Dear PoP: Horrible Homeowner Situation – MPD Too Slow To Respond?

Photo by PoPville flickr user jkrehely2002

“Dear PoP,

I apologize in advance for the grossness of this letter, but I have a question about the responsiveness of DC Police. To make a long story short, last week my husband and I witnessed a homeless man, uh, go number 2, on our townhouse doorstep in the middle of the day. He became quite combative when we yelled at him and told him to clean it up. We witnessed the act and, if that was not offensive enough, he smeared it everywhere and went after my husband with his mess-covered hands. I called 911 when we saw him do this, but the police never came.

I mentioned this to our building manager and she said that DC Police respond to calls that they deem important, based on their own prioritization. Now, I don’t mean to say that our situation was as important as an assault or any other nasty crime. However, I was under the impression that police are supposed to respond, no matter what, even if it takes a long time or if it is just to follow up via a phone call or something. This homeless man is seen most days on our block and while I mentioned this to the operator, we still received no response at all from the police. I guess my question is- are they actually allowed to not respond at all if they deem your call to not be as important as others, even if a crime is being or has been committed?”

What an awful experience. It is a situation like this where I wish the city had some sort of rapid response mental health team. What do you think should be the proper response from MPD or other DC agencies in a situation like this?

69 Comment

  • gross! hopefully your husband escaped doo doo free..

    last year i had a similar problem where i called for something i deemed not high priority and zero response. i went to the Mayor’s website and wrote a nasty email. 24 hours later i had a sergeant or corporal (i’m not sure on the rank but definitely higher then patrolman) on my doorstep apologizing and explaining to me why they were slow. While my issue was never resolved, it was nice to know that they in fact do read emails.

  • We had a crack head attack us on our stoop when we told him to smoke elsewhere – this was on the 1700 block of 15th Steet back in the good old days (’94?) Also had the cops come and pick up a peeping tom who was creeping in our yard “bird” in hand while we all watched him from the roof deck. The cops knew him by name, he’s a longtime neighborhood regular, he got released same day.
    If you are brave you should turn the hose on this guy. I found one threat that works is to tell the person you are going to have them institutionalized so fast it will make their head spin. Then they’ll give you a wide berth. Or kill you.

  • Actually, the City does have a rapid response mental health team. I am surprised they were not alerted.

    • how do you contact them?

      • The 24 hour acess helpline for homeless people with mental illness is 888-793-4357. That number accesses mobile crisis services teams who
        “respond to adults throughout the District who are experiencing a psychiatric crisis whether in the homes or on the street and who are unable or unwilling to travel to receive mental health services.
        The teams provide crisis stabilization including dispensing medication and perform assessment for voluntary and involuntary hospitalizations and linkages to other services, such as crisis beds and substance abuse detoxification and treatment. The teams work with family members and the community based mental health provider, if appropriate, to help with follow up.

  • Talked to your counsel person. If this guy is a regular, you’ll want him on the police/city services radar. If the police dispatcher didn’t make that happen, you’ll want to talk to somebody who will.

    • also, you can send a message to your local MPD listserv (it’s a yahoo group–each MPD district has one). A lot of elected officials and MPD brass read it, so it’s a good way to ensure followup from the people assigned to your neighborhood.

  • First I was like WTF why didn’t the cops come Then I was like I wouldn’t want to take the call of a shit ocvered crazed hobo call.

  • That’s really shitty.

  • me

    Yeah… OP here. I will try speaking with Jim Graham about it. I just couldn’t believe that it is now 8 days later, we have not received a visit/phone call/anything from the police, and the police station is 2 blocks from where I live. I guess I wouldn’t have wanted to deal with a deranged poo-covered person, either. Sigh.

  • DC is such a disappointment when it comes to most local goverment agencies. Gross situation but long time residents I’m sure are not surprised.

  • The ‘priority’ thing is mysterious – but I don’t think it’s okay for city services to try and make residents feel guilty for using services their taxes pay for – just because “worse stuff is going on”… I’m sure it is, but that’s a sorry excuse for canceling calls because people didn’t call and bother the operator 5 times, etc.

    When a neighbor saw teenagers IN THE PROCESS of stealing my fiance’s car, We had a two 1/2 hour+ response time during which we had to call back and get the call reinstated – they apparently will cancel the call if no one responds in a certain time, I guess.

    In the end, we got a really nice officer who stayed a while, even calling in a scene team to get prints (which, turns out, there probably were a bunch of good ones, considering the kids crawled all over the car). But I mean really… this was grand theft auto … and the apartment was half a block from a station…

    • I can understand the cops hesitance to act promptly with kids stealing a car. A 14-year old punk stole our car and rammed a cop car when they found him driving around. Even though he was caught red handed, the prosectors let him go scot-free, I suspect he’s gone on as one of our DYRS misfits to do far worse. So if the cops lock em up and the attorneys and DYRS let them back on the street, why should they even bother? This city really needs a set of republican leaders from Texas to turn around this god awful mess of a town.

