- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Metropolitan Police Department yesterday announced a new crime initiative that will include officers going into high-crime neighborhoods to search homes for illegal guns.

“The premise is that residents can have the trust of the …department,” said police spokeswoman Traci Hughes.

Chief Cathy L. Lanier announced the program and said it focuses on parents or legal guardians who think their children have a gun in the house and are uncomfortable with searching for it themselves.

Miss Hughes said that residents would be given amnesty for illegal guns found in homes after they are tested for links to crimes.But she said police would investigate the source of the guns if they were found to be involved in a crime.

She said another primary intent of the initiative is to get guns away from young people, particularly those in small street gangs called crews, who get them for protection or to attack rivals.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, chairman of the council’s public safety committee, said the search program “could be touch-and-go” and its success will hinge on how officers execute the requests.

“The idea that this is going to be a peaceful, friendly invitation to enter the home may not work,” said Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat.

The program will begin March 24 to coincide with D.C. Public Schools’ spring break and will run indefinitely, Miss Hughes said.

The program will not offer cash incentives as the gun-buyback programs do.

Officer Kristopher Baumann, head of the union that represents the city’s police, said the group “supports any well thought out plan to reduce violence.”

However, he hopes the department has considered potential problems with advertising amnesty while checking for guns connection to crimes.

Mr. Mendelson, who last year criticized Chief Lanier’s community policing strategy amid a spike in crime, gave generally positive marks to two other parts of new initiatives — the introduction of an anonymous crime tip hot line and the application of the city’s CapStat data-tracking process to monitor illegal guns.

The number to the tip line will be advertised on electronic signs on patrol cars.

In December, police attributed about a dozen shootings and hundreds of shots fired in and around the Columbia Heights neighborhood to retaliation by several crews over the fatal shooting in August of Tayon Glover, the brother of local musician and TV actor Anwan “Big G” Glover.

Though violence among crews calmed going into the new year, it resurfaced in a couple of shootings last month between groups in the Shaw neighborhood near the Washington Convention Center.

Mr. Mendelson and D.C. Council member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, are scheduled to hold a joint committee hearing on crews today.

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