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Controlling Adams Morgan Nighttime Club Crowds, Enhancing Public Safety Focus of Joint Undertaking Among All Stakeholders

Accompanying images can be viewed in the April 2014 issue PDF

By Anthony L. Harvey

Operation Adams Morgan is an “all hands on deck” initiative that brings together Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers and representatives from  other District government agencies to work with the Adams Morgan Business Improvement District (BID) and ABC liquor licensed establishments with the goal of alleviating the crowded confusion, public drunkenness, and weekend violence — fights, stabbings, and other assaults — that occurs primarily during the warm weather months centered along the 18th Street de facto club strip that stretches from Florida Avenue to Columbia Road and spills onto Columbia Road, notably westward to Mintwood Place, in the neighborhood’s liquor license Moratorium Zone. The worst of what has been characterized as “mayhem” occurs on Wednesday through Saturday evenings and in the early morning hours of Thursday through Sundays.

Operation Adams Morgan began in the summer of 2011, when this coalition of resources executed a zero tolerance policy leading to mass arrests and an asserted diminution of recorded criminal infractions by nightlife participants. An early fall 2011 public meeting convened by the coalition sponsors and participants in the Marie Reed Learning Center auditorium to congratulate themselves on the asserted success of the operation and to announce the intent to continue such efforts in succeeding years.

Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham spoke at length to that meeting’s attendees and articulated the immediate and underlying purposes of the Operation. Included was the launching a policy of canceling the ABC licenses of, as commonly referred to in the neighborhood, “bad boy” operators as significant repeated infractions by these operators occurred and canceling those held by failed ABC licensees as well, thereby reducing over-concentration of ABC licenses and consequently serving to pacify weekend nightlife and improve public safety.

Answering a March 13th call from MPD Captain Aubrey P. Mongal issued on the Adams Morgan Yahoo list serve for community participation in the planning of this year’s Operation Adams Morgan, no more than a dozen persons gathered in late March in MPD’s 3rd District Community Meeting Room at 17th and V Streets. Two were MPD officers, Capt. Mongal and Lt. Ashley Rosenthal, MPD’s overall supervisor for the effort; three ANC commissioners –- Billy Simpson, ANC chair; Ted Guthrie, the ANC’s secretary; Brian Hart, chair of the commission’s ABC and public safety committee. In addition, two were citizen organization representatives — Denis James, Kalorama Citizens Association president and Benedicte Auburn, Reed-Cooke Neighborhood Association board member; as well as Kristen Barden, the Adams Morgan BID’s executive director and Greg Frank, its director of security. Also in attendance was a Champlain Street resident and 18th Street resident Jim Nixon who owns Toro Mata, the shop specializing Peruvian handcrafted home furnishings.

MPD and BID representatives at last month’s community meeting spoke glowingly of the successes of these efforts, although conceding that last summer’s efforts did not match those of the first year; they vowed to return to that asserted level of success. The ANC commissioners were far more circumspect in how they characterized such vaunted successes, as were the two citizen group representatives. Jim Nixon, as both a business owner and resident, was adamant in his repeated complaints of loud noise, street level congestion, and violence in 18th Street establishments, especially that of Toro Mata’s immediate neighbor and the downstairs occupant of his apartment residence, New York Diva/Diva. ANC Chair Billy Simpson encouraged Nixon and other community residents to keep complaining to MPD and the Alcoholic Control Board — which also controls the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) — regarding such repeated infractions by “bad boy operators.”

Other problems identified by community representatives included parking, traffic congestion and access by emergency vehicles, and the encroachment on sidewalk walkability and pedestrian safety caused by the cordoning off of seating for outside service of bars and restaurants on 18th Street.

Following discussion of these matters, the session devolved into an identification and enumeration of the agencies and resources that would be called on for this summer’s operation.

First identified were the resources of MPD. These include a commitment of 20 officers, 10 assigned to walk the 18th Street beat and 10 for the respective side streets plus two supervising sergeants and one lieutenant for Wednesday evening through Saturday night (and the following mornings). Additionally, there will be seven police officers (one of whom will be a sergeant) working overtime, the cost for three will be reimbursed by BID member businesses and the cost for the other four to be reimbursed by the BID itself.

An MPD watch commander and the BID security director will also co-ordinate the RDOs. Another sergeant and eight other officers will be assigned to patrol in squad cars the adjacent parts of this police service area, No. 303. Further, the entire Adams Morgan area will be included in the District’s city-wide summer crime control initiative, and the District’s 10-member plain clothes vice squad assignment will also include Adams Morgan. Plans were also discussed for again including the van and officers of the drunk driving tactical unit to augment the overall effort.

Second on the list were the resources of ABRA; both Capt. Mongal and the BID’s representatives stated  their understanding that ABRA would continue to have its three investigators working alongside regular MPD nighttime shift overtime officers.

The third category of identified participating resources will include DC transportation department (DDOT) staff for traffic problems at intersections and at the entrances and exits from parking garages on 18th and Champlain Streets; consumer and regulatory affairs department (DCRA) operational expertise for noise measurement; public works department (DPW) for parking violations; and the Office of the Fire Marshall for establishments exceeding their occupancy permits. Additionally, the Guardian Angels were identified for assistance in accompanying late night and early morning bar and restaurant staff to their vehicles, and in assisting MPD in walking the neighborhood side streets.

Capt. Mongal concluded the meeting by noting that the next session of the community planning group, to be announced on the Adams Morgan Yahoo listserv, will feature the bringing together of all of these participants.

Editor’s Note: The problem of late-night disturbances referred to in the opening paragraph of this article was previously reported in detail by us late last year. See, “Adams Morgan ANC Seeks to Further Extend Liquor Moratorium by 5 Years,” InTowner December 2013 issue PDF page1; The ABC Board has scheduled its public hearing on the Moratorium extension petition for May 7th at 10 a.m.