PoP Pontificates

DSCN4570, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

On Friday I told you about the MPD Inspector who requested your help to keep a juvenile robber behind bars.

The Washington Post reported on it Saturday. In the comments section of Friday’s post Herb says:

Nickles got more messages than he cared to count and said the orchestrated letter-writing campaign was inappropriate.

“I don’t mind getting 20 e-mails about a particular problem that reflects the unique perspective of people in the community, but I don’t approve of an organized campaign to send me 50 e-mails,” he said.

“I haven’t touched them,” he added. “I told my secretary to put them in a pile.”

Now I’ll be the first one to say that MPD has some flaws. But in this particular instance I support them 100%. I think we all need to support them in this case. They caught the perpetrator multiple times. Can’t really ask much more from MPD than that. So let’s make sure the the Council and AG hear us loud and clear. We will not tolerate the release of juvenile repeat offenders into our communities. Right? We have a lot of power in numbers. We must band together and support MPD.

Neener suggests we write the Council:
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

Let’s do whatever we can to help keep dangerous criminals off the street no matter what age they are. It is a very sad state of affairs when the police have to encourage the community to pressure the judicial system. But if that’s what it has come down to. Well, then hell, let’s freaking help. Let’s write and let our voices be heard. Let’s make sure Nickles ( [email protected]) has 5000 emails in his inbox if he’s going to be so cavalier about the situation. People have been asking for a long time what they can do to help the situation? Well, here is a concrete example of how you can help. You may also want to write about your concern for mandatory sentencing of those who use handguns in a crime. It does not matter what neighborhood or Ward you live in, the issue of street crime affects us all. Now let’s do what we, sadly, are compelled to do and we’ll find out if the pen truly is mightier than the sword.

50 Comment

  • Thanks PoP for continuing to be on top of this issue.

    Just to be clear, in my comment Saturday I was quoting the Washington Post article.

    Does anyone have an email address for Mayor Fenty? He is ultimately responsible and is Mr. Nickle’s boss.

  • MPD has enough trouble catching someone once. The least we can do is give them a little dap when they manage to collar some guy 3 times.

  • Nickles’ arrogance nearly cost him his job — he barely scraped by on a council vote last week — based on this comment, it probably should have. The issue is clearly institutional, if the system is allowing this to happen — you can damn well bet this is not an isolated situation. Therefore, it requires an institional level response, and Nickles’ cavalier attitude does not inspire high hopes. There is simply no way that a repeat offender with serious mental health issues, who poses a public safety risk, should be out on the streets. You can’t constitutionally try someone who is unfit to stand trial, but every other jurisdiction that I know of has facilities and programs in place to keep dangerous, mentally unstable individuals, child or adult, from simply roaming the streets terrorizing the public (for their own sakes, as well as the public’s). This is inexcusable and something the MSM should really be covering. We all know the juvenile justice system in D.C. is a joke. I’ve set it before and I will say it again — I predict in a post-Heller D.C. that folks are going to start taking matters into their own hands, several kids are going to be shot and maimed or killed in self-defense, and only then will D.C. politicians take notice. Disgraceful.

  • PoP, could you keep this entry at the top of your blog posts for the day or perhaps longer? This raises both juvenile criminal justice and public official responsiveness issues, important areas that truly affect our quality of life. I was extremely disappointed by Peter Nickles comments to the Post and think he should face repercussions.

  • That is a good idea John. It is likely that this young man’s mother knows what he is doing? I know of a couple young boys on my block that have tacit approval from their parents (mother) to sell drugs. And that is the bigger issue that can not be solved. When your mother gives you the ok to commit crime, it is hard for external forces to counteract that.

    My mom would have killed I had disgraced her by having an email sent out about me. That does not apply anymore.

  • The takeway for residents should be this: turn off the ipod and keep your eyes open; always know who’s behind you and how close they are. Keep your hands free. Be aware of the elderly, disabled, mothers, etc — be ready to back them up if someone decides to try and take advantage. The fact that six of these incidents happened (according to the Delgado email) in a well-lit, well-traveled, enclosed place like the metro is embarassing in its own right.

