MPD Can’t Win Even When They Win

DSCN4260, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

I think I have always been open with my disappointment in the Metropolitan Police Department. I have always been upset with their lack of (visible) foot patrols after touting a renewed community policing model. I unfortunately live in a neighborhood that has faced a resurgence in gang violence. This is not an easy problem. Gang violence is notoriously difficult to break for a variety of reasons. But don’t get me wrong, I think the police need to do more to crack the problem. Putting flood lights up after a shooting is not going to solve the problem. Many have suggested solutions including stiffer gun sentences among others. I strongly advocate targeted foot patrols. But that is not why I am writing this post.

I was dismayed to see DCist jump on the bandwagon seemingly criticizing MPD for their quick work arresting the accused Spevak murderers in Chevy Chase. They cynically write:

“Can’t help but feel like the speed of these arrests lies in direct proportion to how rich and white the victims are.”

Good grief. Believe me I want all murderers to be arrested regardless of who their victims are. But, hmm, perhaps there was evidence here that allowed them to make a quick arrest? Maybe a drive by shooting where little evidence exists is a bit harder to crack? It just seems beyond jaded to me to criticize the MPD for doing a good job.

Now, I don’t have the resources to be a crack reporter at the moment. I read the news and have many conversations with many folks around town. (Yup, I even take photographs of doors among other things.) But I’m not able to do the research necessary to make such a claim. I’m just going on gut instinct here. If these accusations are going to be made I’d like a similar comparison to judge MPD. Can someone remember a situation in which a poor black elderly couple were murdered (not a tragic shooting where the victim was killed by a stray bullet) and the crime was left unsolved?

Like I said, don’t get me wrong, MPD does need to do a better job in addressing many forms of violence, particularly gang violence. Believe me, I live blocks away from numerous shootings and I’m devastated by them. But I’m also going to say kudos to MPD for catching the perpetrators of this vicious crime in Chevy Chase.

23 Comment

  • I agree. Killers are killers. Perhaps the fact that these people were caught had more to do with their own stupidity.

  • It should also be mentioned that the intensity of coverage of crime on DCist lies in direct proportion to how rich and white the victims are.

    I have not seen the bias they assert, but maybe it’s because I’m rich and white. We’re pretty nasty people.

  • Vonstallin

    I will say that the Police didn’t do anything “out of the ordinary” to find the killers…
    Somebody called in that a partialy destroyed ID had the victims name on it next or inside the victims car that was set on fire.

    And the victims other cards were found not far from that spot. So it is unfounded to say that the polices gave this case “extra” attension. To tell the truth it was almost handed to them and they could just follow the dotted lines to the killers.

  • Maybe someone was “snitchen!” Jeesh. If people actually wanted the guilty caught and came forth with information and evidence, there would be more arrests. Per the threads on PoPs previous posts, it is clear that the African American community, for a variety of reasons does not want that.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Steve, I think that is completely unfair to say. You can’t label an entire community like that. Really quite ridiculous actually. I know many many folks in the African American community who are just as disgusted with crime as I am. I think you should reconsider your comment. It is quite offensive.

  • The Spevaks were not rich. These were people whose whole lives were dedicated to socially responsible causes. They were green and environmentally concerned before it was a popular issue. Ginny Spevak was a retired public school teacher who took in a foster child, a troubled girl, whose friend is now a prime suspect in the murders, along with her boyfriend. They were tied up and robbed of precious little, then beaten to death. I’m so upset by this crime, as the Spevaks would have probably given the criminals anything they wanted. They didn’t have to kill them.

  • Steve, you’re full of it. But since I’m personally full of turkey, pie*, and goodwill towards my fellow man, ima just let it go.

    Maybe for a new year’s resolution you can get to know some people in the “African American community” so you won’t sound so silly in the future.

    *Henry’s. 1704 U St NW. Sweet potato. Go. Now.

  • And on a serious tip — Anon 4:31 p.m., it sounds like you knew the Spevaks. I am so very sorry for your loss. From all I’ve read, it sounds like all of us have lost two people who brought a lot to the city.

