PoPville PSA – Be Cautious Wearing Headphones at Night – Mugging Last Night

Photo by PoPville flickr user Jess J

“Dear PoP,

Last night around 7:40pm I was walking home from Giant in Columbia Heights when I was attacked by two teens from behind near Holmead & Otis. One of the kids threw punches at my head and the other kid tried to snag my bag. I had my arms full with my bag, grocery bag, and umbrella but started yelling for help which scared them off and the both ran separate ways (one went east on Otis and the other kid started running south on Holmead). I wasn’t able to fight back and at that point I wasn’t sure if they had any weapons on their person. Fortunately, I didn’t sustain any serious injuries from the blows and I was able to hold onto all of my stuff. I was probably an easy target because I’m a short female and I also had my headphones on. I called the cops and spoke to two detectives. Just wanted all the readers to be aware and be cautious when/if listening to MP3 devices/phones. I definitely learned my lesson.”

I’m very sorry to hear this happened. I know MPD echoes your advice – when in doubt, if walking alone home at night, please remove your earbuds/headphones.

On a side note, you can learn about starting a neighborhood watch program here and 3D (including Northwest Columbia Heights) is offering training March 17th. Details after the jump.

Date: March 17th
Time: 7:00-8:30 PM
Free Refreshments Provided!
Where: 3D Police Station-1620 V Street, NW- Snyder Room

Sponsored by:
Samantha Nolan, Citizens Advisory Committee, (CAC) Chair, NWP
Director 2D/ Marco Santiago Community Outreach Coordinator MPD 3D
Jana Baldwin, LeDroit Park Public Safety Chair
Cecilia Jones, Northwest Columbia Heights Community Association (NWCHCA)

Who should attend? All interested neighbors in reducing and preventing crime!
What will we be discussing?
*How to organize a Neighborhood Watch Program,
*Creating Block Captains/ increasing effectiveness of existing block captains
*Setting up phone tree’s/ Communication Plans
*Organizing Safety Walks
*Working with police/neighbors effectively
*Protecting property

RSVP is appreciated! Please fill this form by submitting your name and e-mail

Please contact:
Jana Baldwin at [email protected]

83 Comment

  • yeah i know a guy who had big headphones on and got the crap beat out of him in columbia heights a year ago. he won’t come back to the neighborhood anymore. kinda sucks but i understand getting a bad association with things.

  • Who schedules a training for St. Patrick’s Day?

    • Non-crackers?

    • Cops who aren’t Irish.

      …unless those “refreshments” are seasonally appropriate adult beverages 🙂

    • I did!!! Sorry folks– this white girl didn’t check her calendar very well in regards to holidays. I don’t really celebrate it heavily so it was a clear oversight– but hey . . come to the training, I will be bringing some snacks and there will be plenty of time to head out to respective bars/clubs/lounges whatever you frequent (without your headphones on) after the meeting!

  • This and the attack last week at 14th and Fairmont were both before 8pm…

  • Scary. Thanks for sharing this incident, OP and PoP — glad this lady was generally unharmed!

  • Someone needs to invent a DC child thug detector Iphone app!

  • Same exact thing happened to my husband not quite a year ago, on Otis between 13th and Holmead, around the same time of day. He didn’t have on headphones, but was talking on the phone carrying home take-out from Thaitanic and generally being oblivious. Two kids, one ran up from behind and tried to punch him in the head while the other circled around to his front and demanded his phone while trying to make it look like he had a gun in his pants. He also was lucky; he heard the first kid running up from behind and ducked the first blow then rolled across the hood of a parked car and avoided him again. Also lucky that a white cab was coming down the street at that moment so he pointed and shouted “POLICE” so the kids took off – although they were ballsy enough to take a few steps back toward him after they realized it wasn’t actually a cop.

    It’s pathetic that you can’t walk around listening to music, or talking on the phone, but I’m glad the OP is ok. Please just don’t follow my husband’s example; no phone or wallet is worth getting shot over. He’ll say the same and was nearly as pissed off at himself as he was at the two punks who tried to mug him.

  • Kids are out of control. This is beyond messed up. I’m buying a beer for the first person who knocks one of these guys out.

    • Well this may not be worth a full beer, but I’ll take a Miller Lite or something. I got jumped by some kids trying to take my phone while crossing the train tracks on Rhode Island Ave. I slammed one of them to the ground hard enough that he didn’t get up for a few seconds.

      Instead of coming to help him, his friends just pointed and laughed and said “damn that white boy just stole you!”