  • Based on past threads on this site, the Saturday’s article in the Post, fights in the schools, and Colbert King’s reporting, the City’s Juvinal Justice System needs to be tossed in the trash can and rebuilt. It is just a joke.

  • I know the system is broken but I have to ask “where are the parents?” This kid is a juvenile, apparently he has some developmental or mental health issues that have enabled him to go free (per judge’s order) so why aren’t the parents being held responsible? I would like to see the parents come to a community meeting to answer questions as to why they have allowed this behavior to go on.

  • I think the age for a juvenile should be adjusted. It is hard to argue that a 15-16 y/o young man is unaware of the consequences of his actions.

  • Well is it any surprise what a joke things are when our own council members don’t seem to be doing much about things that we have made very clear, that we the community they represent, care about? In response to my email about this one incident, I received a reply from one of the council members saying she “hoped” the judge would make a decision to also keep this criminal off the street. She hopes…that to me sounds like an easy answer that really says “Kalia stop emailing me, I agree with you, but I’m not doing anything about it, just “hoping”.”

  • nate, I agree with that for sure. You can’t tell me a 15-16 year old doesn’t know that if you attack and rob someone you get in trouble? A 4 year old can tell you if they bite their sister they will get a spanking or time out. I don’t think we give the youth of today enough credit.

  • Kalia,
    This issue is very sensitive politically. The councilmembers in Wards 4,5,7,8 have to tread lightly so as not to be seen as cowering to the white councilmembers and their constituents. There are lot of voters in these wards that excuse these crimes as a sympton of racism/poverty, instead of what they really are. Tough policing would bring an outcry from constituents in these wards.

    In turn, the councilmembers can not take a STRONG stance on this without throwing a bone to those same constituents. Barry makes his living making excuses for this behavior. Remember, Barry was “robbed” recently and refused to tell on the people that robbed him. What better way to perpetuate this behavior than a councilmember refusing to “snitch”. No councilmember from either of the aformentioned wards is willing to be seen as tough on crime when the result will be large numbers of young black men being given tough prison sentences. That will quickly get you the “Uncle Tom” label as many people in these wards felt about Mayor Williams.

    Anyone hear about the car of the dead couple being burned in the 500 block of Ingraham?

    “Four miles from the Spevaks’ home, in the center of an alley off the 500 block of Ingraham Street NW, a pile of ashes and broken glass lay next to a yard full of old cars. The ashes were the wreckage of the Spevaks car, which was set ablaze just before 4 a.m. yesterday, neighbors said. “

  • Kalia:

    The key here is for us to keep up the pressure. It’s very clear to me that since the ANC meeting, now nearly two weeks ago, the council members fully expected us to forget about these situations and move on.

    For instance, they “hope” that shootings in the future will be confined to those parts of the city where they can more easily ignore their failure to respond to this issue. I know that people in Ward 8 and other parts of NE and SE that constantly deal with shooting after shooting are easily as upset as we are and do their best to get through to the council, but it really is incumbent upon us, the door and coffee shop fancying class, to do more. We have the time and the resources that many of our fellow citizens do not have, and it is long past time that we demand that the council take a stand against gun violence that doesn’t involve easy slogans and empty gun laws (such as the ban).

    It is true that a juvenile justice system that allows an offender like this boy to be released without any care to his future or ours is a tragedy. I am all for reforming the juvenile justice system so that it protects innocent victims and delivers real opportunities to turn young people around, deliver the mental health resources they need, and effectively deter future offenses, but that is A HUGE issue with no easy solutions. In a way, I am sure that the council would love to be distracted from specific legislative fixes to, for example, the gun possession laws, with some sort of wide-ranging debate into juvenile justice reform that goes nowhere. They’d love that. To me concern about “juvenile crime” and “ending the drug war” are distractions from what can concretely be done NOW.

    What I’d ask is that everyone try to remain focused on getting our council to commit to reforming the laws regarding repeat gun offenders. Let’s get this one thing done. Most of the legislation is already written, we need only put the screws to the council until they do what they should have done years and years ago.

    Robbery, assault, and drug crime are a blight on this city, but the excessive number of handguns, and the lack of any sanctions for their possession, leads to many, many deaths. To me this is the priority. If we start a wide-ranging assault on the council that amounts to “do something about crime!” nothing will be done.

