Good suggestion? Poor public policy?
Florida Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
August 26, 2009
Cathy L. Lanier, Chief
Metropolitan Police Department
Government of the District of Columbia
300 Indiana Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20001
Dear Chief Lanier:
I live on Florida Avenue, NW in an area bordered by Bloomingdale, Shaw and the Truxton Circle neighborhoods. Although the building we live in has been in our family for over 30 years, we are fairly new to the neighborhood, having moved in after renovating the building. Renovation was difficult, expensive and frustrating due to the number of thefts and burglaries we suffered over a two-year period. Tools, compressors, fixtures, wiring and pipes (ripped from the walls) were taken. The renovations should have taken less than a year, but it seemed every time we took a step forward we would be forced to take a half step backwards because of the thefts and break-ins. As a result, I almost refused to move in, but did so at my husband's insistence (he convinced me that all the bars, cameras, lights, security system and our somewhat nasty Chesapeake retriever rendered the place relatively safe). Thus far, he has proven to be correct. While I believe the battle against crime here is slowly being won, the neighborhood is still very fragile and the war could be lost. The robbers, burglars, thieves, prostitutes, druggers and dealers are still amongst us. We see them wandering and hanging around our alleys and corners, and we suspect that they are up to no good, but we just don't have enough information to distinguish who are the bad guys (we have a lot of transients wandering around).
Our online newsletter put out by a fellow named Scott Roberts is wonderful. Among other newsworthy items, it lists all of the neighborhood crimes, arrestees and the convicted. Unfortunately, we can't put faces with the reports. One of our burglars was caught, convicted, sentenced, ordered to pay restitution, paroled, and we don't even know what he looks like. He could be sitting on my front stoop casing my house and I wouldn't know him.
It is my belief that peer (or neighborhood) disapproval is a strong deterrent (ergo the stocks and pillories of colonial times). For some unbeknown reason, our criminal elements walk the streets in total anonymity. I believe the public has a right to know who is being arrested and convicted of crimes in their neighborhoods, and especially who to watch out for. While I am aware that we have to be sensitive to the rights of the accused, I also know that in reality most of the accused have long criminal records and publishing names and photographs would have little or no character impact. In any event, we already get the names. If we put a face on it, the information becomes useful.
I have enclosed the front page of a newspaper from a nearby jurisdiction. While I believe that this is extreme journalism, I also know that when you get arrested in St. Mary's County, everybody knows it. This is a great incentive to stay clear of law violations.
My husband and I are not right wing conservatives. One of us is African-American the other is Caucasian. We are strong believers in the Bill of Rights for all individuals. We believe that this includes us and our neighbors. Thank you for giving our request whatever consideration you can.