Op-Ed: Focus on criminals

Geoffrey Langham’s defense of the Metropolitan Police Department (“Policing priorities,” April 12) is rooted in the fact that underage drinking is a crime, and those who choose to drink underage are criminals deserving of whatever punishment might come their way.

I heartily applaud Langham’s own adherence to the law. Since he so steadfastly believes in the letter of the law, I would like to take him one step farther and suggest the following:

MPD officers should be stationed every 10 feet along both sides of the street to ensure students only cross at designated cross walks. Official MPD oral-sex inspectors should search rooms where suspicious sexual sounds are heard to ensure that only sex and not oral sex is transpiring. There should be an MPD officer stationed at each parking meter to ensure that the second a meter expires a fine is levied.

I could go on but these actions by MPD are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to enforcing the letter of the law. And such actions would truly make the University a safer community and be the most effective means of spending taxpayer money. Correct?

Surely by now even Langham realizes it is impossible for the letter of every law to be effectively monitored and enforced. Those students he attacks are actually pointing out what they and I feel is a misallocation of policing priorities.

The District police force, when not sending racist and sexist e-mails to one another, is bumbling along solving a robust half of the homicides in the city. Such a pathetic record suggests the District should spend more time on those killing and less on those imbibing.

Langham does point out that underage drinking is a crime and can lead to alcoholism, but he neglects to consider the fact that the majority of underage drinkers do not become drunk. Those who do get drunk walk home. They walk – they do not drive. If D.C. truly wished to arrest those drinkers who are a threat to others, they could park outside of any number of parking lots near nightclubs throughout the city and arrest those driving drunk. The vast minority of students who become drunk and are underage at worst victimize the Foggy Bottom community with their loud voices and interrupt a night’s sleep. Such noise is unfortunate but hardly requires the massive response MPD has allocated to it.

Finally, Langham suggests that the students’ “line of thinking is racist.” He backs up this statement by stating that “our school is in one of the whitest and richest neighborhoods in an otherwise poor and mostly black city.” No arguments there. But did Langham ever consider the fact that one reason MPD is enforcing the law so stringently is because of where our school is located? Rich, white Foggy Bottom residents are complaining to their elected representatives about their sleep being interrupted, and this evidently requires a massive police presence. Certainly it is not Langham’s assertion that the sleep of Foggy Bottom residents is more valuable than the lives of Anacostia residents. Sadly, his defense of this misallocation of police resources undercuts rather than assists the police in garnering the respect and trust necessary in any task as difficult as that of making this city safe.

-The writer is a senior majoring in history.

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