    We must remain laser-focused. We need to see through gun reforms first, if possible, and identify the positions of our council members. Those that oppose reasonable reforms should be identified and their positions should be publicized.

    This is my opinion. This opinion is based on attending the meeting and seeing the glaring absence of any concern about *preventing* gun crime (and gun crime victims) and the council member’s pathetic response — i.e. ignoring me and other constituents that have tried to contact them.

    For those of you who have contacted Mendelson, Bowser, or any other council member and either received a response, or like me, failed to get a response, I would like to hear from you about that if you are willing to discuss it with me. My e-mail is “[email protected]”.

    I’m not just going to forget about it. How about you?

  • Nate – I am not arguing here – just make sure I want to understand. You are saying that the DC Council tacitly approves for criminal behavior in order not to upset thier voters? It actually makes a degree of sense in a self preserving sort of way. In the bigger picture it is just nuts.

  • Steve:

    The council can do this, typically, because there is no pressure on them to do otherwise. They don’t want to be exposed on their positions regarding, for example, the pathetic state of handgun sanctions in the city because it would show them in a bad light. They actively avoid stating they are against increasing sanctions because they know it is an indefensible position. The ANC meeting was hilarious (and pathetic at the same time) as Bowser and Mendelson used Lanier as a stalking horse to attack the judges. The judges who sentence people BASED ON THE LAWS THE COUNCIL HAS PASSED! This argument that judges are “soft” is a red herring. 95% cases are plea agreements with a defined range of punishment. It has nothing to do with the judges. The only way to insure that a felon with a prior gun possession charge (or worse) gets a particular sentence is for the council to enact mandatory minimums for dangerous repeat offenders. Something they currently are avoiding even *discussing* because they are cowards.

    To me, the key here is to keep up pressure on the council on the SPECIFIC issue of gun sanctions, otherwise they will retreat to “hoping” as Kalia found out.

  • Odentex – I just sent ann email to Thomas (my council member).

  • a couple of replys that i received to an email i sent to every address listed by neener and dreas this morning:

    Mr ____ – thanks for your message. I assure you that I am no friend of criminals, and certainly no friend of repeat offenders. I have been very outspoken about the poor way our system deals juvenile offenders and will continue to work with all parties until more sound policies are in place.


    Muriel Bowser
    Ward 4 Councilmember
    Council of the District of Columbia


    Please do not link me to Peter Nickles. I for one believe that dangerous juveniles should not be released. The key here tho is the court which will make the decision.
    Mary Cheh

  • Steve,
    Yes, that is exactly what I saying. Think about it this way. To actually deter some crime, police would have to be VERY aggressive. I mean loitering could not be tolerated. Drinking in public could not be tolerated. Temp tag riders would be aggressively stopped. Young men caught with guns could not get out of jail the next day. Unfortunately, there are many dirty cops on DC’s force that will wrongly arrest people in the process.

    This would disproportionately affect young black men in Wards 4,5,7,8. Inevitably, there would be some collateral damage as some innocent people would get harassed as well. People would feel that the city is against them when they see cop after cop arresting, searching black men. Many of these people do vote.

    I’ll be honest with you and tell you that even I feel this way. I have seen young black men in Petworth taken to jail for drinking out of a plastic cup in their own front yard. I have seen police jump out on young men loitering on the sidewalk in front of their own home and searched. No probable cause. They were not drug dealers. I have seen these same young men taken to jail for a joint in their pocket or a nickel bag of weed in their sock.

    The mothers of these young men are not happy about this perceived mistreatment. I am torn because I don’t think it actually solves the root of the problem. To solve some of the problems involves allowing police to “take the gloves off”.

    Councilmembers are not willing to invite someone to challenge them for their seat. It is far easier to pacify these people with paying their gas bill as these people are already tolerant of a fair amount of crime and violence.

  • Peter Nickles does not live in the District; he’s a bridge-and-tunnel commuter like many who take from this community while giving nothing back. A disgrace.

  • Nickles is an arrogant jerk for his response to this, expressing “disapproval.” Guess what? WE HAVE NO ALTERNATIVE. If it hadn’t come down to an actual police commander telling us how frustrated he is at his inability to keep criminals off the street, if we hadn’t been through this a hundred times at community meetings with no change in the system, then maybe we wouldn’t be resorting to a campaign of annoyance.

