Notes from Wednesday crime awareness meeting

The Metropolitan Police Department, along with representatives from Metro police, the Mayor's office, CM Todd's office and a few others attended a crime awareness meeting at the Petworth Library on Wednesday, March 30th. I wasn't able to attend, so big thanks to ANC 4C Commissioner Jonah Goodman for sharing his notes.

The one piece of news that impacts most of Petworth is that based on resident feedback, the Security Camera Program will now include PSAs 404, 406 and 407. I'm really pleased to hear this. All Petworth can take advantage of the rebate program starting now. See the the DC Security Camera website for details, rules, etc. Prior Petworth News articles on the program: Get a cam, get a rebate: Mayor signs security camera legislation (Jan 20, 2016) and Security camera rebates begin, just not for Petworth (Feb 21, 2016).


Jonah arrived a few minutes late to the meeting, so missed introductions. 

S. Whitfield MTPD
Another officer, possibly a Captain (white shirt)

There are 40 plain-clothes officers that ride bus/train routes daily. MTPD moves officers where there are crime surges. Their common crimes are people looking to target individuals on the bus/train who are near doors, with iPods, looking down and not paying attention. They grab and run. Have situational awareness. Keep your electronics hidden.

Think about electronics as hundred dollar bills. You wouldn’t keep them on your lap exposed, why expose electronics worth that much?

Don’t be afraid to use emergency button on train cars. The car number is located next to button to inform train operator which car you are on. Suggest using text tips number (MyMTPD or 696873) to notify Metro PD if you don’t want to use intercom and alert those on the train.

Common sense recommendation not just for Metro related crime prevention. Record serial numbers of electronics. MPD can use serial numbers, MPD needs serial numbers in crime reports, and pawn stores keep lists of devices and serial numbers they have in their stores.

Trend that robbers will call phone owners back and try to sell devices back. At that point they might rob them again because they know they are bringing cash. Contact MPD instead and they can work to apprehend individual selling device back.

MTPD has jurisdiction to buses, trains, and 80’ around stops. MPD works hand in hand with them and will hand over 911 reports to them if they are Metro related. MPD and MTPD can both respond and make arrests in the overlapping jurisdictions.

MTPD says call them directly instead of 911 because it will be faster. Texts to MyMTPD goes straight to dispatcher console.

Lt Figueras of MPD said please call 911 don’t text for MPD needs. MPD texts go to one phone and may not be the fastest. This was an odd exchange of two police units recommending different best practices.

Question: Will MTPD have more visible clothing? Yes their officers will have neon vests or ranking officers will be in the white dress shirts with badges and visible. Should be implemented before July 4.

Question: What are they doing to prevent terrorism? They have officers that do random sweeps of stations, rail yards, over night checks at train yards. bag checks. MTPD has (only) 400 officers to cover all of VA, MD, and DC jurisdiction. Dog handling teams trained for sweeps. Proactive patrols. Detection equipment and detectors at all downtown stations. Officers getting radiation detectors for each individual as part of their uniform.

Question: Stabbing outside Petworth Metro 23rd on 800 Quincy. Do they know cause and/or connected? MPD jumped in and said they weren’t sure, asked the questioner to follow up with them.

Mr. Dyer (security.cameras@dc.gov), Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants, was up next. His office manage security camera rebate program.

Final rule making going into effect Friday with DC Register that will expand priority areas to 404, 406, and 407. Residents can start buying cameras that meet requirements now.

145 successful applications in first 4 weeks. About $56,000 in rebates distributed in that time frame. Overall there is $500,000 budgeted so there is plenty of money still available. He encouraged residents to take advantage of the program expansion to 404/407.

[Four dirt bikes and ATVs literally drove right past the windows at this point in the presentation doing wheelies down Upshur.]

Dyer's office will do site inspections to ensure the cameras are being used as prescribed by law. They will need to be properly placed outside. If you need to move the cameras at any point he suggests reaching out to him so he can update their files. More information on the program can be found on their website.

There was a question about the effectiveness of cameras at deterring crime. Lt Figueras jumped in and said cameras are effective identifying people in the process of committing a crime faster than running fingerprints. 

Samantha Nolan (nolantutor@yahoo.com) was up next. Mrs. Nolan is just a volunteer and talks about crime prevention all over the city. She was dealing with terrible allergies and unfortunately couldn’t last long. Normally she offers a 90-minute program and recommended people come to another one when she is feeling better. She does a really amazing service to residents in her volunteer role. A lot of what she shared may have been common knowledge but she showed real life examples, with photos, of all of these common sense things being ignored. It was rather eye opening.

