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Government and People
|[The following is an official FAQ
prepared by the Metropolitan Police Department. However, do not rely on
the information in it to determine how the Neighborhood Safety Zone
Initiative will be administered. The Metropolitan
Police Department Order presents the legal outline of the
initiative; where this document differs from that, the Order is
What is a Neighborhood Safety Zone (NSZ)?
A Neighborhood Safety Zone is a delineated geographic area designated by the Chief of Police in response to documented crimes of violence -- the purpose of which is to provide high police visibility, prevent and deter crime, and create safer District of Columbia neighborhoods -- by prohibiting vehicles with no legitimate purpose to enter the area.
Are such zones constitutional?
Yes. The U.S. Courts have found that such zones are constitutional when limited in scope, and when conducted for a legitimate law enforcement purpose.
Maxwell v. City of New York (2nd Circuit)
In 1992, in response to four drive-by shootings, the New York City Police Department implemented a temporary vehicular checkpoint in an eight squareblock where most of the drive-by shootings had taken place. Officers stopped every vehicle (not pedestrians) seeking to enter the area in order to ascertain the driver's connection to the neighborhood. Area residents, commercial vehicles, those dropping off small children or visiting the local church were permitted to enter the area. The court balanced (1) the gravity of the public concerns served by the checkpoint; (2) the degree to which the checkpoint effectively addressed those concerns; and (3) the severity of the intrusion upon individual liberty and held that the establishment of a vehicle checkpoint did not violate the 4th Amendment. The instructions given for the checkpoint were sufficiently detailed to be constitutional.
What is the purpose of a Neighborhood Safety Zone?
To decrease crime in areas that are experiencing an increase in violent crime; vehicles are often used in committing serious crimes, particularly armed violent crime. In April and May 2008, the city saw 33 incidents of shootings/homicides in which a vehicle was involved.
What factors will be considered in selecting an area as an NSZ?
Who will approve the establishment of an NSZ?
The Chief of Police, or a designated Assistant Chief of Police, based upon a recommendation from a Police Department official of at least the rank of Commander and a legal sufficiency review by the Police Department's General Counsel.
How will the NSZ operate?
What are examples of a legitimate reason for entering an NSZ?
Does this mean that friends wishing to visit someone residing in an NSZ will be denied entry?
No. Friends may enter the neighborhood on foot.
What information will motor vehicle operators need to provide?
Personal identification (i.e., driver's license) and information sufficient for determining the accuracy of the reason for entering the area. For example, the telephone number of the address to which the person seeks entry or an invitation to a verified organized community or religious event being held within the NSZ.
Will operators be compelled to present a reason for entry?
No. However, if the operator does not present a legitimate reason, the vehicle will be denied entry. The operator may park the vehicle elsewhere and enter the NSZ on foot.
Will each vehicle that attempts to enter the NSZ be subject to search?
No. A vehicle entering the NSZ may be subject to search, but only in instances in which there is probable cause to conduct a search.
What information will be maintained on the stopped vehicles?
How will the NSZ affect pedestrians?
For the purposes of the NSZ, pedestrians will be permitted to enter and exit an NSZ without being stopped; vehicles exiting the NSZ also will not be stopped.
Will Department members be trained in advance on how to implement an NSZ?
Yes. The Department's Training Academy will train all officers in advance concerning all procedures and standards as well as related U.S. constitutional law and case law.
Will this operation take vital patrol officers from other areas of the community?
No. The NSZ will be staffed by members of special mission units, who will be supported by PSA members who are familiar with the neighborhood and community.
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