Dear PoP – MPD Floodlights

Photo by PoPville flickr user Wayan Vota

“Dear PoP,

I noticed tonight that MPD floodlights (you know, the ones that are towed behind a police van) have gone up at 13th and Randolph. I poked around the MPD website trying to find out specific information about when/why these specifically might be put in place but cannot find anything. I’ve only ever noticed them in front of buildings that have, uh, crime problems (such as the low-income housing by the 7th and R Shaw metro entrance) and am wondering what’s going on. Do you have any idea why these might have been placed at 13th and Randolph?”

It my understanding that there are a few reasons as to why MPD Floodlights could possibly be deployed. First if there has been a serious crime such as a shooting. In that case the floodlights are used as a deterrent to discourage retaliations. Floodlights can also be deployed if MPD receives some sort of intelligence that a crime or beef between crews is about to heat up. Thirdly they can be deployed to an area that sees repeated crime such as a string of muggings. In my observation the most common deployment seems to come either after a shooting or in territory that is disputed between rival crews/gangs. I’m sure there is a boring template answer but that’s my basic understanding.

As for 13th and Randolph I have not heard anything specific regarding that location.

26 Comment

  • Randolph isn’t the nicest street between 14th and Georgia. If I’m walking home from northern Columbia Heights (14th St.), to go east to Petworth, I usually take Quincy, Shepard, or Taylor, but I avoid Randolph.

    • saf

      Huh. I avoid Shepherd.

    • Taylor between 13th and Georgia is MUCH worse than Randolph. It has the parolee check in building and a bunch of commercial properties and no rowhouses (no eyes on the street). i really don’t understand this comment whatsoever.

      • I don’t mind walking down vacant streets, such as Taylor, at night. I prefer them to streets with a few shadowy characters. Maybe that’s just me….

        • I once saw a guy on that block in broad daylight walk into the middle of the street, whip his dick out right in front of me (i’m driving) and piss on a parked car.

      • Gotta agree with caballero on this one. I live off the alley beside the parolee building and have never had a problem on that block of Taylor – in fact, I think that as an office of supervision, there tends to be a frequent police presence driving by the area, and there’s certainly cops on duty in the building early in the am.

  • They’ve also gone up at the intersection of 14th and Fairmont, on the NW corner. There have also been cops there constantly, both in marked or unmarked cars and in uniform as well as undercover. Anyone know what’s going on/happened at that location?

  • I live in Park Place (9th Street side) and once or twice a week for the last month they’ve had these set up at 9th and Rock Creek Church Road – shinning up 9th Street.

    • i’ve lived off that block for 3 years and this is a frequent occurance. there are some thug/drug houses who like to fire their guns and fight each other and women. i’ve heard it all on more occasions than i’d like to remember.

  • Lights have been up at 13th and Randolph for a while. They come down, then go back up a few days or weeks later. No idea why…

  • ah, that’s what I was afraid of. Interesting note though, they were gone by 9:30 this morning. Some of the other ones that I have seen seem to be permanent fixtures.

  • I’m not a big fan of these floodlights…they just seem to draw attention to the fact that crimes have occurred on a block without really doing anything about it. My block used to have a lot of drug dealing problems and the spotlights would be out there all the time. It just makes the drug dealers temporarily avoid that location but creates a lot of annoyance for the residents (annoying lights at night shining into houses and a loud generator). I would have much preferred they just have undercover officers on the block to arrest the people dealing out in the open, plainly seen by anyone on the block. I think that was going on at the same time, but I could never figure out what purpose the spotlights served other than making it look like the police were doing something.

    The other thing I’ve noticed about these spotlights is you only see them in places like Petworth and Shaw. In my 15 yrs in DC I have lived near drug nuisance properties in both Mt. Pleasant and the east side of Dupont Circle and never saw spotlights like this until I moved to Petworth. My take is that the neighborhood residents in those areas won’t tolerate the annoyance.

    In the meantime, the drug nuisance property on my block in Petworth was sold – that’s what finally stopped the problems. No drug dealers, major decrease in crime, and (thankfully) no annoying spotlights anymore.

    • They used to set up these lights at 17th and Euclid, in Adams Morgan. That was a couple of years ago.

    • You never saw the floodlights in Mt Pleasant? Well you aren’t looking, they were certainly in effect in Mt Pleasant last summer.

  • The lights make people think MPD is devoting resources to an area, rather than actually, you know, patroling it.

    • Exactly. I think the MPD does some things well (and is getting better), but these lights are often just a lazy way to appear that they are doing something.

    • jimmy, have you ever seen the lights set up where the police weren’t patrolling? By definition when the police are there, they’re patrolling.

  • they are on this corner periodically. while that block is no picnic, seems like there are far seedier blocks that could use the extra light/po-po presence.

  • around my block we call ’em the “ghetto sun”

  • Welcome to the neighborhood, letter writer.

    This location just seems to just be in the regular rotation for the lights. they do it every couple weeks. i don’t think they are really targeting any particular incident. i have seen car thefts on 13th on the MPD-4D listserv, though.

  • I live near Park View Elementary. Every time they have appeared in my area it has been following a shooting. I think they are a ridiculous waste of the (there is a cop sitting in the car that tows the floodlight) and fuel (the floodlights are powered by gas or diesel fuel). Moreover, I can’t imagine how the poor souls in front of whose homes these things get parked can get any sleep, with the bright light and the loud generator running until the wee small hours of the morning.
    It wasn’t the floodlights that calmed my area down, it was the decision to post a police officer at the Park View rec center and have him (or her) walk around the neighborhood (yes, believe it or not, on foot patrol). That is a much better use of manpower.

  • Channeling Batman, Jim Graham, forever the champion of section 8 housing, considers these lights his calling card.

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