to 10, on a typical Thursday, Friday or Saturday night.

He also said the change was dependent upon officer availability, and it lasted only a few weeks.

Cmdr. McCoy said the change was too brief to determine whether it reduced crime.

Police records show that 63 robberies were committed in that police district in December, about two months before the change. In early January, there were 86 robberies. The number remained unchanged in February.

Theft in that district increased from 112 in December to 129 in January and 140 in February. Police officials acknowledge they have scaled back but will not say how many officers now patrol the area on a typical night. They would say only that enough officers are on the streets.

“We still have personnel assigned mostly during the early morning hours and during the weekends,” Cmdr. McCoy said. “I think it’s adequate deployment.”

The merchants and community leaders disagree.

“When you have five officers patrolling on a Friday and Saturday night in a place that has bars and restaurants, you obviously need more,” said Brian Weaver, a commissioner with Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C. “I appreciate Commander McCoy giving us the ‘wave the flag’ numbers, but really what we need is a long-term plan.”

D.C. Council members Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, and Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, say the city must give the police department more money for hiring so it can put more officers on the streets.

The fiscal 2007 budget of Mayor Anthony A. William, a Democrat, does not include those funds.

Mr. Graham and Mr. Mendelson said a change must be made before the council approves a budget in early May.

“I’m very concerned that there is not money in this budget for more police,” Mr. Graham said. “What this is really about is not having enough police officers in D.C. The council needs to change that.”

Mr. Mendelson, chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, said he hears “constant complaints” from residents across the city about too few officers.

“In addition, I believe that the resources for solving crimes are just thin,” he said.

Mr. Mendelson said he will work with the council to find money to add to the police budget.

“I think it’s unfortunate that a number of council members have made it clear that we want to see hiring, and [the mayor] chose not to fund it. And by not funding it, it makes it more difficult to find the money,” he said.

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