Jim Graham’s Change of Heart on Loitering
So some posters on the MPD listservs are still all like...get these kids off my lawn. "I live on 16th Street NE, near Mt. Olivet Rd and the loitering is worsening as the weather warms," one exasperated resident says.
The complaining is mostly about youngsters hanging out in neighborhoods in large groups, intimidating wine and cheese party attendees. City Desk asked Police Chief Cathy Lanier about the problem last week, and she pointed out that lounging about isn't illegal. There are no loitering laws in D.C., as those laws are widely thought to infringe on constitutional rights.
For those who, when it comes to loitering, fall on the side of "law and order" rather than "freedom and liberty," Jim Graham can perhaps change your mind.
Last year, the Ward 1 councilmember pushed an anti-loitering bill for what seemed a very good reason: Drunk revelers in Adams Morgan were being targeted by a group of muggers, recalls Graham communications officer Brian DeBose. Graham wanted the police to arrest or disperse members of the group before they pounced, and so drafted what turned out to be a controversial piece of legislation.
But some time later, Graham saw the light. What changed his mind? Suspicions that, in an unrelated incident, a local cop profiled two teenage girls outside the Boys and Girls Club No. 10 on 14th Street NW in Columbia Heights. Graham explains in an email to City Desk that, on March 9, 2009, "two young women (ages 15 and 17) were arrested for assaulting a police officer."
"In that situation, there were conflicting reports about whether the police were unfairly targeting kids."
After Graham met with the girls' parents, he felt differently about so-called "loitering": "I left the meeting certain that, before moving forward with this type of bill, much more work is needed to heal old wounds of misperception[s] and mistrust that run deep in our community..."