  1. Keep doors locked at all times. Install peep holes on doors if you don’t have one. You can sign up with MPD where they will hire contractors to bulk install them for residents on your doors.
  2. If someone unexpected is at your door loudly articulate you are there on the other side of the door. Have a system of what to say to have people go away. She says she tells people her husband is an MPD officer and will be home momentarily and if they visitor will just wait and talk to him.
  3. Don’t leave things in plain site in cars. Showed a real photo in DC of a purse left on a front seat of a car unattended. If you need to put things in your trunk do it before you arrive at your destination so people don’t see you putting something valuable in there.
  4. Avoid hanging purses on backs of chairs. Take a smaller purse when you can and only what you need. Don’t take all your credit cards if you don’t need them. Keep purses and bags zipped. Robbers commonly will pretend to drop something so they have a reason to bend down and see around your purse.
  5. Avoid leaving your purse in an unattended shopping cart. Showed several photos inside Target in Columbia Heights of carts and purses with no one around. She showed to Target and asked if they would make announcements. Target said no so that they are not responsible.
  6. Don’t pack up cars the night before trips.
  7. Bicycle theft. Lock through wheel and frame. Remove seat and take with you. Less desirable to steal a bike without a seat. If MPD sees bike without a seat being ridden down the street they will know it is likely stolen. Don’t lock them to street signs. Seeing patterns of signs being pulled out of the ground and bikes stolen with locks removed later.
  8. Don’t leave purse or bags on tables in offices, tables, don’t leave wallets in coats. With messengers and delivery people in and out of office spaces thefts are easy. People feel comfortable. Petworth Librarian reminded us that if you are using the library and need to use the rest room or get up for other reasons take your bags with you.
  9. Don’t throw your cell phone down on a restaurant table. Enjoy your meal without looking at your cell phone.
  10. Don’t have electronics out and exposed on Metro. It is ok to not multitask. Much more likely to be robbed using white ear buds from Apple devices.
  11. Robbers are more likely to cause harm to you if you escalate it. Give up property if demanded and let them go on their way. AU Park there is a group of 100 women who have walking groups to protect each other. Walking while on a cell phone talking to someone the whole time to let them know you are safe is more risky than not being on the phone and staying observant. 
  12. Never drink from drinks you left unattended at a bar. Assaults are happening.
  13. ATM robberies - new cards with chips require you to leave your card in the machine and take them after the transaction. People are forgetting their cards. Be aware of surroundings, stand closely, look around, and don’t count your money afterwards.

This was the end of her presentation but she went into a few other areas of best practice. Mail Catalogs have personal info, customer ID numbers on the back. Inside all of them there is a mail order form with all the same info. Do shred paper with personal identification information.

Be observant of people around you. Criminals can easily change clothes. Facial features and shoes are good to remember. They use the same shoes, they ones they know they can run fast in. Write down and date information if you have a police report. Will help if the case needs to go to court often years later after you have forgotten how you identified your assailant/robber.

Lastly she recommended putting your address on the alley side of your house or garage to help MPD respond to alley crime. Make addresses on front of your house be visible. The quicker MPD can find you the better.

Lt Raul Figueras (File photo)

Up next was Lt Figueras and Capt. Bray from MPD.

Solo women leaving bars are easy targets. Always have cash on them in case they want to go home by themselves they will have cash for a cab. Whether bad date, or out with friends who want to stay.

Gave an anecdotal story of an actual purse snatch victim who called her husband first then called MPD. MPD was 30 seconds away but got there too late because the victim waited to call 911. Understandable fear but be smart and call MPD.

Don’t leave ladders outside your home or your home will be broken into using your own ladder.

He recommended sizing people up. You don’t have to be a victim, but be aware you can be hurt badly or worse. Slightly different message than what Ms. Nolan was suggesting.

ANC 4C Commissioner Vann-Di Galloway asked about stabbings around 14th corridor. Lt says some are domestic. 14th and Upshur stabbing likely gang related, isn’t cooperating, MPD has a suspect identified. About 40 officers canvasing and couldn’t find the crime scene. Likely school issue relating to comment about girlfriend. Hispanic gang population in 404 is something MPD is keeping an eye on. MS13 and other rival gangs are known. Gang intelligence unit comes in and works with 404/407 to what and who to keep an eye on. MPD says there are not currently random stabbings in 404. 80/90% of Assaults with a Deadly Weapon are known and related victims. Known gangs working along 14th Street. Officers often know who they are, colors, where they live, past records. MPD may not go into details to not compromise court cases.

4D Captain Brian Bray (File photo)

Capt. Bray said honestly MPD concerned with not having probably cause and current existing anti-police sentiment. They don’t want to be stopping people if it appears to be profiling. Encourages neighbors to call 911 for suspicious activity. That allows MPD to get involved and gives them probable cause to stop or talk to those individuals.

Question: What does MPD do to suppress open-air drug sales? Lt has not received a call yet for open-air drug sales. If it is happening please call it in with good descriptions. Dealing does not happen in front of highly visible MPD.

Jasmin Benab and someone else whose name I didn’t catch from Executive Office of Mayor.

Mayor’s office doing Ward sweeps with PSA Lts across their districts. After sweeps will continue with monthly sit down meetings.

Monthly meeting with school administrators to find out what is happening in schools. Finding that incidents at one school are affecting other schools. Administrators coming together find a lot of information and strategizing about issues.

Jordan Rummel, Communications Specialist from CM Todd’s Office. Mr. Rummel lives 13th and Shepherd, invested locally as neighbor and staff for CM Todd. Monitoring listservs and forward to Com. Manlapaz and Lts. Established an Advisory Committee for Ward 4 Community Safety. This allows residents to identify gaps. 

Question: Is the city doing anything for public cameras? CM Todd working to help extend PSA rebate program. Questioner wanted info on public cameras. Commissioner Galloway and staff from the Mayor’s office tried to reply that MPD cameras have a lot of vulnerabilities such as being stationary, can only film in public spaces, and are hard to move. Explained the private residence camera rebate program is actually the answer to the question.

My thanks again to Commissioner Goodman for his notes!

Drew Schneider

Local DC blogger in Petworth, Washington DC.



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