Dear PoP – Kids Throwing Projectiles at Bus

A “gangsta” kid on the bus in Hull!, originally uploaded by Steve Brandon.

Ed. Note: Photo found on Flickr from Ottawa, Canada

“Dear PoP,

Today I was walking home from work on 16th St. NW, about a block behind a large group of kids probably around the age of 14-18. They were generally being loud, boisterous, and threatening to those around them so I kept my distance. If it ended at that, I probably wouldn’t even be remembering this right now. However, every time a Metrobus would drive past them, they would start throwing some sort of projectiles (looked like snowballs or ice but couldn’t really tell). I could see everything they were doing and was probably far enough away to call 911 but didn’t do so, fearing for my safety. Now, when I think about it, I probably could’ve gotten away with calling, following the kids from a block away, and updating the police on where they were. However, given the priorities of the DC police, do you believe this is something they would even bother to respond to? Has anyone else seen a group of kids around this area doing this sort of thing? While some would see this as a break, throwing that crap at buses (or cars if they so decided to) could result in a major traffic accident.”

I definitely would’ve called 911. No question. Since there’s no snow on the ground they were clearly not throwing snowballs. Whatever they were throwing, it can be an extremely dangerous situation. If a similar situation would arise, I’d hang back and tell the cops where the incident(s) occurred and they will definitely send a car to investigate.

Would anyone else feel uncomfortable calling the cops in a similar situation?

51 Comment

  • People shouldn’t feel uncomfortable calling the cops even if the people your calling on can here you doing it. Stay on 911 till they get there if your uncomfortable. If people don’t call the cops then we might as well hand our city over to the thugs, end of story.

  • Was riding on a bus on Halloween evening about 8pm and as we passed the Harvard st/ 16th st stop, an egg hit the side windows of the bus, just missing an open window. The bus driver seemed a little agitated but didn’t make any attempt to find out who it was or to report it.

  • Yes, definitely would have called 911, and stayed on the phone with them until police arrived, keeping back a safe distance. Everyone walking around has a phone glued to their ear anyway, so they wouldn’t likely single you out as the caller. Cliff is right, if we don’t at least call police when we see things like this, we may as well hand over the keys to the city to the thugs.

  • “Did rules ever stop a child.”

  • This blog post reminds me of a support group for people “dealing” with “natives”. Not your fault, but do better.

  • CALL 911! There was no excuse not to do that.

    I overheard kids talking about egging houses on Halloween and I reported what they looked like to 911 and they gave me some lip service, but at least I don’t feel so guilty that I had to write to POP the next day.

  • Sounds like kids throwing eggs for Halloween.

    If its your neighborhood, I suggest you call a longtime resident, or some older male figure that is respected in the area (Boys & Girls Club leader, gang intervention young male leaders, mid-20s/30s men on the block that get respect, etc.)

    I got into this same trouble at this age — how you’re handled can have a big impact. An understanding but firm adult male (cop neighborhood guy, or otherwise) can make it a good experience, and a chance to reach out. Being chased by an angry cop or accosted by a bitter new resident can just cement that feeling of “I’m bad” or “I’m an outsider” and the thrill and guilt of it usually becomes a bonding thing for the young guys — so do you want them to bond with a role model, or each other in their veiled guilt and adrenaline sensation. The latter is a path to isolation and trouble.

    Because it’s a city and young teenagers are the source of a lot of crime and violence, that the tendency is to be afraid and want to have the police make them disappear. Keep in mind that in the suburbs (where most of PoP readers come from), this kind of teenage Halloween pranking is looked on w/ a little nostalgia/sentimentality. Anyway, ideally, get someone who they respect to handle it. If you don’t know anyone like that… well, then you’re not exactly a part of your neighborhood, are you? Depending where you live, if you get someone’s kids in serious (and expensive) trouble — without finding a simpler and more neighborly way to resolve it — you might just become the focus of neighborhood resentment, instead of the pranksters.

    If you think that sounds naive, I’m drawing on memory of a young couple who had to move when a 14 year old neighborhood kid they were friendly with, stole/took the husband’s scooter joyriding. The man called the police, and the neighborhood hated him for it. Someone the kid’s age ended up holding a knife to the wife’s throat a week later, on her doorstep… and they decided they had to move. Not saying they were really in the wrong, but they maybe didn’t know there were better options, and everyone lost out.

  • Dumb Question: Can’t the bus driver radio the police?

    It probably was kids throwing eggs for Halloween. I did not know kids still did that. I figured they were to busy texting, playing PS3 / Wii etc.

