DC police chief firm on ticket and tow policy affecting neighborhood races

WASHINGTON — A new policy to protect neighborhoods in D.C. from terrorism is causing some longtime fundraisers to lose support.

D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham considers the nation’s capital a top three U.S. target and won’t delay when the ticket and tow policy goes into effect, even for smaller neighborhood races, he said during his testimony Thursday afternoon at the D.C. Council.

“I know it’s very unpopular as the public safety chief of police to tell people we’re implementing this policy,” Newsham said to the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety.

Rolled out with the D.C. Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon earlier this month, the policy requires drivers be given 72-hours’ notice before they must move their vehicles from a race route.

Committee Chair Charles Allen, D-Ward 6, questioned whether drivers would see their cars ticketed and towed after reports that while the notice was given, few if any, cars were ticketed and towed following the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon.

Allen said the policy is threatening support for small, longtime events, such as the Capitol Hill Classic.

“When I see long-standing community events threatened by policy … that has the possibility to do damage — I feel I need to speak up,” Allen said.

Allen brought up the issue some residents face, which may be that they don’t often use their cars and may not see the notice to move them in time. Also, the possible financial burden neighbors could face if they are ticketed and towed. There’s also the issue of a lack of space.

“I can’t create more parking lots. I can’t create more curb space. I don’t know where they go,” Allen said.

Newsham and Allen acknowledged each other’s interests, but the police chief responded that with the rash of ISIS-inspired car attacks, he could not in good conscience continue to allow the community to be at risk.

“If something was to happen during the case of any road race after we have this information and understood this best practice, we’d all be held accountable for that,” Newsham said.

“Vehicles along the routes of road races, they can serve as an obstruction. They can hide things that can hurt people. If a vehicle is brought onto the road with a bomb of some kind, it has the potential to be used very easily to kill,” Newsham said.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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