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Checkpoints: Fourth Amendment Implications of Limiting Access to High Crime Areas

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 67 Issue: 3 Dated: March 1998 Pages: 27-32
K A Crawford
Date Published
6 pages
This article addresses fourth amendment implications of an innovative approach to combating violent gang crime, the use of vehicle checkpoints to limit access to high-crime areas.
The Watson Avenue Special Operation was instituted in 1992 in the Soundview neighborhood of the Bronx, New York City, in an effort to stem the tide of a recent rise in drug activities and drive-by shootings in the area. The operation called for cordoning an 8-block area and the use of checkpoints to screen all individuals attempting to drive into the area. Police officers operating the checkpoints were instructed to stop every vehicle and determine the driver's association with the neighborhood. Only residents, drivers of commercial vehicles, drivers of vehicles dropping off small children, and visitors to the local church were permitted to enter the area. Police officers were further instructed to allow drivers to avoid the checkpoints by driving around the cordoned area or by parking their vehicles and entering on foot. Checkpoints were operated on a random basis, 6 hours a day, 3 days a week, for a period of 3 weeks. The analysis of fourth amendment implications of vehicle checkpoints demonstrates constitutional issues have not been resolved. Nonetheless, the checkpoint program in the Bronx indicates carefully established and operated vehicle checkpoints can be an effective temporary measure to give affected neighborhoods a reprieve and police departments the time they need to re-establish control of the area. 34 endnotes and 1 photograph