Genovese syndrome stikes Petworth/Columbia Heights?

Wikipedia defines the syndrome as :”Kitty Genovese, was a New York City woman who was stabbed to death near her home in the Kew Gardens section of Queens, New York. The circumstances of her murder and the apparent reaction (or lack thereof) of her neighbors were reported by a newspaper article published two weeks later and prompted investigation into the psychological phenomenon that became known as the bystander effect or “Genovese syndrome.” The story of Genovese’s murder became an almost-instant parable about the supposed callousness, or at least apathy to others’ plight, of either New York City, urban America, or humanity in general.”

Fortunately, the disturbing email I received from a PW/CH resident didn’t mention any victims. The reader writes “we had a shooting on the block last night (police found a Lexus SUV in the middle of the street Sunday morning with a number of bullet holes in it. Apparently there were 8-10 shots around 4:30 and no one called the police) and no one knows what happened.” He also said that the police were pretty pissed off at the neighbors for not calling in the incident.

So how do we explain the fact that 8-10 shots were fired and not one person called the police? A case of really heavy sleepers or apathy?

22 Comment

  • Where was the shooting?

  • people need to realise that you can call 311 and cite an incident WITHOUT giving your name and number.

    i’ve called MULTIPLE times, and when they ask my name and number/address, i decline because i’m so close to ‘the action’.

    they say that it doesn’t matter, and that they treat the incident the same way as if i would have given details. i think they categorize it under ‘concerned citizen’.

    i know a lot of folks are worried about giving details, because it can become public knowledge.

    just call.

    on the other hand, maybe everyone was asleep in their newly renovated homes with new soundproof windows, and really didn’t hear anything… or they were on summer vacation back in their ‘real homes’ in ohio, or some such….

    caring citizens give a rat’s arse.

    not calling is less than ignorant.

  • I saw two people shoplifting at Giant. I told them they were pathetic, but I didn’t tell the store manager – mainly because I didn’t see one. Does that qualify as a KG moment?

  • I’m betting heavy sleepers, myself. Last year I slept through a large car accident directly under my window – 3 cars totaled, and I missed it.

    I sleep through the alarm regularly. I wake up to the spousal snoring noises and the cat barfing noises. I don’t get it. But so it goes.


  • I’m sorry if this is an stupid question — is everyone sure the shooting happened on that block? Could the Lexus have been abandoned there after a shooting that happened elsewhere?

    Ooh, ooh, can I tell my crime fighting story? Thanks!

    So, I was driving home late one evening (it was after 11 p.m.) and I was heading south on 13th Street, when I see a guy in a pickup truck in front of me stop in the street, get out, bash out the driver’s side window of a vehicle parked on the street, get back in his truck, and drive off. That was just all kinds of weird. He didn’t take anything, he just broke the window. But it’s not like I interrupted him mid-theft; he knew there was a car behind him; I wasn’t that far behind him to begin with.

    So I hemmed and hawed and tried to figure out what to do, and I ended up leaving a note on the victim’s car. ‘Cause I saw the basher’s license plate. The police called me the next day but I never found out how that was resolved.

  • SB: thanks for not telling the Giant manager. The steaks were delicious!

  • The shooting was on Shepard between 13th and 14th. Several neighbors said they heard or saw the shooting take place, although I wasn’t one of them; I slept through the whole thing.

  • There’s this idea running through the rap culture that if one cooperates or calls the police about a crime, then that person is a “snitch”, and that snitches are cooperating with whitey and The Man to oppress black folk, thus being seen as race traitors.
    It’s stupid, but so is most mainstream rap.

  • Not really sure why rap had to be brought in to this thread….was 50 cent’s car shot up or was this in front of Snoop Dogg’s house? No. Then it would seem to me to be a bit far fetched to start blaming a genre of music for causing a shooting to go unreported.

  • Maybe everyone just assumed it was those darned kids playing with those fireworks again. Haaaaa.

  • well it could be the fact that if the police are called and just by happenstance show up (go figure) that all they will do is take a report and wait for the next 311 or 911 call. it’s not exactly like the police actually deter crime and/or OMG protect the citizens of DC.

  • I don’t know if FEAR can be constituted as a GV syndrome. There are some folks in the neighborhood that do not contact the police out of FEAR of their lives. I live on a CH block with retired/old folks that have lived in the area for ages! They have learned through experience (some very unfortunate ones) to keep their eyes/ears/mouthes closed. It’s unfortunate they feel this way; but this apathy drives home the sad state our society is in. Also, frustration with the crime and lack of response (either from police or community leaders) also contributes to the apathy!

