A look at what's going on in Trinidad, on H Street, and in the larger area north of Capitol Hill.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cap City Diner: Robbery

The Twittering owners of the Capital City Diner are reporting a rather disturbing robbery with what appeared to be a sawed off shotgun. Equally disturbing is the fact that a detective tried to discourage the victims from filing a police report. Because Matt has posted his account several places I'm going to go ahead and reprint it again here. But follow the link for the original post and comments.

Matt's post:
We (Matt & Patrick) were walking home late last night on Bladensburg Rd NE just north of the intersection with K St. We were with a friend of ours, aware of our surroundings, and in a well-lit area, but still were victims of a robbery.
We were walking down the street, passed by a group of 4-5 young people (one in a wheelchair), one of which asked if we had any money. After we passed about 10-15 feet, he quickly approached us, presented what appeared to be a sawed-off shotgun in his pants, and then demanded money from us. Two of us handed over some money and they fled up L St NE toward Carver/Langston. 911 was called immediately after, but it took some time for a respose and thus the police couldn’t locate them.
It also took a lot of effort to get interviewed by the police. Frustrated with the slow response, we continued walking home, as the police had Matt’s cell number from when he called. As we reach home, the police dispatcher calls back, asks for our current location, and Matt gives her the address, which she is heard relaying to the police unit (Trinidad 1) responding to our call.
Matt sat on the front porch waiting for the police, but decided to walk down the street to the police car parked at the gas station (1/2 block away) since no one’s shown up yet. Matt approached the group of three officers, but could only get one of them interested in the crime. The other two continued to play with a cell phone or eat sunflower seeds.
Fortunately, the one interested officer seemed genuinely interested, began taking notes, and called a detective to the scene.
Unfortunately, the detective tried repeatedly to convice Matt out of making a report. He stated that a robbery hadn’t occurred since Matt “gave up the money” willingly and the suspect didn’t actually reach into Matt’s pockets to steal the money (Matt handed him the robber money when asked for it). Matt recounted that DC code doesn’t require that a robbery physically touch someone, and that someone using fear (even without a weapon displayed) to take something is considered robbery. Furthermore, the detective reminded Matt that he sticks out because Matt’s a white guy in Trinidad and asked repeatedly if he really really wanted to be remembered by the criminal’s associates if/when he’s prosecuted.
Despite the intimidation and being called stubborn, Matt continually requested that a report be completed for robbery.
The detective begrudgingly asked the other officer to initiate report numbers for “robbery (fear),” which doesn’t require that the suspect display a weapon, only use the fear of having a weapon in the course of a robbery.
We encourage all others to report crime and insist on a report being made. If nothing else, the crime statistics will show a more true reflection of the area’s crime, resulting in potentially more police resources for our neighborhood.
For the moment, it seems we’re just walking targets with no means of recourse except a police response that attempts to discourage reporting of crime. Next time we hear “crime is down in the area,” we can’t help but wonder why; is crime actually down, or is it just not getting reported?
UPDATE: MPD is initiating an investigation into how the above incident was handled.

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32 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is ridiculous!!!! I am in the process of buying a home in trinidad and quite honestly that is discouraging. If you can't partner with the police to rid your neighborhood of crime, how will you combat crime?

Aug 24, 2009, 2:31:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While the police can be responsive, they are also be LAZY and only apply the law when it fits their needs. I've been frustrated for a long time about the police turing on their lights to get through traffic/stop lights and talking on the phone while driving without using handsfree devices. Police are not above the law. We need someone to come in here and clean up our police force.

Aug 24, 2009, 2:47:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw an african/american-indian looking young male running pretty fast through my alley on L street last night around 11ish.

Aug 24, 2009, 3:01:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 2:31- we have lived in Trinidad for four years now and have had only minor trouble. I have had good experiences with police; they have been responsive and professional. I am sorry to hear about this incident and hope that the investigation shows this to be isolated. Welcome to the neighborhood! Its always been what we've made of it... and we will be here a long time.

Aug 24, 2009, 3:19:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about the robbery. I've lived in Trinidad for 4 years and have not had any problems. Mostly because the only walking in Trinidad I do at night is the 20 foot walk from my car to the house. I would never, ever walk outside after dark in Trinidad. It's just not worth it.

Aug 24, 2009, 3:57:00 PM

 
Blogger Mayor Plenty said...

