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Memorial Day: Time for ‘Operation Hero Miles’

In honor of Memorial Day, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) is calling for people to turn unused frequent-flier miles into “Hero Miles” which can be used for family members to visit wounded soldiers.

Ruppersberger developed the “Operation Hero Miles” program in 2003. The idea was to help military personnel who flew overseas and into Baltimore for “rest and relaxation” leave, and then the soldiers were forced to pay their way home from there. Now that the military covers those trips, he is shifting the focus to family members of the injured soldiers.

The 10 airlines participating in the program will match miles donated over Memorial Day weekend. Ruppersberger and his staff have pledged to give more than 20,000 miles.

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) will join Ruppersberger and other Members to challenge people to participate at 11 a.m. today at the Reserve Officers Association, 1 Constitution Ave. NE.

Miles can be donated at

Councilman Wells Aims to Curb Hill Crime

After a spree of robberies in the 1st district last weekend, Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells is hoping to develop a comprehensive plan to curb teenage boredom and serial crimes on Capitol Hill.

About 15 robberies occurred this past weekend, while five robberies happened the weekend before. The problem may be twofold, said Charles Allen, Wells’ chief of staff: local teens and out-of-area criminals.

More police visibility, citizen patrols and expanded youth programs might be the answer, he said, and Wells plans to meet soon with Metropolitan Police Department 1st district Cmdr. Diane Groomes and Police Chief Cathy Lanier to discuss options. Police visibility is a frequent request at local Police Service Area meetings, along with calls for more constructive distractions for area youth.

Allen said some ideas for curbing crime include increasing police presence around the Potomac Avenue Metrorail station and getting concerned residents involved in patrolling the area. Local listservs reveal passionate residents ready for action, Allen said.

“There is a large amount of energy, and it’s bordering on the tipping point of anger,” Allen said. “What are ways we can constructively channel that energy in the community?”

Overall crime in the 1st district has actually decreased in 2007, compared with the same period during 2006, according to preliminary Metropolitan Police Department statistics for January through April. During that period, there also were 10 percent fewer robberies in 2007 than in 2006.

— Daniel Heim and Emily Yehle

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