  • Two thoughts: there have been some real cases of people who cooperate with police facing real retribution back in their neighborhood, so while I think the “stop snitching” idea is ridiculous, there are real reasons why people don’t get involved. When the police go home, it’s just them and the criminals. Or friends of the criminals. And that’s scary.

    Also: so, this can be blamed on rap culture? All the (non)witnesses were black and/or have been brainwashed by rap music? I don’t think so. White people or non-rap-listeners don’t own the market on civic responsibility. There could be many, MANY other things at play here besides “stop snitching” syndrome.

  • A while back there was a 13 year old shot and killed on the 1400 block of Girard. I asked one of the kids (3rd grader) I tutor if he knew the child. He started to answer me but an older kid told him to shut up and not talk about it because he would get hurt if people found out he talked. I’m not even a cop, just a regular dude. So, given that a 3rd grader is threatened into silence it’s not suprising that no one wants to talk.

  • To the anonymous writer that thinks the police are worthless and don’t deter crime or protect the citizens of DC, you clearly have no idea what a police department does.

    Here’s the thing, even without support from people like you, who clearly think that help is supposed to fall from the sky, the police do their job. Regardless of whether they get a single word of appreciation from a thankless soul like yours, they do their job.

    When was the last time you helped somebody without them asking? When was the last time you did a single thing to help your community and clean up your neighborhood?

    That’s fine, hide behind your anonymous post and bash the police. It’s because of cowards like you that criminals get away with crimes like this.

  • I’ve been living in DC for 1 1/2 years now and cannot count how many times I have called to police to report crime – not to mention one where I was awoken by two men approaching my bedroom window. Needless to say, as a female living alone, that was quite scary – but I screamed and scared them off. I had to call the police again last night when I witnessed two young men try to steal my neighbor’s motorcycle – yet again I screamed. I’ve called the police when I’ve seen young men running with guns, when a man was incapacitated by alcohol lying on the street, when I’ve seen cars get broken into – the list goes on. Now all I can say is that each individual can only do so much, for themselves and for others. Since last night, a thought hit me – all these people saw me and some of the know where I live. Put aside the issue of snitching, race, gender all the issues we haven’t the space to address – at what point am I allowed to stop being a ” concerned citizen” and start being concerned that I am a target?

  • what? if that comment is correct, then that happened on MY BLOCK?! I had no clue… i didn’t hear a thing and I didn’t see any cops the next morning, and I walk down the block to the bus stop on 14th. 🙁

  • I don’t mean to lessen your experiences. I don’t know you, and I don’t know what you have or haven’t done. Unfortunately, you triggered my usual response to people who just say, “the police don’t do anything.” Because they do, but unfortunately, there’s only so much they can do. It’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact.

    There are limited numbers of officers, and so coverage suffers. The problem with areas that may have a lot of criminal activity is that multiple calls tie up the officers for varying lengths of time. If an officer makes an arrest, he/she is out of commission for a while doing paperwork. Or there might be an accident with an injury, so they have to stay and do a report. It’s not like TV where you just throw someone in the back seat of a car and it’s done.

    So if you have 3 units working your PSA, and it’s a busy PSA, they might all be on calls or working an arrest, so then what? You have to get units from another PSA, and what if none of that PSA’s units is available.

    4D is busy, just a fact. So officers are constantly on the go. Sometimes they don’t get to a call for 30 minutes to an hour because they’re handling something else. Officers can usually prioritize their calls, but the dispatcher might divert them or reprioritize their activity based on urgency of what’s being called in.

    So, keep up the calling of 911/311. It’s important not to give up on the police.

  • Daniel, I’ve been impressed by the police presence on and around my block; for the most part they’ve been friendly and always helpful.

    I was upset to hear that several of the officers were very down on the neighborhood and expressed their less than positive opinions to the few folks who did come forward to talk to them, even expressing surprise that we would want to live in the neighborhood.

    That said, any clue to what happened on Shepherd that night?

  • wow, oden…not a big fan of the police, huh? if i were you, i’d attempt to put yourself in an officer’s shoes before putting them down as much as you do on here…those officers whom i’ve dealt with have always been amazingly responsive and helpful…maybe that’s because i treat them with some respect, i don’t know…maybe i’ve just been lucky enough to deal with the good ones…either way, that’s one hell of a tough job to have and i don’t envy them at all

  • Fair enough, Pauper.

    But it’s a tough job that they’ve taken on willingly. While the problems with policing in DC aren’t all to do with the police themselves, and there are many, many professional officers, serious problems need to be addressed that “it’s a hard job you wouldn’t do” isn’t a sufficient answer to.

    However, I am deleting this as it really is just a pointless screed, and referring you to my more reasoned response to a MPD officer under “Trouble at 14th and U”.