      • I’d buy you a beer. Well done.

        Just proves that all these punk kids can talk tough but they are actually quite pathetic.

      • Better to throw them in front of a train so they can’t do it again.

      • you should have demanded his phone while he was down.

        • Take his phone?! I’m sure the only reason this poor urban youth wanted the phone in the first place was because he didn’t have his own and wanted to call his mom to tell her he was staying late to do his homework at the community center.

  • If you’re listen to an iPod while walking around the city, you really need to wise up. Just don’t wear them ever.

    • Practical advice that is well taken, sure, but it also smacks of a “blame the victim” mentality.

      • Since when did “blaming the victim” become such a buzz word for stepping over the line?

        I dont know about this case at all – but there are cases where the victim, while he or she IS a victim, put themselves in bad situations or did something risky that they should have known better.

        I’ve taken risks before, but I’ve also consciously NOT done something because sometimes the situation isnt safe.

        Prevention is the key – there will always be criminals, but the goal is to try to be the least vulnerable you can be to keep criminals away.

        I think if people took a little more responsibility for the fact that their actions, while they are perfectly within their rights, can be stupid in many instances.

        There are reasons that some people are repeated victims and others go their whole lives never being the victim of a crime.

        Be keenly aware of your surroundings, dont walk through unlit, unsafe neighborhoods in the middle of the night by yourself, use body language to indicate you mean business and are not lost or clueless – things like that go a long way. But just doing your best to avoid bad situations is the best.

        Is this going to eliminate your risk? No. However, I’m sick of everyone throwing around “well you’re just blaming the victim”. No, I blame the criminal for the crime, but I blame the victim for being vulnerable to the crime.

        • Yeah “being keenly aware” that you live in a cesspool filled with miserable examples of humanity is so pragmatic and helpful. Unlike, say, demanding government control miscreants.

        • Why is the assumption that having in headphones was the causal difference that led to the mugging here? The victim presumably has to get home and occasionally has to get to and from the store with bags of groceries so she can eat. If she hadn’t had the headphones in, would she have been projecting vulnerability for having both hands taken with groceries? And if no groceries, would she have been at fault for not taking the better-lit, more roundabout way home? And if she had taken the long way, would the problem have been that she was projecting vulnerability for being a 5’1″ woman?

          There is no logical end to that argument. Be street smart, sure. Anybody who lives in this — or any — city should be vigilant and aware of his surroundings. But at some point you have to call it like it is: we’re not able to enjoy a reasonable quality of life that includes some or all of [listening to music as you walk, walking the most direct way home, carrying things in your hands as you move about] because there are miserable little sh*ts like these kids who walk our streets with impunity because we have leaders in the District who won’t find them and nail them to the wall for this type of thing. It’s a failure of MPD, the Council, etc.. If we just accept that as the status quo and preach being “aware,” there’s a point at which all these street smart measures equate to ceding ground to the thugs. Some strategy, that.

          Be aware? Sure. But demand more as a citizen, too.

          • Brilliant statement, Anonymous.

          • MPD has no duty to protect you. It would be nice, but the [legal] reality is you’re on your own:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_v._District_of_Columbia A knife up to 3″ blade length and pepper spray are about all you legally have. That and being “aware”.

          • Cesspool? miserable little shits? People act like we live in Gotham

            Like I said, be vigilant of your surroundings and take all steps to avoid being a victim.

            However, stop acting like we’re walking around in a war zone. The chances of being a victim of a crime, even if you are outstandingly stupid – remains fairly low.

          • Well, what else would you call two teens who approach someone from behind, punch them in the head, and steal their stuff? Miserable little shits seemed appropriate.

            It’s not a normal expectation that someone will do that to you. Yes, it happens, and in more places than here. But I live here, and it happens enough in DC that I think it rises to the level of a real problem. It’s my POV. I’ve read at least a half dozen blog/listserv posts over the last year that follow this same pattern — some number of teens or pre-teens come up on someone from behind, punch them, and take things. Sometimes they hit them with a brick. Sometimes they just beat the victim senseless. Is it Gotham? No. But it sure as hell is Gotham-like.

      • I call it “avoid being the victim” mentality.

  • 7:40 is like rush hour – yikes. I would have no qualms about walking home listening to my music at that time of night. I will think twice now and caution my 14-year-old who often comes home from school or friends around that time of day to do the same.

  • if you look like a target, you will end up a target

    • It is also true that if you look at a target, you will end up shopping at Target.

