DC firefighter crime watch update: Deputy Mayor Quander defends putting fire trucks on patrol in high crime area.


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Paul Wagner, WTTG-TV/FOX 5:

D.C.'s Deputy Mayor for Public Safety is defending the use of firefighters as crime fighters saying the positioning or "soft posting" of trucks on the street in the middle of the night is an effective tool.

Paul Quander says there have already been positive results and the anti-crime initiative will continue.

DC QUander

FOX 5 has reported twice in the last two weeks about an anti-crime initiative in the Trinidad section of the city in which firefighters have been asked to sit in their trucks on the street in the overnight hours.

Both the police and firefighters unions criticized the plan and we have gotten no clear explanation from the city on why it was being done until Friday.

For the last two weeks, Engine 10 and Truck 13 have been under orders to leave the firehouse on Florida Avenue and spend the hours between 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on the streets of Trinidad.

Until now, the specific reasons have been unclear.

"Essentially what happened, Councilmember McDuffie contacted me and invited me up to his office to talk about crime in the Trinidad area,” said Quander, the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety. “And at the time, there had been some shootings, there had been some robberies."

Quander says he then went to D.C. police and asked them to come up with a plan.

"And I told them they could use any resources we had in the city,” he said.

The deputy mayor says firefighters have been used in this capacity in the recent past and the anecdotal evidence shows it works.

"There is some research that shows when there is a government presence there, it doesn't have to be a police presence, it's just a presence, that's all, it has a calming influence, and that is all we want to do, prevent and deter crime,” said Quander.

He says the firefighters are not being asked to be the police, but instead pick up a phone or radio and report what they see.

On the streets of Trinidad on Friday, most people we talked to said they thought firefighters should stick to what they have been trained to do.

"I think firefighters need to fight fires and the police need to do their jobs," said one man.

Another man said, "What good is the fire department sitting out here when they should be putting out fires, not putting out crime.”

And a woman we talked to as she left her house said, "They are very busy. I know a firefighter personally and they are very busy. They don't have time to sit out here.”

Phil Mendelson, Chairman of the D.C. Council, told us Thursday he wasn't for or against the idea.

"If the question is, ‘Do I think Fire and EMS personnel should be acting like police officers?’ No, they should not, but that doesn't mean there isn't a role sometime that a government presence can be helpful to a community,” he said.

Quander says violent crime has stopped in Trinidad since the soft postings began, and the postings will continue until further notice.

The head of the police union calls the soft postings nothing but a show, while the firefighters union called it a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that firmly lies with the police.

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