I'm sorry that people are afraid of walking outside after dark in their own neighborhood, but issues like this only reaffirm those fears. If you want to take some constructive action, it may be worthwhile to call the DC Office of Police Complaints to let them know that you heard of this incident and that you are disappointed with the apparent apathy of the DC Police.

I just called and left a message, and I also said that I support an investigation into the general matter (or reporting crime, etc).

If you would like to call or e-mail the office, the information is:

(202) 727-3838
http://www.policecomplaints.dc.gov

It would send a message that we expect some accountability and response - a stronger message than staying indoors out of fear.

Aug 24, 2009, 5:32:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That sucks. We live just south of H St. and have had good relations with the cops. I will be very interested to see what comes of this.

Aug 24, 2009, 5:43:00 PM

 
Blogger DCJaded said...

My experience with DC cops is good as long as they see you as "conventional". What I mean, is if you are "normal looking", out at a normal time of day, etc, they will be sympathetic. However, if you are young, dress different, an effeminate male, or have been drinking, they are NOT at all sympathetic and blow you off unless the situation is life threatebing.

Aug 24, 2009, 6:46:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is crazy. Cops talking people out of reporting crime? This detective should lose his job. Not all DC cops are like this but I am finding a lot of them are. Why do we put up with this?

Aug 24, 2009, 6:59:00 PM

 
Blogger inked said...

Extra FYI:
1. Matt, the guy that got robbed, does regular late night volunteer work for MPD. I did not mention the complaint forum here for that reason (i.e. he already knows about it).

2. I've lived in Trinidad (or 1 block away) for 8 years. I also spent a summer helping out with juvenile prosecutions as a Summer Associate with the OAG). My interactions with police have mostly been positive. In the summer of 2005 I had a very bad experience with the civilian 911 (before it was revamped). My personal take is that most cops around here care, and we have some amazing officers around here. The problem is that we also have some lazy cops, and I've seen the first hand effects of that type of laziness. If such cops bother to actually make a report, they don't do it right. I once watched a cop get yelled by a prosecutor (rightly) when she told him that his sloppy work meant that they had no case. He responded that that was cool, and she made it very clear that it wasn't cool because this was about the victims and the perps, and not about him.

It reminded me of the time that I had coffee with a woman with a Masters in criminology. She had planned to join a force in the DC suburbs. She went through all the training, but at the end they went on a high speed chase. She told me that was what made her decide to quit. The guy they were chasing had and outstanding warrant, but it wasn't that urgent. They knew where he lived (and he wasn't leaving the area over that warrant). She said the other cops all high fived at the end and she was just put off because these guys had families and could have been killed, or killed civilians. They chased him on a warrant where no chase was necessary. Basically, they were being cowboys. We need real cops, not cowboys, or lazy cops.

We have lots of great cops out there, but we should all report the bad ones. They don't help the situation. We should also make an effort to praise an support the good cops around here. Some of them do much more than we see.

Aug 24, 2009, 8:41:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have recently moved into the area and have been very concerned with not only the crime but the methods and strategies with which the police are dealing with it. I've corresponded with the DC government in regards to this and was eventually placed in contact with a Lieutentant responsible for my Public Service Area (PSA). I've yet to be able to attend one of their regular meetings - but I would HIGHLY encourage all residents to do so and have their concerns addressed.

The next PSA meeting will be held on Saturday, September 19, 2009, from 10:00 - 11:30 AM @ the Developing Families Center, 801 17th Street, NE. Lt. J. Anderson will host the meeting.

Aug 25, 2009, 9:44:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This may sound extreme but an interesting perspective from logistics point of view. Why not have 50 cops (one per car) monitor the entire Capitol Hill neighborhood constantly from 7 pm- 1 am? Assuming it cost $50,000 per cop per year, that would be 50*50,000 serving about 10,000 people which would be just $250 per person annually. The numbers may be fudged but it gives you an idea.

Aug 25, 2009, 10:18:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The correspondence I mentioned before involved a rather lengthy letter in which I offered a series of suggestions on how to more effectively manage the police force to counter the main problem of petty street crime (i.e. drug dealing, gang activity, theft, robbery, etc.). Although I was linked up with the Lieutenant that supervises the police in the neighborhood I am unsure wheth the suggestions were ever read or considered and as mentioned I have not been able to attend one of these meeting as of yet.

