Dear PoP – What can I do about the “Columbia Heights Creeper”?

Photo by PoPville flickr user christopher.poole

“Dear PoP,

I’m curious to know if your other readers have encountered this extremely creepy guy that’s been stalking women in the area of 14th and Florida pretty much every weekday morning around 8 am (usually 8:15 is when I am passing by) for the last couple weeks- right in the area by the Pica Taco, which is delicious, btw.

Anyway, this guy hovers and waits for a woman to approach then starts walking toward her and begins to rub his bare stomach and then… This is the point where I stop watching and walk as fast as I can. It’s become extremely concerning because it’s clear that he stays in this specific area waiting for women to pass and will switch sides of the street depending on where women are walking. He’s a black male, maybe late 20’s or early 30’s (I’m terrible at estimating age and I really try not to make eye contact), wears glasses, and has been wearing a black jacket lately.He’s getting more aggressive and quickly approaches.

This morning I was relieved to see him walking to the opposite side of the street as me and thought I wouldn’t have to deal with him- turns out he was trying to avoid being seen by a police car that was driving by. As soon as it passed, he spotted me and immediately came back to my side. This freaked me out, so I turned around and started walking in the direction of the police car, now stopped at the light at 14th (but still a decent distance away). It was enough to scare him off, which makes me think he’s been in trouble with the law before or at least knows he could get in trouble for this.

I’m not sure what to do here, short of altering my walking route. I used to see him on New Hampshire walking up from U Street. It was less creepy then because he seemed to be walking from point A to B, rather than hanging out in an area waiting for women to, um, rub himself to- though he was still doing the stomach rubbing thing back then but it came across as more of a “maybe he has a few screws loose” then “this guy is definitely getting sexual gratification out of this” type thing.

I’m reluctant to call 911 since I’m not even sure if it constitutes a crime. I know I feel icky, but since there’s no physical contact, he doesn’t say anything to me, and I never look long enough to see if he exposes himself, I’m not sure what I would tell the 911 operator. It’s weird because I’ve observed him enough times to know it’s a pattern and that he waits there and intentionally crosses paths with women, but each incident taken separately might just seem like a weird guy walking down the street rubbing his stomach (even if it is an extremely grotesque rub)?

Any insight is much appreciated, this is the first time I’ve legitimately dreaded walking to work.”

I think it’s very important that MPD and then social services are notified. So to be blunt – I would not hesitate to call 911. You never know if this sort of thing can escalate into something more aggressive. I strongly believe that if you feel threatened you are completely within your rights to call the authorities and let them work it out. Odds are this will be a social services situation. But you needn’t feel threatened every time you walk to work – that is unacceptable in my opinion. What would you guys recommend for this situation?

109 Comment

  • call 911

  • Call 911. If you are bold enough, take his photo. If not, I’m sure you can find a friend to do it. Heck, I’ll do it for you…..

  • Yes, call 911. Even if there’s nothing they can do in that specific instance, it’ll help establish the patterns to the police that you’ve already seen.

    Also, making a beeline for you while making intimidating/obscene gestures… for the lawyers out there, when does this kind of behavior cross the line into assault?

    • I don’t know what DC’s actual definition is, but it’s likely something along these lines: an assault occurs when someone does an intentional act that causes the victim to believe that harmful or offensive physical contact is imminent. It becomes battery when physical contact is made. So in my non-criminal-law practicing opinion, what this guy is doing might be considered assault.

      • You are correct. So long as one fears an offensive touching is imminent, an assault has occurred.

        • No. If a reasonable person would believe she were about to be touched in a manner that would constitute battery, THEN it is assault. An individual’s own subjective belief about what is about to happen is not relevant.

          Native American JD attempts to dispense legal opinions here all the time, and I swear s/he has never been correct once. Note people who are licensed attorneys (i.e., have managed to pass a bar exam) rarely refer to themselves as JDs.

          Having said all that, call 911.

  • whoa! sounds more like a “u street creeper”.

    columbia heights has enough problems of it’s own. give us a break.

    but yeah this guy sounds creepy. call the cops if he is bothering you. i think woman are allowed to be a bit more sensitive than men about this sort of thing.

    • Yeah, sad as I am to admit this is in my neighborhood. 14th & Florida is down the hill. Definitely not Columbia Heights.

    • Yeah, but “U Street Creeper” doesn’t have the alliteration. There’s a nice internal rhyme, sure, but the first news of “criminal naming” is that when there’s an alliteration option you roll with it.

  • Mace his face!