    I’m very serious about the lack of police presence. It makes a difference. I am additionally concerned about “papering” concerns by officers trumping their duty to take people off the street that are contributing negatively to the neighborhood.

    MPD officers themselves make these issues all too clear:

    And yes, my personal experiences do color my perception, as do yours. I’m pleased that you’ve had decent repartee with police, I’ve had both good and bad.

    But reading that some MPD officers have the temerity to blame “the neighborhood” for these problems when I am STILL WAITING to see a radio car patrol within 5 blocks of my house is INFURIATING.

    I may have let it get the better of me, but “it’s a tough job” is a sorry excuse.

  • One of the most immediate ways of reducing crime in one’s immediate neighborhood is to get to know your neighbors, keep an eye on the block and report anything that doesn’t seem quite right. Trust your gut instincts about people and don’t hesitate to take an active role in preventing something ugly from happening.

    A little over five years ago, I spotted a guy on the street who I thought was looking for someone to rob. He looked the part. It was a mild spring day, and this guy was sporting a black, knit cap and hooded sweatshirt with the hood up, his head bent down. It looked to me like he was intentionally trying to hide his face somewhat. Across the front of the hooded sweatshirt was a wide pocket that looked like it had something heavy inside. The pocket hung down too aggressively. I recall saying to myself, “He’s got a gun.”

    After seeing him pacing back in forth in front of Java House, a coffee shop at 17th and Q, where I was enjoying a solid, Italian roast, my central casting thug-type seemed to be following an older gentleman to rob him. I decided I was going to follow these two to keep the thug off balance. I grabbed my paper cup and followed the two about fifty feet back.

    Mr. Thug kept looking back at me while it appeared he was trying to catch up with the old man. In the meantime, I intentionally studied the young guy’s face, his height, his complexion, his clothing, as much info that I thought I might want to dictate back to the police. I noticed his very thick eyebrows especially. My focus was intense and my thought process very deliberate. I actually sensed this was one of those moments where I was being handed an opportunity to make a major difference in unfolding events.

    The young guy in the sweatshirt caught up with the senior who nervously crossed the street to disappear into the apartment building across from The Cairo. I felt relieved but decided to keep following the thug, nursing my cup of coffee, just trying to look like a guy heading home.

    I had the nerve to follow someone I thought was armed because police officers with whom I’d work on film shoots often mentioned that young criminals are terrible shots. “Unless they’re at point-blank range, chances are, they’ll miss.” I believed this guy wanted to get away from me more than he wanted to harm me.

    The thug kept looking back at me…
    He proceeded east on Q crossing 16th Street NW. Seconds later, after glancing in my direction repeatedly, he disappeared into an alley across the street from the side entrance of the Jewish Community Center. My gut told me not to follow Mr. Thug into the alley.

    At that point I heard sirens. I looked back, spotted two cop cars pulling up to the Georgetown Valet at 17th and Q, a block behind me, ran as fast as I could and asked the police officers what happened.

    “She was just robbed at gunpoint,” they barked while walking to the dry cleaners giving me a “what’s it to you, pal” look.

    “I think I know who did it.” I told them.

    “I’ll get into a car with one of you guys and stay with you until we find him.”

    They looked surprised, one motioned for me to get next to him in the police cruiser and we sped off. The other went into the cleaners. I heard a description of our suspect over the police radio and provided more descriptive details to the officer sitting next to me. He radioed that info back, and I was delighted to hear my updated version of the suspect’s appearance read by the police dispatcher.

    It took about an hour – maybe. We were joined by countless cruisers and a police helicopter buzzing around evening, rush hour traffic on 14th Street.

    We found our suspect crouching in an alley a few blocks away off of 13th. Tossed nearby were the gun used in the robbery, a tape from the dry cleaner’s security camera, cash and the phone used by the woman at the cleaners. I identified the guy with no doubt whatsoever in my head. I bet twenty-to-thirty cops shook my hand that night as I typed my own account into the police computer. I could type faster than the detective, had dinner plans and my date was waiting downstairs in the lobby at the station at 17th and V.

    In time I testified before the grand jury. The guy, aged 21, eventually confessed to multiple murders and armed carjackings. I remembered from the news one crime which he confessed — shooting a Korean grocer in the face in Anacostia. He was sentenced to prison, if my memory is correct, until he’s 95 years old.

    Was one of the best things I ever did.

    Unexpected rewards including a citation from then MPD Chief Ramsey and the U.S. Department of Justice, frosting on the cake. It just felt good to put a confessed murderer behind bars, and I am forever grateful for the professional work done by the Metropolitan Police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

    I wondered how many families and friends would have been spared enormous emotional pain if someone had acted to stop that guy before me, let alone the lives that were denied to the people this guy decided to snuff out.

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