    Mr. Nickles, if you are reading this, then maybe you should reconsider your incredibly insensitive position on this issue and ask yourself why it’s happening. Maybe you should actually use your position of power and show us that you are on our side, instead of just being another cronie who got a plum job from his buddy Adrian.

    I knew Linda Singer personally before she was the Attorney General. I always thought she was a person of integrity. It seemed as if she was basically forced to resign because she was being prevented from doing her job, and our fine mayor had Mr. Nickles all set up to fill that seat. Despite the illegality of his occupying that role as a non-resident, and apparently also as someone who doesn’t really give a rat’s ass.

    That’s a real shame, because we could really use someone with integrity right now.

  • Peter Nickles responded to my email…

    “Thank you for message – we will do our best for you and others in the community”

    Pretty lame. His poor secretary must be very busy if this is all she could come up with.

  • Before we start a witch-burning, what exactly is Nickles’s role in all this? Yes, I know he’s an arrogant so-and-so and Fenty’s hired gun.

    I thought it was mostly the US Attorney’s Office, whatever judge let this creep out, and the juvenile authorities who let him escape from detention who are largely to blame.

  • reply received from peter nickles:

    Agree with your concerns and we must do better / quote in paper taken out of context – appreciate your note and emails from all in the community

  • Steve:

    Again, we have to remain focused on the council. The US Atty and the judges (a) do not pass the laws, and (b) are not elected. The idea that pressing a judge will make a difference overall is ludicrous. Perhaps you get him/her to get tough with one defendant. What about the other 49,999 defendants each year in DC? The city council can effect ALL of those cases with legislation.


    Again, you branch out to this notion that we need to totally remake the system, that there is a general lawlessness that makes these problems unsolvable. I believe you are wrong. People had the same attitude in NYC in 1991. Further, simply railing against the generally bad behavior of some younger (and not so younger) people serves no purpose. We have to start somewhere. That somewhere, I believe, is to finally take seriously the possession and use of firearms. The number one problem in this city.

    This railing, railing, and railing without any real direction or course of action will guarantee one thing and one thing only: nothing will change.

    Once we corner the council and force them to deal with the insufficient sanctions for repeat dangerous gun offenders, then we’ll talk about loitering… and perhaps mandatory jailtime for mean landlords. 😉

  • Steve,

    I was floored that you were not aware that the City Council, elected DC officials and/or DC City employees tacitly approved of some crimes and criminals as representing a “Robin Hood” approach against powers that seek to control the city. I have known that my entire life.

    Look at the MLK quote that it up on the DC historical society:

    “Riots are the Voice of the Voiceless.”

    Well, on the flipside, there were families who owned their own mom and pop store on 14th St or H St whose livelihoods were destroyed in those riots through no fault of their own.

    Recently I’ve read stories, and I mean like 25 blog postings, that Michelle Rhee needed to take into account gang turf wars when combining Anacostia Sr High with another Sr High and she didn’t. These DC officials are suggesting that GANGS DICTATE DC TAXPAYER FUNDING!

    Steve, regarding your “witch-burning” comment. You are out of line. If you don’t know what Nickles’ role is in this, that’s fine, but why assume I don’t?

    Nickles can decide, ultimately, which case of someone arrested gets sent for prosecution. Where I used to live, pretty much all possession cases got sent for some kind of prosecution- someone goes to trial or goes into a rehab program or does community service. In DC I know of people who were arrested for possession and Peter Nickles’ office recommended letting them out of jail scot free. No trial, no community service, no rehab, just “good bye, we kept you here for a weekend, now your record shows nothing.” That is not acceptable.

  • FYI, by way of comparrison, in liberal New York City the illegal possession of a loaded firearm carries with it a mandatory minimum punishement of 3 1/2 years in prison. In our fair city there is no minimum. Time served is often handed out.

    Gee. I wonder why nobody is too worried about carrying a gun in DC? I bet you a million dollars the one person I know who has admitted to carrying a weapon illegally in DC (who could that be?) wouldn’t be carrying it if he faced a 3 1/2 jolt.

    At least one person deterred.

