|Dogs To Seek Drugs At Senior Housing|
Posted by FoM on March 26, 2001 at 21:37:04 PT|
By Allan Lengel, Washington Post Staff Writer
Source: Washington Post
Police dogs will be used to sniff out drugs in the District's public housing for senior citizens beginning next month, an unusual enforcement requested by residents who have complained about dealers peddling crack and marijuana in their midst.
Under the program, which will be expanded to all public housing in May, D.C. police dog handlers and housing police will arrive unannounced with one or two canines.
They will spend up to 45 minutes searching for drugs in common areas inside and outside the buildings. The searches will include hallway light fixtures, trash cans, bushes and fast-food bags, which sometimes are used to conceal drugs, authorities said.
Madison Jenkins, chief of the D.C. Housing Authority police, said the dogs will not be used to search residents or apartments. "That's not the intent," Jenkins said. "We're trying to get the common areas where they hide the drugs. We're not going to kick someone's door in. We're not going to violate anybody's rights."
There are 4,100 senior citizens among the 24,000 residents living in District public housing. Housing police execute search warrants about once every two months, sometimes targeting tenants' younger relatives who are selling drugs, Jenkins said.
But in common areas, the suspected dealers are mostly middle-aged and older. Most are outsiders, but some are elderly residents, Jenkins said.
"There are some older guys who want to cater to . . . some of our seniors," Jenkins said. "We've been getting a lot of complaints about the possibility of drugs in the building."
"I don't want the public to get the perception that [senior] public housing is infested with drugs," he added. "We want to be preventive in nature."
Drug dealing is far worse in public housing family units, Jenkins said. But the program -- apparently unique in the nation -- is being launched first in the senior units because the residents themselves suggested it during recent community meetings. "A lot of seniors come up with some good ideas, and this one we agreed on," he said.
James Irving, president of the resident council at Judiciary House, in the 400 block of H Street NW, applauded the plan.
"We think the dogs will serve a purpose. We think this is a good way of doing it," he said. "My building is not as bad [as others], but it's still there. The idea is to eliminate it altogether."
Ann Clark, president of the resident association at Sibley Plaza, in the 1100 block of North Capitol Street, was more reserved in her response. "Whatever housing feels is good, is good for the residents," she said.
The program will initially target about three of the District's 19 senior buildings and then expand to other complexes. Jenkins said police will focus on problem buildings. He declined to identify them, hoping that the mere possibility of drug-sniffing dogs showing up will act as a deterrent everywhere.
To forewarn residents, police today will post signs emblazoned with a drawing of a bloodhound and the words: "These premises are patrolled by a narcotics recognition K-9."
In the District, the number of older drug dealers is very small when compared with the number of their younger counterparts. In 1998 and 1999, 41 people 60 or older were charged in D.C. Superior Court with selling drugs, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Jenkins said his department will initially work with D.C. police dog handlers, but he hopes his officers can get on-the-job training. If the program proves to be successful, he said, his department will get its own dogs.
"I believe it's going to have a positive impact," he said.
Note: Tenants Asked D.C. Police for Searches.
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