Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Testimony in Council on AntiCrime BIll

I am Nancy Shia, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 1c06. My single member district covers the 1600 and 1700 block of the south side of Columbia Road and the north side of Euclid Street. The ethnic, racial and economic diversity of my SMD is probably greater than anywhere else in DC.

I will speak specifically about three gangs, whose presence has been ongoing in my SMD and who have operated with seeming impunity for many years. My constituents and I are looking for creative solutions to the problems associated with these gangs. If they have been able to operate so freely for decades, it’s time to try something different.

The first gang is the phony identification paper sellers. I’m told the paper sellers are from two gangs in Mexico, each one taking a different side of Columbia Road to sell on. Their presence invites other legally questionable activities to the neighborhood. At our monthly ANC meetings, MPD has given us conflicting information about why this problem is not being dealt with and how it is being dealt with. Those cases are not being papered by the US Attorney; no, wait they’re being papered now. We’re told it’s an immigration problem, but we know selling fake ID is a crime.

The second gang is the ongoing “beef” between the gang near 14th & Girard and the young people who live in and near my SMD, the 17-U crew. It’s been going on for almost three generations. Last October, I witnessed a murderous fight erupt between these two gangs at an ANC-sponsored basketball tournament in Kalorama Park. MPD had agreed to post several officers on site that afternoon but did not live up to their agreement. If they had, there would have been several arrests and allegedly a weapons recovery.

The third gang is a very small number of MPD who abuse power, violate the Constitution and victimize the population. Of course I know most police are honorable and brave people. My brother was a good officer until he retired. I am not talking about the good ones. I am talking about a few in Adams Morgan, but surely there are others escaping accountability in other parts of the city. There is no accountability for police who perjure themselves in court. False charges are rampant on 18th Street. Is there anything in the bill that strengthens the systems’ accountability of rogue officers? The thin blue line and code of silence work against police accountability and ultimately against the community. The community is not willing to share information with the police due to lack of trust. If legislation is needed, it’s needed to support young people’s right to sit on park benches without police harassment. If you don’t know, I have my own story to tell about false charges, false imprisonment and false prosecution, all paid for by DC taxpayers.

I’ve included photos of each gang’s activities to bolster my testimony.

Gang #1’s image is a little hazy because they move through the neighborhood furtively and do not want their photo taken. They work with a legitimate business that does photos for the fake IDs.

Gang #2 photos were taken when the fight broke out at the basket ball tournament. It took under two minutes to end the tournament. The gang was gone long before MPD showed up.

Gang #3 photos are predominantly of one Officer Greg Kurtz, known in the Hispanic community as anti-Latino because of his aggressive behavior against Latinos. Three Adams Morgan ANC commissioners have witnessed this officer illegally searching young people. Clearly, Officer Kurtz is a brave officer, willing to put his life on the line for his job. However, this community is multiracial and multiethnic and probably not the best use of this officer’s assets.

Does the bill rely too heavily on police to solve the social problems gangs create?

Before the council presents new legislation, it needs ask the community for its input on solutions. Crime problems in Columbia Heights are not the same as crime problems in Anacostia. So why legislate as if they are?