    • yes, you should try to imitate the behavior of these thugs so you blend in and they won’t try anything with you. here are a few tips:

      1) wear your pants below your waist at a level that requires you to walk in an awkward manner so that they don’t spontaneously drop to your ankles.
      2) initiate conversations with your friends at no less than 110 decibels, preferably starting with the word “daaaamn.”
      3) instead of using headphones, play your music through the tinny-sounding speaker on your phone at maximum volume so that everyone within a 20 foot radius can hear just enough distorted auto-tune to be annoyed. this is best done on metro or metrobus.
      4) speak your mind. if you see something that’s interesting or unusual about a random passerby on the street, announce it so that they (and your friends) can be aware.
      5) practice your headpunching skills, as well as the 400 yard relay, using a smartphone as the baton.

      if you follow this simple steps, you’re well on your way to protecting yourself from identification as a target.

  • Is it still safe for me to wear my sunglasses at night?

  • I’ve been tempted to mug some of these people myself. Such easy targets, these self-absorbed twenty-somethings wearing headphones and walking in still-transitional neighborhoods. Kids, pay attention to your surroundings!

  • Let me get this straight. The OP, a small, single female, was walking down the street alone at night (yes, it was early but at 7:40 it’s still dark) weighed down by a full load of stuff AND wearing head phones? I know, I know, you can’t blame the victim, but please — where do these idiot people come from? This is the CITY, man!

    • I agree with the part about the headphones, but being female or needing to buy groceries after work doesn’t make you an idiot. /soapbox

    • hardly idiotic behavior. in the winter the sun sets before i leave work – should i be sleeping under my desk instead of idiotically walking home?

    • It isn’t “the city” – “the city” is NYC which hasn’t had the same sort of crime that DC has for years because they finally stopped coddling criminals.

      • No, the city refers to the city closest to the place you are currently standing.

        Only douchebags from the tristate area think that no one can use the word “the city” and refer to anything other than new york.

        Also, newsflash for you, “the city” kind of sucks.

      • I didn’t realize NYC had trademarked the word “city” to be used only in reference to their particular city…. you must be from Jersey.

    • So what part made her an idiot? being female? buying food? walking home (most likely after work)? Wearing headphones? I’d place a bet that a pretty big percentage of the residents of DC are female, food buying, employed, music admirers.

  • i love how we say “kids” while ignoring the obvious racial undertones.

  • I know, I know, we are not suppose to fight back,but damn, I would love love to hear news that some of these thugs get a smack down…. but then, you might get arrested for it… sucks.

    • Absolutely. See, they (those helpless little children) are the victims in DC. The fact that they steal at will and make life in DC a miserable experience is of no moment with the tone-deaf politicians that run DC. No, you racists that expect basic civil behavior are to blame.

  • I live at Holmead and Newton and am frequently coming home around that time. Please consider taking 14th St instead of Holmead when it gets dark. You may have to go a block out of your way, but at least there’s more light and foot/car traffic on 14th.

  • I know walking around listening to music or tooling around on your phone is dumb in a city, but most likely the biggest motivation factor in this crime was that the victim was alone- and that is the scariest part. I live less than 2 blocks from here and- while I don’t routinely walk home from the grocery store late at night- I’ve done it many, many times. I also don’t consider 8 p.m. to be late- I hate feeling like I need to lock myself up in my house once the sun goes down.

    I know a lot of people know that the neighborhood is still transitional, but I believe there is a serious disconnect when rents are skyrocketing. People expect that paying $1300 will guarantee some level of safety- even if that isn’t necessarily logical.

    • Paying $3000 still does not guarantee a level of safety.

    • I’m not sure I agree. A single person who walks purposefully and empty-handedly down the street while giving every impression that she or he is fully aware of their surroundings is far less likely to be mugged than the victim here.

      • Very scientific (not). The only sure answer is not to walk down streets in DC.

      • I agree. I lived in a huge, ultra-violent foreign city for years, and although I did get mugged twice, had I not been hypervigilant, I probably would have been mugged 20 times. The bad guys want to mug you without incident, so if you show them that you are aware, most of the time, they’ll pass on you and wait for the next victim.

    • perhaps they need to start a Capital Pitbullshare program. as we all know that pit bulls scare the crap out of everyone (as evidenced by comments here), and people tie their dogs up in front of grocery stores all the time anyway, there could just be racks of dogs around the city that you can take with you from place to place. get to the grocery store, rent your dog for 30 mins to take home with your groceries to ensure you don’t get your ass beat, give him a treat, and back to the rack!

