Image from Google Maps Streetview of the quarters of Engine 33, Truck 8, Ambulance 33 & Medic 33 at 101 Atlantic Street in Southeast Washington.
Previous coverage of DC firefighter crime watch here & here
As many of you know firefighters from the DC Fire & EMS Department have been ordered on crime prevention detail with orders to show up at some crime hot spots around town at all hours of the day. It has been a controversial program with IAFF Loal 36 battling Chief Kenneth Ellerbe and top city officials over the wisdom and safety of such a program.
Early Tuesday morning, Engine 33 firefighters returned from a call to their firehouse at 101 Atlantic St. SE to find it ransacked, with a BMW automobile, a firefighter's uniform and other valuables stolen. Thieves had forced their way into the station, trashed the watch desk, and stole a range of gear and personal property.
Also missing were keys, wallets and a camera, according to the police report. The ripped-off BMW was the personal car of a firefighter.
Spokesman Pete Piringer say the crime patrols are continuing. He told McCabe:
"I would like to think that we've made the neighborhoods better from our efforts," Piringer said. "It's been pretty well received in most communities."
Here are some of the latest items on the crime patrol controversy in the DC Fire & EMS Department. In addition to the political cartoon above, BackstepFirefighter.com's Bill Carey gets pretty passionate about what he sees as a lack of outrage over assigning firefighters to the streets to act as crime deterrants. Click here for Bill's column.
At least three people were injured in four shootings in the District over a 24-hour period Sunday and Monday, according to fire and police officials.
Two locations that officials responded to for reports of shootings were just blocks from corners where D.C. firefighters have been stationed as crime deterrents. In one instance, a firetruck was on its way to a post when the call about the shooting went out, and in the other instance, firefighters were not assigned to the post at the time of the reported shooting, a fire union official said.
“This obviously shows they are not a crime deterrent in the neighborhoods,” Edward Smith, president of the D.C. Firefighters Association, said.
For the past three weeks, firefighters have parked their trucks at locations across the District to deter criminals, said Paul Quander, deputy mayor of public safety and justice. Wednesday’s deployment coincided with the first payday for participants of the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program. In past years, youths in the program have been mugged on payday, city officials said.
“You don’t have to wear a badge and uniform and gun to have an impact on safety,” Quander said. “Public safety is not just the responsibility of the police department.”
Kristopher Baumann, head of the D.C. police union, criticized the effort as a “dangerous stopgap measure.”
“These guys are being asked to take on a law enforcement role with no training or coordination with the police,” Baumann said. “It’s like asking the police to start fighting fires.”
"I just want to follow up with you about FEMS providing a presence at [high crime areas] and other focus areas to assist with SYEP payday safety," a legislative and policy analyst for the deputy mayor for public safety wrote in an e-mail to a fire department official on Tuesday. "I have Cc'ed MPD and DPOES for their input regarding which SYEP locations and [high crime areas] could use support from FEMS."
Fire union chief Ed Smith said he learned about the plan Wednesday morning as has already sent a series of inquiries to the administration officials.
"We're not trained for these matters," Smith said. "When we respond to violent crimes that involve medical emergencies we stage a block away until the police say its safe. We never get involved in police matters".
Union President Smith also issued the following press release this afternoon:
Metropolitan Police Department staffing is so low that District of Columbia Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe is forcing District of Columbia firefighters to be utilized in an effort to deter criminal activities.
Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe has ordered members of the DC Fire & EMS Department to assist in the protection of the Summer Youth Employees on Pay Day.
On Summer Youth Employment Pay Days, District Fire Fighters will be assigned to "take posts" in high crime areas to provide a "presence?"
A major concern, according to Ed Smith, President of the District Fire Fighters Union Local 36, "no one has defined what is meant by "presence" … and what is the role of the fire fighters when they witness a criminal act taking place?
Smith goes on, "I am concerned that this is a knee jerk reaction to what is serious problem that is clearly a police matter and not a fire department problem."
"Not only are my members not trained as police officers they are not properly equipped to handle police matters, yet could be called upon to become involved in various situations that place’s them in harm’s way! Smith is also concerned that posting firefighters in areas other than the strategically located fire station’s can potentially increase response times to fire and medical related emergencies.