  • Pop – Right you are and I do apologize if it is offensive. However I do continually read accounts of MPD having a hard time getting coorperation from city residence that is time and again chalked up to people not wanting to snitch. Now that could be due to decades of unfair treatment by authorities and I can respect that. I would have a great deal of skeptisim about waht they were really after, too. However, I recall a very interesting interview with a DC homicide decective (can’t remember his name, but he had great dreads and I think he got cashiered by Lanier). He basically reiterated the problme of no snitching in the african american community. After shootings, decective canvassed neighborhoods and no one would come forward. He also lameneted the fact that juries seemed reluctant send another black man to jail. Combined that with Nate’s discussion the other day of the reluctance to pass mandetory minimums and tough juvinel justice reforms for fear of alienating voters and what are you left to believe?

  • No, I didn’t know the Spevaks at all. I just have known people like them, based on reading news accounts of the couple. And the irony is the family’s burned out stolen car was found in an alley at 5th and Ingraham, right near where someone dear to me just bought a house.

  • The reluctance to pass mandatory minimums is something attributed to Councilmember Phil Mendelson. Last I checked, he was white. The person who promoted mandatory minimuns on the council is Marion Barry. Last time I checked, he was black.

    This “no snitching” thing I think has gotten blown WAAAAAY out of proportion by people who are looking for reasons to justify their racist feelings. “Crime would be so much better if black people just didn’t LIKE crime so much!” Yes, we all like getting robbed and killed! Whatever.

    Yes, I think that “no snitching” type attitudes exist. But I think a lot of people don’t talk to police for a simple reason — they’re scared out of their minds. If you saw someone get shot, you know the shooter, the shooter lives in your neighborhood, and you know the police can’t protect you and your family every minute of the day…what are you going to do? It’s easy to make a bunch of noble pronouncements when it’s not you. I can imagine pausing and calculating my options if I were in that situation, and it doesn’t have to do with anything so grand as a disdain of the police or being mad about years of unfair treatment. It could just be plain old fear.

    As for not sending another black man to jail…there seem to be plenty of black men in jail and *someone* is sending them there. I very much doubt it’s all-white juries, since in DC you can’t even get an all-white jury, even if you wanted to.

    So Steve, stop picking and choosing your data points to make grand pronouncements. Relax and have some pie.

    As for the idea that their killers wouldn’t have been caught if the couple weren’t white…anyone who could do a crime like this would not be thinking “oh, let me limit my marauding and murdering to ‘rich’ white people!” Non-rich, non-white me is VERY happy that suspects have been caught.

  • Here’s an unsolved Petworth homicide that’s pretty much the opposite of the Spevak case.

    I heard the gunshots. No one has been arrested. A year later, a neighbor told me everyone knows who did it (but they aren’t telling me, or the police).

    Pretty much the opposite of the Spevak case. I think a big difference is this guy’s friends and family don’t seem to care very much for someone to get arrested and no one wants to cooperate with the police.

    Meanwhile in the Spevak case the motivation was robbery and the thieves left a trail of evidence across the city…

  • I work with someone who lives on that block, and he described the Spivaks to me in the same terms as Anon. 4:31 above. Quiet, green, not at all rich (bought their house years ago, when it was possible to get into Friendship Heights pretty cheap). Way to keep your eye on the ball, DCist.

  • I would agree that scared out thier minds is a big problem too and that relateds directly to failures of MPD that go along with PoPs post here. I think we can agree that there are things everyone can do better. I guess the point I was trying to make with my comments was that this crime was solved with speed by the fact that people seemed to have provided information to the police. When people don’t provide information, for what ever reason, to MPD, solving the crime and making arrests is much slower. Now something to watch in this case is how MPD protects those who cooperated given that this is a gang related crime.