  • BTW – THAT is the photo of a ‘Gangsta’ kid…lol you gotta be kidding.

  • If its not your neighborhood, might as well call the police, or the youth outreach/gang interventions types if they’re near by (they’re probably more likely to recognize the kids than cops can anyway.) If 14 yr olds are starting trouble in other people’s neighborhoods.. its a recipe for sparking some dumb beef, or worse, young guys trying to ‘buy into’ some existing beef belonging to older teens/guys in their neighborhood.

  • I find this picture and this post offensive; something undesirable to see early this morning and unsuitable under the banner, PoP Welcome to the Beautiful Life.

  • Oh c’mon, YOU didn’t throw snowballs at buses (or the UPS truck, even better) when you were a kid? Occasionally some neighborhood busybody called the cops. Running when we saw the car coming only added to the fun. This was in white suburbia.

  • Anonymous 8:59 – what does while suburbia have to do with it, why bring that up? Makes you sound like an appologist for bad behavior. I grew up in white suburbia too, and we egged and TP’ed houses just like you. People called the police on us not because they were busy-bodies but because they care about their neighbors. We were caught and got in lots of trouble. That was the last time I ever went out doing stuff like that. Cops don’t usually arrest for this type of thing. 2 years ago I caught some kids egging my neighbors house and I held one of them until the cops got there and we took the kid to his house (which was very close to mine even though I’d never seen the kid before). His parents yelled at him and told him to go to his room. If you ask me that situation played out exactly like it should have. Using your philosophy would just contribute to the downward spiral.

  • @Take5 – thank you for saying that! I am appalled at all of these posts that say essentially “kids will be kids”. Kids WILL be kids, but you still need to reprimand them, so they don’t grow up without any recourse.

  • I once saw teenages, perhaps around 13 or so throwing large (huge) bracnhces into the street to block cars at O street and 20th NW. I was hesitant to call 911 on the teens. I did and the polcie ddi not show up (I left after about 6 minutes).

  • Call the police. This attitude of…

    “However, given the priorities of the DC police, do you believe this is something they would even bother to respond to”

    …only provides Lanier and Fenty cover. Problems? What problems? No one is calling the police about it?

  • David has a good point and nobody really seemed to address the other question about police priorities. I’m not saying one should hesitate reporting a crime because you might be inconvenienced, but how long are you going to hang with 911, and how long are you going to follow them if it take the cops a half an hour to get there? I just can’t see MPD really caring that much. If you were near V Street on 16th, it might be worth flagging a cop down since the police station is right there, but I don’t know that calling 911 would have gotten a much different result than just letting it happen.

  • Herb,

    I don’t know how long you’ve been in this city or any city, but DC’s crime issues are not a recent invention. The DC police response is light years better than it’s ever been. Growing up in DC, we were 4 blocks from a substation and my dad caught a burgler into our 3rd story window and had him pinned for 45 minutes before he managed to wriggle free. The cops showed up 2.5 hours later. You can figure out for yourself who was in charge of the city in 1988.

  • Question: is there ice and snow over on 16th Street these days? If now, how were the kids throwing it?

    Definitely call the police, its part of the process that these kids need to learn, as I did.

  • I can’t tell you how much I hate the blame MPD because I did not call the cops attitude. Depending on what’s going on MPD might respond in under 3 minutes. On my way to work this morning I called 911 about a guy throwing things at cars at 9th and g. He hit my car with a cane. Cops showed up in time to question him at which point I left. However, if a shooting happened somewhere I would not expect a 5 minute response.

  • Also realize that once DC’s 911 call-takers get the call they’re probably going to kick it over to WMATA Metro Transit Police, of which there are VERY FEW citywide. If you do call 911 [and I recommended you do] be sure to get the bus number, route, direction of travel, etc. Try to get the bus driver to push a button on their dash it will flash ‘call 911’ on the outside of the bus to help police locate it, but often drivers won’t do this [or call 911 themselves] because it will slow their route and may delay them getting to the end of their shift.

  • @Ragged I’ve been here since 1984. My point is to call the police and at least get the issue recorded.

  • Actually, DON’T call 911 in situations like this. Call 311. 911 is for emergencies, and this clearly was not an emergency. 311 allows you to connect to city services INCLUDING non-police emergency situations. Since moving into the city in September, my husband and I have called 311 three times. Twice to have police ask our neighbors to tone down the noise at a loud party. The third time was to chase away some teenagers in our alley who were smoking weed. All three times they showed up and got the job done. In the third instance, the dispatcher asked for a descriptions of the youths, what they were wearing and so on. Two police cars showed up, talked to my husband in person, AND we got a call back from the dispatcher asking if the police arrived, and if we wanted to be interviewed. They will also take your name and address. This service has been great for us and our neighbors.