      • I agree. It is time for some hard-ass Republican Haters to take control.

        • it’d be great if there was a political party that was tough as shit on criminals, but tolerant of the rest of us.

          and you know, not war mongering anti public investment assholes.

        • Yeah, now that we can own guns, let’s just shoot them.

      • Not that I condone it, but cops not responding to crimes in progress will create a vigilante justice problem. The cops’ appearance is in part to prevent the citizenry from taking the law into their own hands.

        • I carefully consider the vigilante option when I walk through the open air drug market near Totten Metro every evening…

          I make calls on occasion though…and the cops usually respond promptly…We need a more robust crime budget and some SERIOUS means of punishment.

          Our city needs a Batman, boondock saints, etc…. something awful…

          A guy was firing shots accross from my house the other day “The cemetery gunfire” What am I supposed to do?

          I gotta jump through hoops to get my hands on some pepper spray and these 15 years olds seem to have NO PROBLEM finding a gun to use.

  • I have almost the same problem with people going in my ally. It’s 50% homeless people 50% people that go to the club in the ally. I have called the police and they never will show up. I have gone to the hose. It works wonders.

  • Gross.

    So, the 911 call center is not part of MPD. Just to clarify. But if you call 911 we MUST respond. If you got no response and you want to pursue it, you can call the Office of Unified Communications and request the transcript of your call. They should have written down which unit was notified and then that unit has to mark when they arrive on the scene, the disposition of the call, and their departure.

    The transcript will clarify whether MPD was notified and didnt respond, or whether the communication breakdown occured at the Dispatcher level.

    Good luck.

  • I would have approached that situation aggressively with whatever I could find long and hard….gotta have a good reach vs the boo bandit. That is your house… Your house. I am outraged for the couple, especially considering a female had to witness this, bad form in front of a lady, I bet he’s not the most popular with the ladies. I wonder if there is a Hitch for the homeless?

  • OP – Adams Morgan?

  • This sucks and all but a word of advice:
    If a guy is shitting on your steps he is down on his luck and probably crazy too. Best course of action is not to confront them but rather to hose it off like you would dog poo. Then alert the authorities that there is a homeless man that needs instructions on where not to go doodoo.
    That’s my advice after years of city life but then your way sounds fun too. As for the polices slow response. If the call came to them as “Homeless dude taking dump on steps” then yeah I would think they have better things to do. Like pulling that poor girl from the dumpster in CH or trying to stop neck stabbings in Petworth. Next time. reach for the hose.

    • me

      I agree, though for one, I do not have a hose or a hose hookup. I live in a row of townhouses that are part of a HOA and none of us have access to outside water. Otherwise, it would have been a cinch to spray him, plus our steps, windows, and everywhere else he tried to get it on. Almost including my husband. It was just a shock in the middle of the day.

      And of course, I didn’t mean to say that I was just as important as the poor girl that was found in a dumpster or anyone else who is injured. I was only asking if there was a rule somewhere stating that MPD doesn’t have to respond to lower-priority calls. But thank you for the thoughts.

    • Generally, I’m highly critical of the “this is part of living in a city” argument, as I think it drags our societal expectations way down and results in too much tolerance from victims of this (literally, in this case) crap, which in turn empowers the scumbags to do more of it with impunity, which in turn disincentivizes our public servants to take serious action to solve problems.

      But crazy homeless guys (and I’m assuming the open-air, front stoop crapping implies some level of both desperation and crazy) may be my exception to that rule. (a) They’re possibly going to become dangerous if/when confronted. (b) It’s more often than not a mental health issue than it is a law enforcement issue, at least if you want to solve a recurring problem instead of slap a Band-Aid on it. (c) Police resources are insufficient as it is: I’d rather have them lock up some teen thug with a gun and a grudge before they book this poor sap.

      So I agree with anan on this one.

  • Someone poops on my front step, I tell them to leave with a baseball bat.

  • Have you tried visiting the police station in person? I mean, its two blocks away. DC is at its heart a southern city and you’ll always get a much better response genially in person than over the phone.

  • I think the best way to get a response from the police is to end every call with officer down. but I think might be illegal. “There is a homeless man taking a shit on my steps, officer down”

    • I suppose the trick would be to integrate the phrase appropriately – “There is a homeless man taking a shit on my steps, officer, downtown.”