    • me

      +100. If you don’t want to order it via the mail, they sell it at Mila (that cheap clothing store right by Marvin’s on 14th St). No joke. That’s the kind of stuff that pepper spray was made for, especially if you feel threatened.

      You can try 911, but we’ve had issues like this before and the cops don’t show up for hours, and then the person has vanished. Ideally, they’d come within about 30 minutes and then social services could be notified, because who knows if the guy is mental, but unfortunately the cops have more important things to deal with.

    • This is a good place to get pepper spray, perfectly legal in DC, mace his face!

    • Mace and pepper spray can be very useful, but be prepared to deal with the potential consequences.

      • When they’re down, either run or kick them in the nads

        • If you miss, now he’s pissed and you’re screwed.

          Aside from that word of warning, though, I’m all for macing the guy. If you felt generous, you could point it at his face, then tell him you’re gonna do it. Maybe that will be enough to make him rethink his actions.

          • I purchased a can of mace for my now ex girlfriend, and it came with a practice canister that mimics the exact action and spray pattern as the real mace. You do get a solid ten second burst out of each can, and even getting the stuff on your skin causes massive irritation. Worth investing in for sure. and the practice canister lets you test it out so that you’re confident about using the real stuff when you need to. Just remember to switch the practice canister out for the real one when you’re done.

          • didn’t know that. good info. thanks.

          • And if it is not effective, it may just make the person angrier. It doesn’t work on everyone. And a lot of times you end up contaminating yourself in the process.

  • Are you kidding!?! Call 911. I might start by calling the local police department tonight and giving them a heads up that this stuff is happening and then when it actually does occur, whip out your phone and call 911. If he’s there the next day after you call the first time and he is engaging in the same behavior, call again.

    If you encountered a random guy on the street you’d never seen before engaging in the same behavior, I think you should also call 911, even if it is a first time occurrance. I think what is holding you back here is that you have seen it before and feel as though maybe since he hasn’t actually attacked in the past he won’t this time, but that is not a safe assumption to make. This type of behavior is totally unacceptable, whether someone engages in it on a sole occasion or on a daily basis.

  • Absolutely call 911. And if you’ve called 911 and you see him again, call back and say that you have a “second sighting” and a unit will respond quickly.

  • Also check out Hollaback DC-
    They might be able to send a group to go to take his photo to provide to the police.
    And yeah call 911 if you are feeling threatened and trust your istincts! Don’t worry about making a bigger deal out of something, you are feeling threatened and worried that you could be in physical danger- it is very serious. This sort of thing is not just part of being a woman. Speaking up here is a good first step

  • Taser. 2. Da. Crotch.

  • I’m so glad you posted about this- I see him every morning too, as I walk down Florida to New Hampshire…he cornered me about two row houses down from Pica yesterday and I literally ran down New Hampshire today when I saw him crossing at the intersection of N.H. and V.

    I don’t know if it’s the native New Yorker in me but I never considered calling 911, just counted it as a commuting obstacle and figured I’d scream if his rubbing turned into anything more or found it’s way further-er-south of the stomach.

  • He cornered you?? WTF? Definitely call 911. Definitely take his photo and if he comes at you, walk into the street and flag down any passing car.

    I’m inclined to call local news, too.

  • Get video of it and post it for the world to see.
    Also, yes, call the police…

  • Please call 911. This is especially disturbing to me because I walk by here 10-20 minutes earlier in the morning, and luckily have never seen this guy. But also think of all of the kids going to school near that block, if there’s a dangerous character the police really should know.

  • sounds like Tracy Jordan off of 30 Rock.

  • i have off tomorrow… i am about to get a folding chair and camp out to catch this guy. tired of this crap.

  • kudos to you for remaining aware & vigilant… and kudos to some of your male neighbors for stepping up here.

  • He’s rubbing his stomach outside of a restaurant because he is HUNGRY and DEAF and MUTE!

    You’d know this if you took a minute to talk to him in ASL, you damned bigots!

    His is an interesting story of service to his country, personal tragedy and betrayal of the worst kind.

    Take a moment to get to know your neighbors, folks.

  • He prefers “Meridian Hill Creeper.” The Columbia Heights Creeper operates a few blocks north.

  • Do not ignore this man. Doing so puts you and others at risk — especially younger girls dnd teens in the area.

    Phone cameras are your best tool to help get this guy off the street. I’d recommend getting in touch with your police precinct. Try to get the email of a beat officer. Then, take a picture of the guy when you next see him, email it to the officer, noting the time and location. This will help the police catch him.

