City pushes MPD redistricting plan

A proposed plan to alter the boundaries of Metropolitan Police patrol assignments in the District should not significantly reduce patrols in Foggy Bottom, University and D.C. officials said last week.

Aimed at curbing violence in areas plagued by high crime rates, the coalescing of Police Service Areas would redistribute nearly 1,600 MPD officers in an effort to improve police response time. The plan also gives MPD more flexibility in assigning officers to problem areas.

University Police Chief Dolores Stafford said she is looking to schedule a meeting in the next few weeks to find out how the plan could possibly affect GW.

“At this point I have no reason to believe it will change the level of service here in Foggy Bottom,” Stafford said.

The Foggy Bottom campus currently lies within PSAs 207 and 208. Under the proposed plan, put forth by D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams last month, PSA 207 would encompass the entire Foggy Bottom campus, allowing UPD to work with a single PSA team.

“This should improve planning and coordination and should give GW a single voice in helping to establish public safety priorities with MPD,” said Kevin Morison, director of MPD Corporate Communications. “Changes in day-to-day patrol strategies and operations would be minimal.”

D.C. is currently divided into 83 PSAs that delineate boundaries for patrol beats. The new plan would reduce the number of PSAs to 43, drawing boundaries that more directly correspond to the borders of city neighborhoods.

Each PSA would have a minimum of 21 officers on patrol in eight- or 12-hour shifts but would allow for up to 90 officers in “hot spot” areas with high crime rates. The realignment will not have a budgetary impact on MPD, which will not be hiring additional officers to patrol the new boundaries.

While MPD’s 2nd District, which encompasses Foggy Bottom and Georgetown, typically has the lowest rate of violent crimes in the city, property crimes such as theft and burglary remain a concern.

The new restructuring plan, which would downsize the 2nd District from 18 PSAs to seven, would enhance police response to D.C neighborhoods that have different crime problems, Morison said.

The proposal, which was introduced to the D.C. City Council Jan. 12, will be voted on in the next few months.

D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey and MPD officers have held individual meeting with each council member, integrating their suggestions about the plan throughout the legislative process.

“I support the new PSA boundaries because it will permit flexibility to the chief to deploy resources,” said council member Jim Graham (Ward 1) said. “He does not presently have such flexibility.”

Williams began formulating the new boundaries last May following a city-wide crime forum.

“We’re doing more than redrawing lines. This restructuring will integrate city services with police operations, putting the District in a better position to protect our citizens,” Williams said in a press release.

Williams said the new “custom-made” boundaries would be more beneficial in reducing crime than the “one size fits all” PSAs currently in place. Neighborhoods would no longer be divided into two or more PSAs, he noted.

The proposal marks the first time District officials have tried to reorganize the PSAs since their introduction in 1997. Officials hoped the PSAs would facilitate relations between residents and MPD by confining officers’ patrols to specific areas.

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