  • It’s really not necessary to email Chief Lanier directly. She is accessible, sure, but imo there are more appropriate venues first. Email the 3D listserve. Commander, Captains, everyone reads and is responsive. They will give you a call or email you directly.

    I agree that you need to figure out what happened to your call for service. But I think a call to the department of mental health (or whatever it’s called) might be in order, too. This guy is clearly MO.

  • Sorry to hear that. I just got back from Rome and saw a LOT of this. People used buildings even cars as a back support. I hope this doesn’t become as common here as it is in the European cities I’ve visited.

  • you could have scooped it up, put it in a paper bag and lit it on fire on your neighbors doorstep and rang the door bell. This is a very funny prank and good way to use the bum poo on your porch.

  • When you call 911 use the phrase, “I’m scared.” It ups the call in priority – at least that’s what one cop told me.

    • Except for the time I was assaulted in the parking garage of the giant in Columbia Heights. Since I couldn’t give an actual street address, 911 wasn’t interested…

      • I have several times in my decade in DC called 911 and gotten no response. I never escalated it, so I guess that’s a failing on my part. I know many others who have had the same problems.
        These days, I’m more likely to call a large friend or something when there’s trouble, because I don’t feel comfortable relying on the DC police force. It’s unfortunate.

  • jack5

    LOL. I think if the police show they shouldn’t find fault with you over beating that fool with a baseball bat if he was going to give you the doo-doo touch. If they decided to send me to jail over beating the man with a baseball bat for taking a dump in front of my house, then I don’t want to be innocent. Neighborhood watch. LOL again.

  • Here’s what you do. Leave a sandwich for said bum on your doorstep. Make sure it has a sprinkling of rat poison in it. But then again, it could backfire and you’re left with a dead body on your doorstep. At least the MPD response time for that will be a lot quicker!

    • Maybe not. My parents were living on the Hill, mind you, this was years ago – and there was a body on the steps of the house next door. The cops asked my pregnant mother to please go and check and make sure that the guy was actually dead. She pointed out that help was necessary either way.

  • How about, “There’s a strange man on my porch steps and he has his pants pulled down, and I’m scared”?

  • I have to give DC cops credit…everytime I have called them for shenanigans going down on my street they arrive within minutes. They usually bring more than one car too. In fact this morning we called for some crack head who was using my neighbors steps as a wig-out spot. I told them it was either a drunk or a crack-head, but that it *might* be a medical emergency. Ambulance and squad cars were there ASAP and ushed the lovely gentleman along.

  • Quite a coincidence that the story below is about Chocolate City beer. Doesn’t sound so appetizing now…

  • Always add “and I think he had a weapon” and you’ll get faster response times…

  • I got police attention by informing 911 that I was going after the guy and that it was up to them to respond.

  • My own experience has been mixed. Although both times I’ve called 911 – once when I was assaulted (actually someone called for me) and once when I found a disoriented and potentially injured man at the bus stop – the police responded both times. However, when I was assaulted the Detective on the case refused to investigate at all – I had managed to fight off the attackers, so they did not get any possessions of mine (although they smashed in half my face – 25K in reconstructive surgery followed) and I could not identify them. She basically told me that they did not have the time to investigate crimes like this.

  • you people live in a city with one of the widest income disparities, one of of the highest rates of children living in poverty, and one of the highest illiteracy rates in the country. you buy $600,000 townhomes, rent your fetid basements out for what many households earn in a year, and act like you are in some yuppie bubble far removed from the real inhabitants of the city. you want your urban cultural experience limited to a safe, tidy, $20-a-taco high end mexican restaurant.

    turning a hose on homeless people? go back to bethesda, or suburban ohio, or wherever you belong. a fucked up man with no where to live is defecating on your precious steps. call dc mental health, drink some hipster high life on your roof deck, and consider yourselves lucky.

    this city has gone to shit. with every pun intended.

    • I would also like una cerveza, por favor.

    • What’s your address? Maybe we can send him to your place next time.

    • Well said stella, I affirm its impossible to live in a world where people don’t act like animals. Now excuse me as I engage in some preteen anal rape and bust a bottle over some old bitches head. Cuz that’s just keeping it real, yo.

    • I am gonna take a dump on your doorstep tonight you indignant, reactionary, holier than thou, fool. People have a right to get pissed if someone is shitting on their front steps! This behavior is not admissible and not defensible (even if this guy just ate at Chipotle!

      Why do people act like gentrification is a problem here? How DARE we expect decency from people? How DARE we expect comfort in our own home and on our doorsteps? Damn right hose the homeless guy down…again and again… DAMN RIGHT call the cops on your loud, unemployed, guberment check neighbors…

      Its gonna go one of two ways. Life will be uncomfortable for you or for them. The value systems have drifted too far apart…there will be no compromise.

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