    He may just be an unmedicated kook, but that’s what they thought about that guy in AZ.

  • Why don’t you call the non-emergency number now (this goes for everyone who sees him—the more the better) and 911 if you feel you are in IMMEDIATE danger. People are a bit too quick to call 911 sometimes. Taking his photo is a great idea if you can. I’m surprised you don’t change your route anyway. It’s a smart idea even if this guy isn’t there.

    • The non-emergency number will just redirect you to 911. How many times do we have to go over this on this site?

    • I used to call 311 for non-emergencies, but they always routed me through to 911 anyway and I had to re-explain the situation.

      Then, one day I went to townhall-style meeting with the mayor and he said to call 911 for everything, emergency or not. That’s good enough for me.

      But yes, def. take his photo so he knows YOU know. It’s like calling out someone’s creepy behavior on metro (thinking of the guy taking pics of women’s feet). Of course, if he’s mentally ill, the only thing that will work is to get authorities involved. Shaming him won’t do it.

    • 311 is no longer the police non-emergency line. It is now the Mayor’s city services line.

  • I was surprised to see so many people respond with calling 911. I absolutely agree and it justifies the unsettling feelings I have as a women walking on city streets, experiencing this type of behavior daily. I am fed up and it is great to hear so much positive feedback on actions to take.

  • First of all ladies this man wants some affection and you not willing to even give him the time of day. I think you ladies should take the time out of your day and talk to this man. He clearly needs some female attention. I say one of you ladies take him into the alley by Pico Taco and give him some lovin. Maybe you two have a lot in common. You can even duck into the parking garage of the solea for quick hand job. This would stop him from chasing other ladies. One of ladies needs to stop being and take one for the team.

  • It sounds like we need to get a bunch of people together to nab this guy, get pics, mace him, and hold him down until the cops come.

    I’d volunteer to help. I’m a big enough guy and not afraid to mace or punch a perv in the face.

  • OK, well, if he’s a homeless deaf mute who is hungry, why not get a fucking sign asking for money or food instead of the rubbing the stomach routine. I doubt that was a highly successful tactic. And yes, please change the title of your posting. The actual Columbia Heights Creeper might be annoyed by the confusion.

  • Concrete Solution: Move back to the suburbs.

    • me

      Ah-ha! There we go. Surprised that it took this long for THIS comment to come up.

      Just cause you want to live in the city doesn’t mean that you should willingly subject yourself to harassment and possible assault on a daily basis. Ass.

      • From the sounds of things, the original poster is mortified to associate or even WALK past a famished, destitute, handicapped, minority. I offered the suburban solution to ensure a safe, milquetoast, innocuous jaunt to your non profit organization or Vegan bake sale.

        • a better solution is to teach people how to deal with situations that make them uncomfortable. a better solution is to figure out if this guy needs help and to get him help. a better solution is for the person to stand up for themselves and have others aware of what is going on. your cowardly solution is childish and assumes that people do not grow and change. this shows a lack of wisdom on your part that you try to play off as pragmatism. but it’s simple inexperience and youthful arrogance.

    • troll.

    • i agree. the creeper should move back to the suburbs. good call jason. you’ve got the best interest in the city at heart.

  • i say fight crazy with crazy. don’t shower for three days, dress like a bag lady, make low grumbling noises, and start swinging a cane around like a windmill as you pass by him. that should do the trick.

    here is a real proposal for a course of action though:

    1. – verify whether or not this guy is a deaf-mute. could be hard but we might get some more compelling info on this page.

    A. – he is deaf and not too bright. call city services and explain the situation. explain that it is really bad and he needs to be moved and given some help. cite this page as a reference.

    B. – he is not deaf. just creepy. call the police. cite this page as a reference.

    You should cite this page as a reference in either case because this guy is now going to get lynched. Everybody loves to beat up on the perverted, retarded, deaf guy. I bet I could take him, I’m pretty big! Me too, let’s form a gang!

    Come to my neighborhood and dish out some vigilante justice yuppies. You’ll wish you hadn’t, which is good cause it isn’t right.

  • i didn’t read the 50 previous comments so i apologize if i am being redundant.

    SHAME HIM! get a camera with a nice zoom (70-250mm minimum) take a few shots of him…print flyers and post them up all over the area with ‘WARNING – SEXUAL WEIRDO’ printed on it.

  • Isn’t this where the methadone clinic is? I used to work close by and HATED the drama on the corner with the guys hanging out. Usually lined up for services and then a sandwich truck would roll up etc…most seemed homeless or mentally ill and/or dealing with addiction. Im all for social services but there has to be a better way than just lining up a bunch of people on a street corner or kicking them out of shelters every day at 8am.