Part of the problem stems from the fact the police are operating from what I call the "door kicker" mentality that inevitably follows the restructuring what should be an inherently preventative deterrent force into the category of "first responder" - cops want to react to crime, not prevent it. If there's no one to throw on the ground and zip-tie or no reason to go into "tactical" mode then it's a "waste of time". It also engenders a very keen sense of mistrust and dislike for police presence on the part of the residents - who's only interaction with police is when they arrive to apprehend someone - usually in a forceful and often violent manner.

It's very akin to the problems the Army faced in Iraq and Afghanistan originally - sitting in well protected and isolated locations outside of cities and only interacting with the population when they were "rolling up" bad guys, only to leave immediately. It wasn't until our Soldiers "walked the beat" as it were - exposing themselves in a constant presence and began regularly interacting with the population in a positive manner to engender respect and trust that things began to change.

The letter I wrote went into a great deal more detail as far as suggested courses-of-action.

Aug 25, 2009, 10:52:00 AM

 
Anonymous not on parker said...

I used to be a harsh critic of the police department. I felt that the disposition of its personnel, application of enforcement methodology, composition of its workforce, etc. needed to be completely revamped.

Then I started attending community meetings and learning more about the workings of the 4000+ force. Such as the limitations imposed by the lack of a loitering law. Or how truly difficult it is to seize real property from drug dealers. Or how long it takes to build cases against pimps and prostitutes. Or how liberal, life-appointed judges put criminals back on the street (such as the teenager who burned his grandmother's house down on L Street after threatening her with a gun). Or the incessant lack of cooperation from the City Council. Or the constant requests for ancillary/off-duty support from adjacent organizations such as FPS, USSS, FBI, etc. And most importantly the deeply-entrenched hatred of the police that stems from the Barry days when the District of Columbia was the employer of last resort.

I am not necessarily an apologist for the police department but can state unequivocally that they are doing all they can within the confines of a bureaucracy...

Aug 25, 2009, 11:28:00 AM

 
Anonymous not on parker said...

I've been frustrated for a long time about the police turing on their lights to get through traffic/stop lights

If you drove around in a cruiser for eight hours a day, you would do it too. And really, what harm does it do you? Or the citizenry as a whole?

Aug 25, 2009, 11:30:00 AM

 
Anonymous not on parker said...

This may sound extreme but an interesting perspective from logistics point of view. Why not have 50 cops (one per car) monitor the entire Capitol Hill neighborhood constantly from 7 pm- 1 am?

Maybe because most property crimes take place well past 1:00AM? Maybe because you would have one cruiser for each 4x4 block area? Maybe because the upkeep on 50 cruisers is expensive? Maybe because the neighborhood would resemble a police state?

Aug 25, 2009, 11:37:00 AM

 
Anonymous not on parker said...

The correspondence I mentioned before involved a rather lengthy letter in which I offered a series of suggestions on how to more effectively manage the police force to counter the main problem of petty street crime (i.e. drug dealing, gang activity, theft, robbery, etc.

How are you qualified to give the police force recommendations? I can see why they might ignore your recommendations if you call drug dealing, gang activity, theft, and robbery "petty" street crime.

restructuring what should be an inherently preventative deterrent force...

What exactly does the police department need to do? They have officers on foot, bicycle, segmay, and in cruisers. They conduct community meetings to educate and assist the citizens. They use technical devices (mobile data terminals, cellphones tied directly to the emergency network) to assist where possible. They sift through data to determine where their forces can be better concentrated. They maintain specialized units for specialized crimes.

What residents of the District forget is that they too are responsible for crime prevention. Yards need to be better lit. Blind spots in alleys need to be fenced. Bushes need to be trimmed. Valuables (such as plasma televisions I can see through your drawn shades) need to be better concealed. Electronic devices need to be removed from automobiles, along with accessories such as suction cups, headsets, cables, etc. Mountain bikes need to be stored inside or in locked sheds/garages. iPods need to be ditched during late night walks. This is Washington DC, not Clarendon!

Aug 25, 2009, 11:52:00 AM

 
Anonymous not on parker said...

"Segways", not "segmay".

Aug 25, 2009, 11:53:00 AM

 
Blogger Amy said...

