The Corner Forum
Sunday, Oct. 26, 2003
Issue #53

Police Plan Would Shift Readers to Eastern PSA

By Libo Liu, 500 block of 14th St. NE

The Police Department is now set to incorporate Police Service Area (PSA) 511, where the Corner Forum area currently falls, into the new PSA 103, instead of the new PSA 102, as it had proposed earlier (see the report by Marc Borbely in the May 11 issue of the Corner Forum). The new PSA 103 goes as far east as the eastern bank of the Anacostia River, and as far north as Florida Avenue. The immediate reaction from some residents in this neighborhood is rather negative. They say that when our neighborhood is grouped with areas that have worse problems, it will be more difficult to get police attention for problems in our neighborhood.

On Friday, I interviewed Anne Christine Grant, of the Research and Resource Development Unit at the D.C. Police Department, to find out the latest developments on the proposal for citywide changes of PSA boundaries, and particularly to ask about the change regarding PSA 511. Ms. Grant is the analyst who directly oversees the proposal to change the PSA and Police District boundaries. Apparently, folks in the neighboring PSA or PSAs to the west of us don't want us to be included in PSA 102. Ms. Grant says there aren't many comments from our area about the proposal, but that there is still recourse if residents in our neighborhood strongly oppose the latest proposal.

Ms. Grant, first of all, thank you for talking to the Corner Forum. In May this year, the Police Department announced the plan to change the PSA boundaries and asked city residents to submit their comments. What kind of response have you gotten so far from the residents? Can you tell us the status of that proposal?

We have gotten a lot of comments since May. We have incorporated all the comments from citywide PSA meetings, ANC meetings, phone calls and e-mails, city response centers — everything. We incorporated all that into documents that have all the comments listed, in July. Then we took only those relating to boundaries, and not relating to staffing or what MPD could be doing differently about their areas. So all those relating to geography — we put those into a spreadsheet for the command staffs and asked for their opinions. We kept the record of the responses from the commanders and then incorporated more changes, and sent the proposal back to them. They made other changes. So the PSA map has been going through several stages of work.

At this point, we just re-presented the proposal to Deputy Mayor Margret Kellems, three weeks or about a month ago. Now we are presenting it to each of the City Council members separately. We go to their offices, if they request a meeting. We meet with them or their staffs to discuss the latest version of the PSA boundary maps before we go back to the mayor's office, just to see if there are some big-ticket items we still need to change before we re-present them.

What kind of response have you got from Deputy Mayor Kellems?

She is very pleased — very happy that we are accommodating a lot of what the community wanted. She thought we are at a good stage to continue forward.

And from Council members?

So far, they have been pretty receptive. We have presented them with all the comments we have gotten since May. Now, I think most of the council members and residents are concerned about staffing. Unfortunately, we won't make any decision regarding staffing until PSA boundaries are final, because we can't do a staffing analysis on one version and turn around a week later to do an analysis on another version. We can't do it because it will just take too long.

What about the residents? Are most of the residents supporting the proposal or doubtful about the change?

I would say it's about 50-50. Half of the people probably say, "It doesn't matter to me where the lines are, as long as I have enough police." I would say the whole population of D.C. probably just wants to have more police. Half of the people are concerned about the boundaries because they are concerned about how to define their neighborhood. The other half doesn't really care, thinking this is just a police decision.

What is left to do before announcing final PSA boundaries?

Well, we are finishing the meetings with the Council members. We are going to meet with the Mayor, and then I think decisions will be made at that point about how to proceed. So if the Mayor seems pleased with the latest version, the Police Chief and he may make a decision at that point to go forward and start implementing it within the department, and continue to work with the Council members.

So when does the Department intend to announce the final decision?

I don't know. I can't speak for the Chief. But I know the only thing they have said was that they hope to have it implemented by the end of the first fiscal year quarter, January 31st, 2004, which is pretty soon. Implementation is pretty involved for such a massive change. So I am not sure that's gonna happen or not.

What is the reason behind the change of the PSA boundaries anyway?

Originally, we were mandated by the Council to look at the boundaries, and to look at the staffing. That was back, I think, in 2001. So we have looked at the staffing, and started to look at the geography, to see if any change is needed, since it has been about five years since the last PSA plan was implemented. We started to make little changes here and there. And then the Chief made the decision in January — maybe we should look at larger changes, and focus on the model that the Office of Planning had already developed with community input, basically the neighborhood clusters. We started with 39 clusters, and we have been kind of moving them around, reshaping them, so the map not longer looks like the clusters, but we have about as many PSAs. I think we are up to 42 now, rather than the existing 83. Basically, the chief had made the decision to increase the flexibility within his command. He believes larger PSAs will allow his command staffs more flexibility for deployment.

But we have never promised that we will have more police. Right now, we are authorized to have 3,800 officers, and the new boundaries are not going to change that.

Let me get into the one issue that our readers care about most. I heard PSA 511, where our neighborhood currently belongs, is to be part of the new PSA 103, rather than PSA 102 as shown on your Web site. Can you confirm that? Why the change?

Indeed, most of PSA 511 will be in PSA 103. We have subdivided the First District a lot more since the summer. The map you see on the Web site is the map from May. The newest proposed map is not on the Web site yet. We only made that particular change about three weeks ago — the last change we made citywide.

The reason for the change is that there were some Capitol Hill residents who were concerned that their PSA was much too large, and split up on the wrong street, so we moved the [PSA 103] boundary up further west, and we had to change the numbers around. So we made PSA 102 smaller, and PSA 103 bigger.

Can you describe the new PSA 103 boundary for us?

Sure. You are at the corner of Constitution and 8th Street, NE. You head north on 8th, head east on Florida, which turns to Benning Road, cross the river, and come back down the river side, and then go west on East Capitol, north on 13th Street, finally west on Constitution to complete the loop.

Would that change put us further away from the heart of Capitol Hill?

Well, the neighborhood hasn't changed. And you will still be in the First District.

I don't know how readers in our area will respond to the latest change. But if they are not happy, what can they do about it?

They should contact me immediately, because if they sent the comment to the Chief or their Council member, it will eventually come to me, which will take longer to get to me. I am kind of the person overseeing the whole project. They can certainly "cc" the Council member or the Chief the things they feel strongly about. I may even be available for a walk in the neighborhood with residents, if they want to make their case stronger.

Thank you, Ms. Grant. You are very kind to me.

You are very welcome.

Note: Here is Ms. Grant's contact information: Anne Christine Grant, Policy Analyst, Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, Research and Resource Development Unit, 300 Indiana Ave. NW, Room 4152, Washington, DC 20001, 727-0915 (Direct line), 727-4174
(Office line).