We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Well, that and anyone under the age of 17.

So follows the logic of the Washington, D.C., City Council, which, in response to a devastating “crime wave,” has passed emergency legislation that strengthens curfew laws and greatly expands the powers of the Metropolitan Police Department.

This emergency legislation, passed on July 20, makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 17 to be out past 10 P.M., D.C. resident or not. The law also requires the installation of surveillance cameras in undisclosed residential neighborhoods and grants police instant access to previously-confidential files on juveniles.

The law is effective from July 31 to August 30, although Mayor Anthony A. Williams has expressed his desire to see these changes made permanent when the Council reconvenes for business in the early Fall.

The Enhanced Crime Prevention and Abatement Emergency Amendment Act of 2006 gives the Mayor the authority to set alternative curfew hours. (The Juvenile Curfew Act of 1995 already prohibits 16-and-unders from being out past midnight.) According to a government press release:

Mayor Williams’s emergency anti-crime legislation centers on authorizing Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey to deploy officers on a six-day work week. The extra manpower means at least 300 more uniformed officers on the streets. The plan also provided the Mayor with the authority to modify curfew time, and it authorized the expansion of closed circuit television cameras to be used in some neighborhoods for both crime prevention and investigation.

One portion of the new law not mentioned in this press release is that it provides police with immediate access to information on juveniles’ involvement with the court system and their experiences with the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, the unfocused and overburdened agency that has the responsibility of holding juveniles picked up on curfew violations. The Metropolitan Police Department, meanwhile, has not announced specifics on where thee surveillance cameras will be installed, what information will be collected and how this information will be used.

If the Enhanced Crime Prevention and Abatement Emergency Amendment Act of 2006 tells us anything, it’s that D.C. government rules not only with an iron fist but with a head full of rocks. The impetus for this expansion of police powers

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