Neighborhood watch program unnecessary

Freedom New Mexico

The capital city is facing a wave of violence that calls for drastic measures.

The government has proposed a radical change in tactics, a “surge” if you will, to control it: Entire neighborhoods will be sealed off and designated as “Neighborhood Safety Zones,” patrolled by armed officers who will have the authority to demand identification from people coming in and out of them.

Anyone who doesn’t live there, work there or have “legitimate reason” to be there will be sent away or face arrest.

Baghdad circa 2007?

No, the District of Columbia circa today.

Mayor Adrian Fenty recently signed an executive order giving the chief of police authority to implement the “Neighborhood Safety Zones” policy, which effectively turns the district into a police state. Peter Nickles, the city’s interim attorney general, told the Washington Examiner that the quarantine would have “a narrow focus.”

“This is a very targeted program that has been used in other cities,” Nickles said. Yes, such as Warsaw from 1940-43. Or the Big Apple in the movie “Escape From New York.”

Nickles says he’s “not worried about the constitutionality of it.” But he should be, as should anyone who values our civil rights and would recoil at such a broad application of government power.

That includes Assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley Weinsheimer, who last month expressed concerns about the legality of the program to D.C. police officials. Roger Pilon of the libertarian Cato Institute said D.C.’s emphasis on “legitimate reason” is too vague and gives police too much discretion, which the courts have often frowned upon.

Indeed, in Indianapolis v. Edmond (2000), the Supreme Court ruled the city’s road checkpoints that were ostensibly designed to find drugs violated the Fourth Amendment because they were indistinguishable from general crime control. The majority opinion noted that the court “has never approved a checkpoint program whose primary purpose was to detect evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing.”

These checkpoints treat everyone as a criminal suspect without probable cause, and not only require them to provide identification, but also to explain themselves.