Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Geography of Denial of Movement

In today’s DC Examiner there is an article about police plans to seal off neighborhoods in an effort to curb crime. The plan is to have police quarantine areas, set up checkpoints, and chase away outsiders. The police then should be able to control the area.

All this is an effort to finally bring order to some of the worst parts of the nation’s capital. The plan has some recent precedents supporting it. Walls in Baghdad have managed to keep fighting neighboring ethnic groups separate. The walls, especially those keeping back Sadr’s Mahdi Army, have been credited in lowering the level of violence. The Israeli government is building barriers between Israel-proper and the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The West Bank Wall is praised by some for preventing infiltration by suicide bombers.

The way denial of movement works is 1) it is harder for an outsider to enter another neighborhood and cause trouble (people usually do not wage violence near their homes) 2) law enforcement has greater ground knowledge of what is going on (it is much easier to control a smaller area than a larger area) and 3) increased police presences acts as a signal showing who is in control.

Civil libertarians are obviously upset at Washington’s plans for neighborhood denial of movement. They are claiming the plan is unconstitutional. Others claim that denial of movement only isolates neighborhoods and makes residents bitterer. They cite the French suburbs where Muslim youth feel abandoned by the state and embrace anti-establishment ideas and violence. Some go further to claim Israel’s defensive walls are actually feeding into the violence.

History has shown denial of movement can be effective if done right. The crackdown must focus on criminals while allowing law-abiding citizens to remain connected to the outside world. Easier said than done. If DC fails to bring peace to the zones it will only breed no-go areas for citizens.


Dina said...

Thanks for bringing this news and for your clear explanation.

Catholicgauze said...

Thanks Dina!

Matt said...

This would certainly be a bad precedent to set in the U.S. It's one thing to protect your country from enemy attacks--it's another thing to restrict the liberties of your own citizens.