Dear PoPville – Suspicious Harvard Street Character

Photo by PoPville flickr user J Y W Harvard St, NW

“Dear PoPville,

A few times each week when I’m walking home from work down (around 8:00 or 9:00) the 1600 block of Harvard Street downhill toward the zoo, I see a man casually strolling down the street in the bike lane. He’s always wearing a backpack, and is never walking on the sidewalk. I wouldn’t think anything of this, except for the fact that he is glancing inside of every car he passes. I admit, I do this when I’m running down the street, but this guy really looks like he’s checking out the goods in each to either break into later in the night or right then. I haven’t thought too much of it recently, but last night, I saw the man again. He was walking on the right side of Harvard in the bike lane toward the zoo. Another guy was leaning on his car and smoking a cigarette on the same side of the street. When the grifter saw the guy smoking against the car, our potential suspect quickly switched to the other side of the street and continued down.

Now, I’m kind of at a spot where I don’t know what to do. Clearly, I’ve never seen him do anything wrong, and he’s never attempted to break in or even stop for further inspection. He is just walking, after all, but it seems like this is highly suspcious, especially considering how many car windows you see blasted in on Harvard.

Should I call the police? Or the non-emergency number? I don’t necessarily want to talk to the guy, but I’m reasonably sure the cops won’t care since nothing has actually happened. Kind of at a loss here. Anyone else seen this guy or have advice about what to do?”

32 Comment

  • I believe there _is_ no non-emergency number now; you have to call 911 and specify non-emergency.

    • I’m pretty sure you can call (202)727-9099. I’ve never called it, though, so I don’t have a personal anecdote to say for certain whether that is the correct number.

      • the police in my district (1D) have said over and over that if you want a police response, call 911, even if it is not an emergency. There is no “non-emergency” number for requesting police action.

        So if you’ve had a bike stolen and need a report, see a suspicious person, etc., call 911 and their operators (who work for the Office of Unified Communication, which also operates 311) will ask you questions and order a unit to come out.

        If you don’t need an officer to come out (like if you’re asking about parking regulations, or need a copy of a police report) you could call 311 or just your local precinct.

  • Sounds like you just went the internet to justify your eventual decision to call the police.

    • Or maybe he’s just looking for advice on an ambiguous situation? The commenters here need to turn down the snark sometimes.

    • The sneering “I think/know I’m better than someone else” comment is right on cue today.

  • bait car! set him up. just make sure you have a fake taser ready.

  • Please call the police. I don’t get why people are so afraid of calling the police. As if being a concerned citizen is some huge inconvenience to the police. Let the 911 dispatcher and MPD prioritize and decide I hey have the resources to check out the ‘suspicious activity’ – it’s not our job to do that. Please be proactive and report suspicious people – your gut was probably right.

  • Report it as a suspicious or possible terrorist, carrying a suspicious backpack. That will get a response!

    By the way, I’m kidding.

  • Take his picture and see what he does.

    • I did that once across the street from the Giant in Columbia Heights. A suspicious man was using a coat hanger to open the passenger side door (curb side) of a Jeep. I thought to myself, “if he was legit locked out of his car, wouldn’t he call a locksmith??” I started filming him with my iphone from across the street. As soon as he looked up and saw me, he casually walked away.

  • The cars on that street are prime break-in material. Especially closer to the zoo, there’s hardly anyone around, and the houses are pretty far up the hill. I’m surprised I don’t see broken glass there more often.

    When I park my car there, I make sure everything is removed from the car, but so many tourists park there on the weekend with GPS devices, etc. in plain view.

  • 50411 – non emergency text number. Next time you see him, use it, state location and time, and description, and if they have the resources, they’ll come check it out – happened when we had a suspicious person on our block a few months ago, they came in 30 minutes.

  • Yes, call the police. I was at a recent police community meeting where the police in Mt. P request that you call them without hesitation when you see this. It’s suspicious activity and they will question him.

  • A couple of days ago I saw this guy jump into the street level apartments on Belmont near 14(View 14)and called 911. I then told the front desk people. Within 4 min of calling the placed was srounded by police. I then left. I called the apartment later on to check if the guy was caught andthey said Yes. Bad timing for this guy.

    • Was this on Wednesday morning? I think I saw the police activity.

      • Yes it was. It was cool how the police, when they found out that the apartment have a hallway door; they basically stationed themselves on all 4 corners of the building to make sure the dude didn’t scape

        • Good looking out! I live in a building nearby, and we’ve had problems recently with people hopping over dividers into the ground-level units (or climbing the walls to the first-level balconies). Hopefully more people like you will call the police if they see something like that.

  • To clarify, he jumped into the patio area of one of the apartments. I thought about not calling the police first thinking perhaps it is someone who lives there who forgot their key, but I decided it was better to call the police even if it ended up the owner.

  • If you feel that you could do so safely, it might not hurt to let him know that you see what he’s doing. For example, you could call from the opposite side of the street “Hey, just so you know, I’ve seen you scoping out these cars and I’d like you to stop.”

    It might spook him enough to at least scare him off the block.

    Of course, you don’t want to get up in his face about this. Just be the faraway ‘Voice of God’.

  • Leave the poor guy alone. He is not doing anything wrong.

  • You should have called the cops. Inside the backpack were his tools. He’s waiting for an opportunity or scouting. Believe me he’s trying to see which cars stay parked and which move daytime and evening.

    About two years ago I happened to wake up at 3:30 in the morning and looked out the window and saw someone looking in cars the same way. I called the police and they caught up with him three blocks away and took him in.

  • Grifter? Are you sure he wasn’t a hobo?

  • It might appear that I am glancing inside every car I pass, but in reality, I am beautiful and simly wish to catch a glimpse of my own, gorgeous reflection.

    Should I just carry a mirror with me in future to avoid such suspicious activity?

  • And people say smoking cigarettes has never done any good.

  • Call the police. Or at the very least write into the 3D listserve, 3D officials are very responsive to that way of communicating.

  • Why don’t you talk to a police officer, rather than call 911. They’re easy enough to find on Mount Pleasant Street.

  • I observed two boys I saw behaving like this one early morning. I was up when grabbing a 2 am snack. The boys were trying to open car doors, one after another. I called the police. They took down notes over the phone, but never came.

    Then, I yelled out the window like a giant man with a huge adam’s apple. I really did — loud and deep as hell– from my window. I said, “HEY, YOU.”

    They ran, ran, ran.

    That was kind of fun. I’m petite, female with a soprano voice.

    However you can help your neighborhood, do.

  • Call the police for suspicious persons or activity. 911 is the number to call when you need police, fire, or ambulance to respond.,a,1237,q,547634,mpdcNav_GID,1554.asp

  • I personally witnessed a car break-in in this same area about a month ago. Of course I called the police, but I doubt they ever got the guy. He got lost as soon as he saw me. I don’t see any harm with getting some extra police attention to the area.

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