Someone tried to take steal our car, and we foiled it by going outside and chasing the guy out of our car. We did our jobs as citizens by stopping the theft, but we had to fight to get the police to do their job.

The police officer who responded did not seem too interested in doing an investigation because the guy had not indeed actually stolen our car... he just was in the car trying to steal it.

We had to fight (ask for supervisors names, etc) to get someone to do the follow up and a basic investigation.

Our experience with the officers was mixed, some seemed uninterested and just seemed to shrug their shoulders. He said things like "you can't do anything to stop people from stealing cars." Well that may be true, but isn't that what we pay you for?

Some officers were better.

Aug 25, 2009, 11:57:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

not on parker- points well taken. I was just trying to show that crime can be prevented if you really have to and if it comes to that. It's not impossible even at the expense of the neighborhood looking like a police state. It will probably be have to be done only for a few years until all the miscreants get the hint and move on or are forced to operate somewhere else.

Aug 25, 2009, 12:04:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not on Parker...

I specifically mentioned within the letter that I am not qualified to dictate policy in regards to the management of a major metropolitan police force. I do however have experience in regards to the examples I cited in overseas combat operations related to countering civil unrest and insuring population security. I referred to drug dealing, gang activity, theft and robbery as "petty" crimes because compared to murder, rape and assault they are indeed petty and all can be prevented and deterred using very non-tactical methods.

They do patrol, but MAINLY in a patrol vehicle of some sort and it is impossible to interact with the population at large while doing 20 mph through a neighborhood and only exiting your vehicle when there is something to "respond" to. The majority of foot, bicycle and Segway (don't get me started on the ridiculousness of the amount of money spent on THOSE things) that are done outside of already gentrified neighborhoods and yuppie bar districts are infrequent and rarely, if ever, during the late night/early morning hours where such "petty" crime is actually perpetrated.

As far as the responsibility of the citizens of the District of Columbia - this is a free society where the people have a right to expect the police force of their city to provide them with physical security - that's why we pay taxes. If it is our responsibility to "better" protect ourselves, that line of thinking naturally leads us to an armed population with inherent rights to dispatch persons threatening their persons and property with lethal force. How long do you think that would last before civil society and order broke down in its entirety.

And as far as your comment about this being Washington DC as opposed to a Virginia Suburb, you might take pause to look into the increasing levels of gang and drug-related activity by groups such as MS-13 in those "pristine" communities.

Aug 25, 2009, 1:44:00 PM

 
Anonymous Rick said...

My main complaint is that DC police pretty much encourage an atmosphere of lawlessness by not enforcing, well, anything.

For example, I have no fear whatsoever of being pulled over for running a red light in front of a cop or even for speeding 40 mph in a residential zone (I don't do that, but I see plenty of ppl who do.)

It comes up all the time with out-of-town drivers. They worry about being pulled over for things I don't think twice about.

Pretty soon, you realize the police here are kind of a joke. They drive around people double-parked on a busy street. They don't say a word if you litter in front of them. If you're blasting your car stereo in the street at 3 am they *might* tell you to move on but that's about it. And feel free to shoot off illegal fireworks as a God-given right.

You can argue forever that they have "real" crimes to worry about, but the bottom line is that DC officers don't show respect for the law during the daily interactions that form our opinions of them. So why should anyone else?

Now, they can still put you in a world of hurt if they want to, but as for encouraging a civilized society on a regular and daily basis...not so much.

Aug 25, 2009, 8:08:00 PM

 
Blogger inked said...

Rick,
for what it's worth, I have seen DC cops confiscate and (I think) ticket for fireworks.

Aug 25, 2009, 9:01:00 PM

 
Anonymous not on parker said...

For example, I have no fear whatsoever of being pulled over for running a red light in front of a cop...

I did a k-turn on a street without a double-line and got shit from MPD...I doubt you will fare much better running a red light. Unless of course they don't see you do it.

Pretty soon, you realize the police here are kind of a joke.

I think MPD is inconsistent in their enforcement of petty offenses (double-parking, music amplification, littering). I do not subscribe to the notion that they are altogether ignorant.

Aug 26, 2009, 9:21:00 AM

 
Anonymous Rick said...

I should be more clear that I think this is a cultural problem within the police force. I have great admiration for the individuals who serve. There are great cops who do a great job, and they are all incredibly brave. I'm glad Inked and Not on Parker have had good experiences, and of course some law enforcement does go on.