    This is something council can actually do something about.

  • Odentex,
    NYC has very different demographics than DC and most other inner cities. There is a large, very large swath of wealthy, not just simply rich people in NYC. Also consider that NYC’s cops are very aggressive. They do pat downs on the street. Loitering is not as tolerated in NYC as DC because of this. As a result, they also have issues like the Louima, Diallo and Sean Bell case. The constituents in Wards 4,5,7,8 would riot if DC MPD shot at an unarmed black male 50 times. Again, that points to the unique racial dynamic of DC as opposed to NYC. NYC is very diverse. It is a very different dynamic.

    NYC also has a different political scene. Four of the 8 wards in DC are mostly black lower-working class constituents, unlike Washington Heights and some parts of the Bronx that are heavily Dominican/Hispanic. Our wards consistently vote for councilmembers that help them with day to day living as opposed to quality of life issues.

    If you want to compare DC, I think you should look at cities that are more comparable. Start with Baltimore or ATL.

  • I got a similar reply from Nickles

    “You are right about quote – we must do better to meet your concerns”

    I was also copied on an email from Graham to Nickles reply of:

    “The quote was taken out of context – I work very closely with MPD and the individual in question was restrained as many requested”

    Graham replied

    Thanks. If you can be a little more specific on the “restraint”, it may make sense to publicize that fact. Bests CM Jim

  • Neener is right regarding the school issue as an example of how a certain level of violence is tolerated. There are many people in DC that view gentrification as more of a threat to them than the crime and violence. As such, they will vote for people that “fight” for them. That is code for fighting the whites that are “running them out of the city”. No councilmember is going to go against his own self interest.
    Note how former Mayor Williams is hated in many wards of the city.

    Ask any councilmember in Wards 4,5,7,8 about the bulk of their constituent requests. It isn’t to stop crime and violence as much as it is to help them day to day. Crime and violence is not even at the top of the list. At Ballou HS last week, there was a parent meeting regarding violence. Of 1100 students, only 24 parents showed. That shows you that violence, even in the school, is not at the top of their agenda.

  • Odentex and Other Knowledgeable Commenters,

    Is there a specific bill that we can reference in our correspondence with the council? As it was stated, I think being specific in our requests of our officials is critical to keep them from wiggling off the hook. If there is no specific bill we would like introduced? If not, what’s the proper verbiage of the message that should be sent to the council members?

  • Nate: We’ve done this dance before. NYC is a city of 10 million people, and the largest urban African American population in the USA, much larger than the AA population in DC. There are twice as many “working class blacks” in Brooklyn than there are blacks altogether in all of DC. Further, there twice as many New Yorkers under the poverty line (1.5 million) than there are people in DC. The per-capita income in DC is DOUBLE the per-capita income of NYC. 19% of DC residents are under the poverty line, while 23% of NYC is under the poverty line.

    Besides, you can’t change history. NYC went from a crime-ridden city to the safest urban enviroment in the USA in a few short years. If you insist on using a smaller city for comparision, the better example is Newark, which went from the most dangerous US city in 1996 to a place that is much safer than DC today. All with a very similar “demographic”.

    You can poo-poo changing DC if that makes you happy.

  • Geezer: There is an “Omnibus Crime Bill of 2008” that has some mandatory minimums included in it. However, my personal opinion is that the bill should also include a mandatory minimum for ANY repeat gun possession, not just gun possession by people previously convicted of a violent felony (the current provision). So, when referencing the Omnibus Bill also ask their position of a mandatory minimum for repeat gun offenders regardless of a violent prior offense.

  • DC is quite different from NYC and Newark. Many issues here are seen in black and white. There are no cries of Native Newark resident as there are among native Washingtonians. I tell you that the dynamic is wholly different. But hey we agree to disagree.

    Many NYC residents, especially the BK residents, are from the Caribeans (Haiti, VI, Jamaica, Trini). They are not comparable to native Washingtonians that feel an ownership of the city. Some of the most prestigious blacks, black organizations, and black Universities were founded in DC. The first mayor was black. Native Washingtonians have held leadership positions in this city for the last 30 years or so. Not so much in NYC. The feeling of losing your position dies hard. That’s why they rail against Rhee and others who attempt to upset the apple cart. In their eyes, DC may not have been run well, but it is theirs.