  • mace him. he’ll at least remember to avoid you next time

  • This guy has done this to me a couple of times now. I will definitely call 911 next time. He doesn’t frighten me, he just makes me angry. In addition to all the women there are tons of kids on their way to school in the area.

  • have you told him to fuck off?

    when he comes within 20 feet of you say, LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE.

    • when you come upon a suspicious package, smoking with wires coming out of it, do you give it a swift kick just to see what will happen? yelling at this guy is probably the worst idea ever. he’s desperate for an excuse to escalate his actions.

    • Or sign it. How do you sign leave me the fuck alone?

  • Why not walk a couple of blocks to the police station at 16th & V St. go inside and speak to an officer. This is an ongoing problem. Get the name and number of the officer you speak to so you can check back.

    Calling 911 might not be the most effective response as the guy could just walk away and probably isn’t doing anything to warrant immediate arrest anyway. A 911 call for a creep probably will get written up and dismissed as exactly that.

    But if all police in the area were alerted to a problem they could all be keeping an eye out and hopefully do something. How about giving our police a chance to do some real community policing?

    • +1

      Or have a chat next time you see an officer around the neighborhood – flag ’em down in their car if you have to. They may even know exactly who the guy is, but if they don’t hear about it they may not know what he’s up to. Also, use your phone to take a picture of him so you can show it to the police when you speak to them.

      I would definitely do this before macing the guy or anything like that. Besides the fact that it could potentially increase the danger to you, you’ll probably feel like crap if it turns out he’s got mental issues or something and needs help rather than mace to the face.

    • Yeah, this.

      I don’t think Mace is a good idea, as you’ll probably contaminate yourself. Besides, it’s not the kind of thing you do and then keep walking to the Metro. Also, with your hesitancy to call 911, I’m guessing that spraying mace in the “T” pattern is probably out.

      Check out this map.,a,1239,q,544981,mpdcNav_GID,1536.asp

      You’re either 304 or 305. Ask for the officer responsible for those areas and then explain your problem. When it happens, keep calling that same officer or Sgt to report. They can shift schedules to make sure that a community officer can be around there when the time is right.

      Though I guarantee he’s mentally ill, and that means there’s not a whole lot to do about it, given our mental health infrastructure.

  • These guys could probably find out if he’s deaf:

    MPD: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Liaison Unit,a,1232,q,540921,mpdcNav_GID,1523,mpdcNav,|31417|.asp

    and if any of the shops are open, walk in and ask the dude behind the counter to call the cops if you don’t feel comofrtable pulling out your cellphone and waiting on hold until the 911 operator decides to pick up. If you explained this situation to the biz owners they would keep an eye out for this guy, they do NOT want a freakshow on their property.
    also, if there are people around, and you’re appropriately caffeinated, yell “PERVERT” at the top of your lungs, point and call him a dirty pig, etc.

  • Word of warning: Florida the border of Police Service Areas 304 and 305. 305 (which is more or less a 3-4 block radius from U st metro) is a very responsive PSA with officers who will take on quality of life stuff like this. Don’t bother with 304 (south half of C. Heights), they don’t deal with little stuff. 305 isn’t perfect, they let all that dealing go on at the gas station because they don’t really perceive that area as their problem, but they will come out for stuff like this. And before I get flamed for calling sexual harassment a quality of life issue, put yourself in a cop’s shoes on this one — they’re not going to book an arrest on this, they’re going to get called repeatedly on a perp who can leave fast, and they might have to deal with social services.

    Also, this is a good one to involve the Grahamstander on, his office knows how to ride asses at 3d.

  • I’ll repeat earlier advice. Call 911. That’s what it’s there for.

  • Definitely call 911 and keep calling back each day so that the incidents are recorded in the dispatch system. also post to the MPD listservs for the 3rd District

  • as a person who knows someone that was the victim of indecent exposure, people in this city have a tendency to see themselves in a bubble (regardless of neighborhood) and not realize the human pathologies that exist and walk regularly among us. the amount of denial is necessary both for our ego (“if I look and act tough enough, nobody will mess with me” or “they know better”) and everyday functioning: if you thought about it, you probably wouldn’t leave your house. the people outside the bubble, namely the police, deal in scourge everyday; hence, many live far outside the city.

    in this case, please notify police, whether through 911 or 311. whether it’s a crime or not is not necessarily for you to figure out, but the police. even if he hasn’t committed a crime yet, it’s a fine line between what he’s doing and taking the next step. in the least, it starts the paper chain on this individual and alerts neighborhood patrols. further, he may have outstanding on him.

    the “i’ll let somebody else deal with it” attitude is exactly what allows this shit to thrive in cities. kudos for at least asking.

    the softer side of Wong Tong

  • You really should call the police (or just walk in to the station right there at 17th and v). I had a problem with a ‘Peeping Tom’ looking in my back windows, and I didn’t call the police because he wasn’t trying to get inside (I have bars on all the windows), and I didn’t think they could do anything about it.