However, in 7 years of living and driving in DC, I don't think I've ever seen a cop pull someone over for running a light, doing an illegal u-turn, speeding, running a stop sign, etc.

In Ohio this weekend, I saw such stops twice. In one weekend.

I might agree with "inconsistent." But inconsistent = ineffective.

Aug 26, 2009, 1:00:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so sad. Has anyone posted this on the MPD-1 Yahoo listserver?

Chief Lanier to the Mayor's office read that listserver.

This is unacceptable. The officer who discouraged a report should be fired. This should frighten every citizen in DC. Everyone has a right to go out and walk home without fear of a sawed-off shotgun being shoved in there face.

Ya...Ya..I know I live in DC. But the buck stops with Chief Lanier and if she doesn't clean house we will never have safe streets. I am sick of seeing 7-8 guys sitting on the sidewalk drinking in the middle of the day while two cops sit in there car and do nothing. Ridiculous. If police are not going to enforce laws starting at the "broken window syndrome" they will not help us when a gun is shoved in our face.

Mayor Fenty would not allow anyone to work for him that he knew was incompetent.

Aug 26, 2009, 2:25:00 PM

 
Blogger inked said...

This actually occurred in 5-D, and everyone who needs to be aware has been made so.

Aug 26, 2009, 2:33:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...Of course the real issue here is the fact that since the esteemed and revered former Mayor set such a lovely example of honorable public service any actual authority to enact real change within this city is no longer in the hands of it's residents, the Council, or even the current Mayor - but to a body that has no interest in granting us autonomy nor in residing within the confines of the District (which, of course was the reason it was excluded from having Congressional representation - as it's intended denizens were to be elected representatives themselves).

So we will continue to groan and gnash our teeth at the ineptitude of our executives and legislators and the inefficiency of the agencies and other organs of our Vichy government without ever gaining any real momentum.

I wonder what would be the response to a popular referendum for Congressional representation and self-rule in the form of a peaceful demonstration consisting of the mere presence of a majority of the 500,000 plus residents on the Mall.

Aug 26, 2009, 3:56:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with Rick's comments - I have no fear of being pulled over by MPD. The US Capitol Police do a great job in the neighborhood and are MUCH more effective. Regarding policing: why does it take so many MPD patrol cars to investigate what seems to be small crimes. For example, one shoplifter being apprehened; 5 patrol cars and 7-8 officers standing around.

Aug 26, 2009, 5:44:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is really discouraging news. I hope you can keep us updated about how MPD's investigation ends. I agree with previous posters that it is partially our responsibility as residents of this city to prevent crime as well as we can, but how could this have been prevented? Don't go outside? Don't be white in Trinidad (puh-lease)? Don't avoid getting shot by handing over the money when the man with the shotgun demands it? Laziness is a quality to be found in all bureaucracies, but this detective's behavior was criminal. Shortly after I moved here, I ran a red light (damn angle streets) and was pulled over by a cop in an unmarked car who said, "next time, don't slow down" and drove away and when I described the incident to a neighbor, she said, "DC cops don't care what you do as long as you're not shooting someone." I really hoped she was joking...

Aug 29, 2009, 10:58:00 AM

 
Anonymous Rob said...

Anon 2:31: welcome to the neighborhood. I've lived here 4 1/2 years and not had too many problems. This year has been pretty quiet. But sadly, I do avoid rolling the dice unnecessarily by walking at night.
Anon 9:44: I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think Lt. Anderson chairs the PSA meetings any more and I don't even know if they are still held.
All anons: can you please just pick a nickname, however meaningless, to make it easier to follow who's talking?

My experience has been that the cops around here are mostly great guys and women and are trying to improve things in the neighborhood.
From attending PSA meetings I've learned that their hands are tied in many instances.

Aug 29, 2009, 3:54:00 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with alot of what "Not on Parker" says...except this.

"If you drove around in a cruiser for eight hours a day, you would do it too. And really, what harm does it do you? Or the citizenry as a whole?"

One: running red lights with or without sirens/flashing lights puts other people at danger.

two: With this logic, taxi cabs should be able to run lights.

three: The people protecting the laws should show the most respect for it.

Sep 2, 2009, 4:45:00 PM

 

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