    Among many native Washingtonians, there is a feeling that they are losing their grip of the city. As such, gentrification becomes a bigger issue than crime and violence.

    And the city leaders play on that. How else could a Barry and Sandy Allen get elected over and over? Look at how differently relative newcomers see issues versus native Washingtonians. When Ward 4 banned single beer sales (read: catering to the whites), I was all forward. Older generations of Washingtonians were against it. Same can be said for parking on Sundays. Ditto for crime. When it comes to crime, a lot of blacks see the city doing something about it now because of the whtie people moving in. In other words, now the city wants to arrest all the blacks to make way for the whites. This is not the way I feel. I am simply echoing the sentiments of a lot of people I meet on the street.

  • Neener – Steve 12:59 is a different Steve.

  • Yeah Nate, but those things you mentioned all changed. DC is going to continue to change because people aren’t going to accept that crime is just part of livin’ in the city.

  • nate-Dont forget the fact that Atlanta has an extremely wide swath of wealthy ( as opposed to , say, rich) African Americans… The income disparity might be similar to DC’s -but….

  • Thanks for posting this. I just send a letter to the councilmembers. I was a victim of a similar attack (from behind, in broad daylight) near Cardoza, at 13th and Clifton last spring. Unfortunately, immediately after this happened, my only thought was: how many times will these young men do this (I was attacked by 3 teens together) before they get caught? Apparently 20+
    I was thinking more along the lines of

  • Totally not the most important message in this thread, but it annoys me how Mr. Nickles is saying that his quote was taken “out of context.” Exactly what was the “out of context” part — that he’s annoyed by organized letter-writing campaigns, or that he told his secretary to put them in a pile?

  • lol – I wondered the same thing, I also thought it was funny that he printed them out! Maybe he’s just not used to getting alot of emails? If one of my parents got fifty emails in the same day they would freak out — of course, they’re also both in their 60’s and not very tech-savvy…

  • another minor point: it says a lot that nickles a)has a person he refers to as “my secretary,” and b)has her print out all his emails. Not the most sensitive, progressive guy.

  • Perhaps THAT’S the part that’s “out of context” — I would think Nickles knows his way about a Crackberry. I’d be surprised if he’s printing out all his emails.

    But just the idea that its all out of context — like he’s saying “Oh, that dumb reporter, what I *meant* to say is that I understand their concerns entirely and we’re taking action!” Um, no. I suspect the reporter made him sound like an insensitive boor because he kinda was being that way, at least in the interview.

  • Odentex,

    I thought the crime bill provided a 2 year minimum for someone who had a prior felony conviction (which I guess, could be possession of a firearm without a license) and then a higher minimum, I think 5 years, if the prior felony was violent.

    Was I reading that incorrectly?

  • Update on the multiply-arrested young man that started all this: the Post wrote a story about the letter-writing campaign, and stated that the teen was still in custody as of last Friday evening. Turns out that he had been released Friday afternoon and is still at large.


    And Peter Nickles is sounding less angry about his full in-box.

  • “And Peter Nickles is sounding less angry about his full in-box.”

    Maybe his secretary finally finished printing them all out.

  • I spoke to people about this individual. He is no longer a minor, apparently, but he… gosh, not sure what I can morally share here, he is not mentally fit to recognize how his crimes hurt others. They sent him to a group home but he doesn’t recognize rules and he ran away. I do not believe he belongs in the district, but needs to be sent to a program out of the city.

  • HBD: I think the problem is there may be a loophole if the offense is under 22-4504 (carrying a concealed weapon) since the amendment in the bill only covers 22-4503 (carrying an illegal weapon). Because part of the “problem” is that the US Atty and PD’s will always be looking for a way to bargain down a tough case, something like this could result in everything being charged under 4504 to avoid the mandatories. A repeated violation of 4504 gets you a higher maximum (10), but no minimum at all. Tah-dah, you’ve found a way to avoid the tough new mandatories in 4503.

    My view is that if the US Atty can’t prove their case they shouldn’t bring it, and if the evidence is sufficient they shouldn’t be afraid of a fight on the occasional offender that insists on a trial.

Comments are closed.