  • For anyone who is a member of the MPD 4D listserve, you already know that there have been several attempts to create community watch groups in some of the more troubled areas in Petworth. The Guardian Angles, for example, have recently started community walk-throughs on Longfellow St. and some other areas that have seen recent increases in street crime. Disappointment has been expressed by some members of the listserve about the lack of resident participation, but, it has also been noted, that previous attempts at such activities have resulted in citizens being targeted, harassed, and assaulted. I have provided information to police concerning a shooting and, I have to admit, I was a little scared afterwards about possible recrimination. And, this was about a crime committed by people who were long gone and not likely to return. I can’t imagine the courage it takes to provide information on criminals who frequent your neighborhood. Yes, we all want crime to lessen and criminals to be punished. But, given DC’s propensity for releasing criminals soon after their arrests, think about what it would be like to have the very same person/persons on whom you provided information standing on your corner the very next day. I don’t care if you are black, white, orange, or purple, I think that would give anyone pause.

  • One time, neighbor Charles and I saw 3 boys causing mischief in the alley and called the police. I wanted to give a very good description, but let me tell you it can be difficult to describe boys other than their approximate age, race, skin tone, and what color clothes they were wearing, which isn’t permanent anyway.

  • I knew Mr. Spevak. A LOT of people knew the Spevaks because they were out and about and in your face about environmental issues. I met them, gosh, multiple times from around 1999-2004 and then I dropped out of the “Green” community.

    I would describe them as hippy professionals. They might have been real hippies in graduate school in the 1990s.

    The DCist commentary is bizarre, but not entirely wrong. The Spevaks probably had a very direct connection to their killers that was easy to trace. I know when talking to the police lieutenant that when they’re trying to track down a shooter in an incident if the intended victim, a drug dealer, won’t talk and they know he knows, I was given a number by the police, but will replace it with 14 known criminal associates and the police have to track down 14 people who are hiding from them or won’t talk… Yes the rich and white murders will get solved more merely because they are less likely to be connected to any violent criminals.

    This is not true even as close as Philadelphia where the answer is not “rich and white” but merely “rich” as cocaine dealers I saw there had shamrock neck tattoos.

  • I didn’t see or read anything about this arrest that made me think the police put extra effort into it. It sounded more like coincidental happenings with a splash of luck and ton of ignorance on the part of the perpetrators (the perps).

    I have seen the police treat homicides differently though. no doubt about it. And I’ve seen people avoid the police after incidences. I think these situations are a lot more complicated than the word “snitch” implies.

    I’ve also seen a huge push by the police to be more visible in the area where the recent shooting happened in petworth. I’ve seen a police car come through the alley. this shocked me and should have been done a long time ago. I think they are on the right track and I appreciate that the things said by the police chief, in the recent neighborhood meeting are being put into action. so I’d like to say thank you to Chief Lanier. She said it, and so far, it’s happening.

  • Can someone remember a situation in which a poor black elderly couple were murdered (not a tragic shooting where the victim was killed by a stray bullet) and the crime was left unsolved?

    Yes, I know this answer. Mary Pratt was killed like 10 years ago in her apartment and she was an elderly woman robbed of her wedding ring. Also, uh, there were like 3 guys who were shot execution style and their muderer has never been caught. Also two young women killed in an apartment in SE and they weren’t caught. But no, there is no comparable elderly married couple.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Obviously there are cases that haven’t been solved. All I was trying to say was that with similar evidence regardless of race and/or class the crime would be solved (faster). I should have phrased my question to better reflect that sentiment.

  • Any crime would be solved this quick if MPD had lucky breaks like they did on this one. The case was “cracked” because the female defendant spilled her guts. Appearantly “no snitching” has not caught on in the Salvadorian gang community. After all, it took MPD and the US Atty’s office over a year to indict those roomates for obstruction (not even murder) in the killing the “rich” lawyer in DuPont. DCist seems to have convieniently forgotten that story. Heck, the suspects in that case were all living at the scene of the crime and they have (so far) got away with it.

  • One must also take into account that there are some corrupt DC police that lead to the lack of witnesses. Think about the lady officer caught in a drug raid at her home in Petworth. If she were canvassing the scene of a murder and you knew she sold drugs, would you be willing to give information to her or any other officer for that matter?

  • Christina,

    Thank you for responding to that idiotic comment by Steve regarding snitching in the black community. You hit the nail right on the head.

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