Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Broken Windows or Better Management?

I agree with this article From Rebuilding Space that public safety is the number one priority facing DC. However, his thesis that “Broken Windows” policing is the solution is a stretch.

Social economists have disputed the effects of William Bratton and "Broken Windows" style policing. I have not had the time to look at all the data on NYC, or DC for that matter, but some feel that those neighborhoods that had the highest levels of crime in the 80s crack epidemic, were also the ones that saw reduce crime in the late 90s. Areas of a city cannot sustain a high level of crime. It ebbs and flows, like housing markets. Some even contend that crime rates would have been reduced regardless of policing strategy. But enough about NY, lets talk about DC.

o The murder in Georgetown last week could have been prevented if properly trained cops had followed the lead given by the theft victim.

o The police force has a limited number of personnel and financial resources.

o The communications system is broken. MPD is non-responsive, if not dismissive of calls to 311 or 911. See article in Washington City Paper.

o Many cops may be under-trained, burnt out, or hired under the Barry Administration that may not have properly vetted its officers.

o The DC court system is over-burdened and sentences rarely stick.

In order to utilize a broken windows model the PD and the courts must be ready and willing to ramp up efforts to arrest and convict many more people. Every graffiti artist, 14 year old kid beating up women on Randolph place, every person sipping 40ozers on NCap. Broken Windows is also notorious for reducing civil liberties and leading to some isolated police violence claims against NYPD.

I don’t think this is even remotely possible. Perhaps we should look at a real management shake-up.

Work to reduce corruption. Put in accounting systems to make sure gasoline, cruisers and other equipment is being misused.

Do a bottom-up personnel review, get rid of underachievers, and those who are no longer fit to police the city. Get good cops onto the street, and give commanders a squad that they can work with. Give them the tools they need to police. Keep cops in the neighborhoods, and spend more time community policing.

Finally, implement an effective, combined 911/311 dispatch system that will get the calls of victims to the beat cops. The citizens need to know that their calls are being answered. They need to know that the MPD is accountable, and they need to begin to have trust and respect for DC Cops.I completely agree with this point “In a majority minority city like DC, I think the political fallout of highly increased enforcement "against" African-Americans in particular would be significant, and no politician in the city would be willing to take such heat.” None of our mayoral candidates will take a stand on what they will do to police our city, without disenfranchising African-Americans. This is a town that has said that Tony Williams “isn’t black enough”. What would they do if there were a crime crackdown in predominantly black neighborhoods?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Community Forklift

As per usual Richard Layman is right. Community Forklift is awesome. It is a huge warehouse filled with leftover doors cabinets, tiles, lumber etc.

This is a must go to place before you go to home depot.

Supporting Local Business

There have been several posts on the listservs or on other blogs asking why people aren't supporting local restaurants. The theory being that, this area sorely needs sit-down restaurants, coffee shops and perhaps even a pub. These places create meeting places and can be a cornerstone of the hood, providing a place for people to meet, mingle, and talk with their diverse neighbors.

There are only a handful of places in the Truxton Circle area; Windows Cafe, Pyramids, Vegetate, Thai Crossing and perhaps a few others.

I have been to the Windows Cafe a few times. Sometimes for groceries, and a couple of times for food. I prefer mom and pop shops to chains, and also want to support entrepreneurs in the hood. However, at what point does that support fade due to a sub-par product, and poor customer service?

In my first visit, it took a while for them to prepare my sandwich. I took it home and it was a little below average. I decided today to try again. I placed my order, which couldnt be made due to the panini grill being broken. No Problem. I will have roast beef. 20 minutes later, still no sandwich. I ask at the counter, and they assure me that it is underway. 5 more minutes later, one of the three workers comes out to ask me what kind of bread. At this point, enough was enough, and I walked out, with no lunch.

Is it unreasonable to expect a good sandwich, made in a short amount of time, when there are only 5 people in the place?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fireworks Recap

I returned home on Tuesday night to be included in an Eckington tradition; deuling fireworks. I loved it! The people up the street had an amazing show that last nearly 90 minutes. Other corners "dueled" with them, but the U St Crew clearly won the contest. There were residual pops going on throughout the evening that kept waking me up, but for one night I was willing to turn a blind eye.

A neighbor approached me this evening, and was very upset about the celebratory displays. She will be looking into the legal code regulating fireworks. Listserv discussions showed both sides of the argument, a cop stating it is nearly impossible to deal with all of the fireworks, and revealed that 911 was innundated with calls throughout the evening. There were even reports of cops on the Key bridge "throwing in the towel" and calling out, "get some good photos".

Does the fourth of July merit a ton of fireworks displays in neighborhoods, or should the mall be the only place to view a sky filled with polychromatic explosions? Is one night of "fun" acceptable, or a lapse of order? Would our opinions change if one of our houses caught fire?

Leaded or Unleaded

Many people are aware of the difficulties the WASA has had with trying to mitigate the high lead content in Washington's drinking water.

Water purchaced from the aquaduct has been treated with a flouride compound that will supposedly reduce the amount of lead pulled from the old pipes in the city. WASA continues to replace public pipes, but there is a long way to go.

In this report it is stated that DC WASA reports to the EPA on its progress, does its own testing, and submits its results. The threshold seems to be that 100 taps must be tested, and 90% must pass with less than the 15 parts per million, the maximum allowed.

Excuse me for being a little skeptical of the manner in which these tests are being conducted, and the potential for manipulating the test sites and metrics. The WASA has already been dinged by EPA on this in January of this year (see the above article).

WASA and the EPA need to ensure that the residents of Washington are safe, and that strict testing and validation of results are conducted before a change of policy is mandated.

Arent you glad that we get to pay for unhealthy water, and now pay for commercial filters to ensure our own safety?