      • If it weren’t for the animal cruelty aspect of this idea, I would really love to borrow a large, scary-looking now and then.

  • Learn Krav Maga.

  • Holmead doesn’t get shaddy until you are North of Otis Place. I live at Holmead and Oak and have never had a problem walking up towards the Giant/Target. However walking North towards Spring St. it becomes a bit more ghetto.

  • 14th Street north of Monroe is way shadier than Holmead.

    • Wow. Holmead is hardly that sketchy. I walk along it at all hours of the night and I’ve never had a problem. Well, once this lady got away before I could grab her purse and iPod, but there are always going to be some troublemakers on every street. Oh, there is also the migrant prison on the corner of Holmead and Monroe. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about.

  • PoP – This same thing happened to me several months ago. It was around 11pm on a Thursday as I was walking home. It occurred on 13th and N, right by the Radius Building a few blocks from Church key.

    2 teens just jumped me and grabbed my wallet and phone – hit me a few times.

    I talked to the cops after and they said:
    1) these crimes are run by a syndicate of muggers, and generally not local (to the neighborhood, but are from DC).
    2) Almost always occur when it is raining or rainy because there are less people out.

    Having learned that, I never walk home after or during a rain storm – i just take a cab. It might be worthwhile to share that info.

  • Lived in NYC for almost 10 years. Walked everywhere/rode the subway at all hours of night and day with headphones in 90% of the time. Never once had a problem. DC is my new home, and I love a lot about it, but the rampant street crime is just ridiculous. I hate hate hate the current incarnation of Giuliani, but I’d love the old one to come clean up this place.

  • Crime is rampant in this city? Seriously!? Every time crime coems up on here everyone acts like they live in fear the whole time they are here.

    Seriously, its not that bad. Put things in perspective.

    • well, everyone uses their own experiences to draw a conclusion one way or another. personally, i have found the crime here to be worse than in other places i’ve lived- and dc is not the first- or largest- city i’ve lived in. your perspective is different, but come on, this mugging happened in a residential neighborhood, blocks away from large retailers before 8 p.m. maybe that isn’t something that scares you, but it’s a shitty to question the concern of others who may live in that neighborhood.

  • Note to self: purchase some Mace to keep in my pocket the next time I’m walking home from the CH metro at 11 pm… or even at 7:40 pm apparently. I do always put my ipod, iphone & keys in my coat pocket (at least during the winter) when I’m walking home at night so that if my purse gets stolen I won’t lose everything.

  • Why not form a gang, Victim No More (VNM), and members, 90% of the population, give a collective smack down every time one of their own, a VNM, gets attacked on the street ?

    • I may say you’re a dreamer, but you’re not the only one.

      I read stories like this and it makes me want to mug one of these kids. Preferably to take one of their phones when they’re blaring music through it on the Metro at rush hour.

  • In all fairness, it’s not like this mugging was in a nice neighborhood. This comes with living in cheap and “transitional” areas.

    • I live in CH and consider it a perfectly nice neighborhood. Sure it’s not Georgetown, but by no means is it “fair” for you to call it cheap…

      • i think garrett meant CH is cheap by dc standards- which is true. and while you may very well believe the neighborhood to be nice, it doesn’t change the fact that it is still very much transitional, and with that comes crime.

        • huh? A lot of CH has some of the most expensive rent in the city. Most of CH is more expensive than a lot of neighborhoods.

          Also, its not transitional – it just has a lot of crime. Like Gallery Place.

          • Damn, we need a “quote of the day” post:

            “Also, its not transitional – it just has a lot of crime.”

  • Heads up, I got mugged – 2 teens in ski masks with guns – a few weeks ago. Headphones were in and carrying groceries. I noticed them at 11th and Irving, but they waited until I crossed Sherman to do the deed. No injuries, just a ipod, wayfarers, wallet, backpack, groceries, and cell phone and blackberry stolen. So I guess this just adds to the theme of the thread: Be cautious.

  • Don’t wear headphones at night ever. Never ever never. It makes you an easy target. I used to live in a really posh, safe-seeming neighborhood in Paris, and one night (around 11pm) when I was listening to my iPod some perv followed me home from the metro, grabbed me from behind, and when I ran away tried to follow me into my apartment. I was really lucky and was able to fight him off (and hopefully broke that asshole’s hand in the process), but it was really traumatizing and I would encourage everyone, especially women, to turn off their cell phones, iPods, everything that would make you look distracted when you’re walking around at night.

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