    Finally, a friend in law enforcement told me to report the guy in case he matched any other descriptions of creepers. The police were quite friendly, but since it had been a few days since I’d last seen him, they couldn’t do much. They took a description of the guy, so that if another complaint about him came up they would know he’s done this before.

    Most importantly, they said to call 911 if he came back. That way they could send patrol cars around to look for him and pick him up. If they pick him up, they could chastise/scare him and try to prevent him from coming back, and/or get him help from social services if needed, (or obviously arrest him, if warranted).

    You really should at least report him so that the police know he could be a threat.

  • I have seen him. Twice. I don’t process things fully at that hour so I didn’t really think about it and I purposefully look away each time. He’s never followed me (that I know of,) but that’s disgusting and DEFINITELY sexual harassment. I will be calling 911 the next time I run into him.

  • I’ve seen him too, on Chapin St (between 14 and 15). I made the mistake of actually looking when his hand went further south and he definitely exposed himself to me. Just whipped it out. At 8 am on a Monday morning, no less. Ughhh. I called the police and filed a report, and told my friend who is an MPD crime analyst in our ward. So, the police know about this and are hopefully keeping an eye out for him. I also now have pepper spray with me and will spray the hell out of his face if I see him again.

  • Just posted this on the Meridian Hill Neighbors Association listserv and hopefully the MPD/Park Police readership – who are fantastic btw – will get involved.

    For the OP – use this as a chance to get on the neighborhood listservs so you can share it with all of us. MHNA, for example, is a pretty active but small group and we have some amazing members who give a lot of time to fixing things like this.

  • Mace is, and always should be, a LAST resort (especially if the man in question is in fact deaf/dumb). But, i’ll say it again, most mace packets come with a PRACTICE canister. Everyone seems so worried about macing themselves, well, that’s what the water-containing practice canister is for! and even if you get a small faction of it on the guys face, it will disorient him enough for you to get out of harms way. 911 is overkill, and they will probably laugh at you for even thinking that calling 911 with a report of “strange man rubbing belly as women approach” would warrant their immediate and forceful response.

  • Sorry.. that was me… I like rubbing my stomach because I am hungry… only looking for a bite to eat in the early AM

  • I actually had the same encounter with this same guy last April when I was walking to work and it scared me so bad, I got to work and told my Boss and she immediately called 911.
    The police took a report but said they try to keep an officer on the corner of 14th. At that point I started only walking down major streets where there are cars and people. It’s sad you have to change what you do because of some lunatic but it’s best to be safe than sorry. Good luck all!

  • As a good majority of the people said, alert the authorities and try to get a cell phone picture if you can from a safe distance. The mace thing should be a VERY last resort.

  • ahahahhah sooooooooo happy a picture i took of my girlfriend ended up as the image for this article

  • I am pretty sure that I saw the same guy touching and exposing much more than his stomach a few weeks ago. It was around 8.30AM on New Hampshire between V and W.

  • me

    Could someone update the post today if anything happens? I live across the street from the gas station at 14th & W, but leave for work so early that I’ve never seen the guy.

  • I don’t know if other police districts have active listserves, but the one for Police District 1 is extremely active and it’s an effective way to bring annoyances that aren’t outright dangers to the police department’s attention. Might also contact your ANC.

  • I have seen this creeper at least 3-4 times (most recently today, in the late afternoon) during the past week on U street between 15th and 16th, as well as on 14th. Very disturbing that he is exposing himself.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      MPD is aware of the situation but it is essential that whoever passes him call 911 to help the patrols pinpoint his location.

      For all who see him in the future please call 911 immediately.

  • I have seen this guy and been harassed by him as well, and I’m a male. Walking up the street with three of my friends he tried to block our walk near the liquor store as if he was a troll. Instead of asking a riddle he grabbed at each of us then put me in a headlock. After pushing him off and trying to avoid being stabbed by him he was laughing and pushing. Yea, needless to say it doesn’t surprise me that he’s being a creep to the ladies.

Comments are closed.