  • Ah Halloween, H Street corridor beware. Our favorite childhood prank was to unhook the streetcar or throw a leaf stuffed dead body onto the tracks or make a bonfire on the tracks. Yeah, people called the cops but kids are faster. Luckily the new streetcars won’t have overhead wires.

  • PoP, are you sure that you are attributing that “gangsta” picture to the right person. Looks more like a Matt Dunn “tough” photo to me.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    @anon the photo was titled by the original flickr user who took the photo.

  • Take 5: Your are absolutely right on! I still don’t see it as a huge crime issue that we should all be flustered about. Yeah, kids do this kind of stuff and it’s not the end of the world. On the otherhand, they must learn that adults do stuff too like calling the cops. And let’s remember cops do stuff too – like discourage kids from doing things like this.

    We all have a role to play. Unfortunately, gone are the days when everyone knew everyone in the neighborhood and you could take a kid by the ear to their home and expect their parents to punish them for anti-social behavior.

    But just because we don’t live in 1950’s “Leave it to Beaver” America, doesn’t mean we abducate our responsibility to dealing with our youth. Confronting the kids would be best, but if an adult is concerned about their safety, then calling the cops is better than nothing….

  • 911 is supposed to be for ALL POLICE calls – not just emergencies. Back a few years ago they tried to use 311 for non-emergencies and 911 for emergency calls only. It didn’t work so they tell us know we should call 911 for anything from a cat in a tree to a murder.

    It’s really interesting that you got a police response with 311. Was it during the day? I bet they routed you to the nearest police station/substation and you spoke to someone at the front desk.

    The city really should be consistant with this….

  • Of course you should call the cops. Why not report criminal behavior?

  • Dittle – Fenty changed 311… “911 will remain as the number to call for all situations that require response from MPD or Fire EMS. The 311 number was previously used for police non-emergencies. ”

    Keep up the good work!

  • I think daylight savings is creating timestamp issues.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Yeah, sorry ’bout that. I had to fix daylight savings time. Timestamp issues should be resolved in a short time.

  • I called 911 a few years ago in a situation like this. But, 911 refused to take a police report because I could not identify the kids! Without a report, will police actually go check it out?

  • @Ray Swore: “If you don’t know anyone like that… well, then you’re not exactly a part of your neighborhood, are you?” . . .

    I know someone like that. He wears a uniform and drives a red, white and blue car with lights on top. I even have his phone number – 911.

    @Ray Swore: “Depending where you live, if you get someone’s kids in serious (and expensive) trouble — without finding a simpler and more neighborly way to resolve it — you might just become the focus of neighborhood resentment, instead of the pranksters.”

    Calling the cops does not “get someone in trouble”. The kids in this story and the your other example both have one thing in common: they got themselves into trouble by breaking the law in the first place. Its definitely not my fault when someone commits a crime and has to pay for it (even if expensive), even if I am the one who called the cops.


  • Outsourcing hard, necessary, community-building work to the MPD will never be more than a very sort term solution to the values-deficit in DC.

  • If you don’t call the cops, then you’re part of the problem. Call the stinking cops, get the kids busted, they won’t got to jail, if you’re lucky, they’ll be ‘scared straight’ – it’s what happened to me when I was a kid, it got me on the right track.

  • Bus drivers I think do have a way of getting in touch with a dispatcher. But they can’t do it and drive at the same time, they have to stop, which could put the driver, the passengers, the vehicle, and other motorists in greater danger. So do the driver a favor and call for them.

    Police may not see the point in responding to a single egging incident with a private vehicle, but repeated reports, particularly with public transit vehicles on which the safety of multitudes rides, may be more likely to get their attention.

    It is easy to call MPD worthless just because they don’t do what you think they should, but calling them worthless doesn’t mean they are. A few weeks back a stolen vehicle was found ditched in the alley near my home. The police came, interviewed neighbors, and even fingerprinted the vehicle and surrounding hard surfaces before turning the vehicle over to the rightful owners. I was pretty impressed, considering the vehicle seemed to have been taken for a joyride and not damaged in any way.

  • What is this poster talking about? I don’t recall any snow or ice on the ground in the past month.
    And if this was creating a dangerous situation for the bus passengers, I can’t believe that the bus driver would not have called the police or contacted a dispatcher to call the police.

  • Per the DC Police Department website definition of calls that should go to 911

    “Any crime that is in progress or where the offender is still on the scene (or has just left the scene)”,a,1237,q,547620,mpdcNav_GID,1554.asp#when

  • For what it’s worth, I was on the Circulator last week right in front of the Safeway on Columbia Road and someone threw a rock (or something similarly hard) at the bus. Not cool, in my opinion.

  • I experienced the same thing in the same area a few weeks ago so I would argue that it can’t be dismissed as Halloween-related. I was on S2 coming up 16th street. When the bus stopped at 16th and Euclid, a group of kids hiding somewhere just inside Meridian Hill Park threw something substantial at the side of the bus. It hit the window directly next to my wife and me. The bus driver did nothing. I would suggest calling the cops. It sounds like this has been happening a lot lately and it’s just a matter of time before they throw something capable of breaking a window and injury people.

  • Columbia Heights has a long tradition of kids hucking rocks at passers by. I’m suprised the Chamber of Commerce hasn’t highlighted this in their tourist literature. “Come See the Rock Chuckers of Columbia Heights in their Natural Environment!” They could rent a double-decker Lion County Safari busses wrapped in razor wire and rock cages to do tours of 16th Street.

  • …or injure people.

  • yeah, was walking back from Target a few weeks back when a rock landed in the middle of Kalorama rd. right at 16th. another (or rocks) hit a car’s passenger door on Kalorama, too. the people on the street thought it was coming from the roof of the Dorchester House but who knows. don’t dare scold those little angels, their baby mama will cut you.

  • Remember the teachers who punished the entire class for the mis-deeds of a few misguided kids? Ms. Rhee should, every year, the week after Halloween, have the entire cadre of students in the city spend an hour cleaning metro buses, inside and out.

    Glad to hear boys are still doing naughty stuff on Halloween. Better eggs than bullets! Better metro buses than skulls! Jeesch.

    Now will come the hits from failed payments for all the drug purchases in the last week around the holiday.

  • And if this was creating a dangerous situation for the bus passengers, I can’t believe that the bus driver would not have called the police or contacted a dispatcher to call the police.

    hahahhahhaha I sure can. Ever hear of a metrobus rider hitting a pedestrian? yeah, thought so, apology accepted!

  • When it comes to my ice comment…what they threw was “running down” (in liquid form) the bus after it made contact so it definitely appeared to be ice or something like that. I really don’t think it was eggs…made much too loud of a “pop” noise, really sounded like a rock or something similarly hard hitting the bus.

    Suffice to say I feel pretty bad about not calling the police…and that was before reading the comments on here. Next time, I’ll call. Eventually someone is going to be critically injured or worse as a result of this.

    I am not trying to pin responsibility for reporting this solely on the bus driver (I should have done something) but the lack of respect kids up here have for working adults and their elders is amazing. I have been to places where the bus would have stopped, and the adults and driver would have gotten off the bus, chased those kids down, and give them a whooping they wouldn’t soon forget.

  • Oh and Jon H…I was only a few blocks north of Meridian Hill when it happened. Could have very well been the same group of kids.

    They definitely looked high school age, I know other have talked about groups of kids doing this stuff that were considerably younger.

  • @yatrakarna

    Re-read my comment. I was talking about neighborhood perception, not whether the kids were wrong or not. Depending where you live, if your neighbors are broke as shit and you get the police and courts involved in what is/may be teenage pranks, then you are putting a burden on them that exceeds the crime. The same as punching a kid who breaks your window playing baseball — the perception will be “Bobby did wrong, but what the fuck is wrong with you, “neighbor”?”

  • my point was that, if it can be handled in a neighborly way — like dragging the kid to his mother’s house (taking it to him/her), as another reader did — then you’re probably better off.

  • Columbia Heights has a long tradition of kids hucking rocks at passers by.

    It’s D.C. in general, apparently:

    National Intelligencer, March 4, 1844

    Police Intelligence

    The Guard on last Thursday night arrested four rowdies in the neighborhood of Capitol Hill, where they were engaged in the dangerous practice of throwing stones in the streets, cursing and swearing therein, and disturbing the public peace. These rowdies, who call themselves and are called “Eastern Branchers,” were all locked up for the night in the watchhouse, and required the next morning to give security for their good behavior for six months and pay the cost; otherwise to suffer thirty days’ imprisonment, with the customary ablution in the workhouse.

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