Dear PoP – Witnessed a theft but Props to the Cops

Photo by PoPville flickr user Nikoo’s Photos

“Dear PoP,

I was walking south from the Columbia Hts metro along 14th between Irving and Columbia about forty minutes ago [Thurs.] when I heard glass breaking. I looked up, and a youth had broken into the back window of a blue Honda, reached in, grabbed a bag, looked at me, and sped off. There was another bag left in the car that he didn’t get because he noticed about ten people watching him. He wasn’t alone – there were a group of boys his age on bikes and they left in the same direction/at the same time he did.

I rushed the two blocks home, called the police and reported the theft, along with a full description of the youth and the direction in which he rode his bike. Two minutes later, I get a call back saying that they had apprehended a subject and that the police would pick me up and drive by to see if I recognized the subject. Unfortunately, I recognized the subject as one of the boys in the group, but not the one that broke the glass and took the bag. The officer took down my info and asked me to call if I saw the subject again – chances are that he lives nearby and they can apprehend him if I can do a positive ID. We drove by the car again and the owners returned and were assessing the damage.

I was amazed at how fast the police responded. The whole response and drive by took about 15 minutes total. I can’t emphasize for our community: 1) Be vigilant. This happened on a busy street in the middle of the day, and I made sure to get a good look at his face. 2) Please don’t leave anything in your car that’s visible from the street, even a busy street like 14th.”

40 Comment

  • call me an ass, but you don’t own a cell phone?

    • i was thinking the same thing.
      nonetheless, it’s great you cared enough to be involved.

    • +1

      Haha i I was thinking the exact same thing. What avout the other witnesses. This story is sad and not the usual “good feeling” I get from the props section.

    • Ass,
      Have you ever left your phone at home? And yes, there are folks that don’t own cell phones.

      • Agreed. Maybe the writer was on a run, was coming from the gym, doing a couple quick errands, etc. Not all of us have our phone on us 24/7.

        But yes, what about the other witnesses? I wonder how many people called the cops.

    • I’m the OP – I was returning from the gym and only had my keys on me. Teaches me that I should always have my cell handy.

      • just because it’s the first thing that popped into our minds doesn’t really mean anything. i don’t bring my cell to the pool or gym either.

      • Not only do I not take my cell to the gym (like you), but specifically leave it home when going out on certain social occasions or errands so as to not be constant connected or accessible.

      • but if you take it the CH WSC, you’re running the risk of it getting stolen from your locker. keep leaving it at home.

    • I consider my phone to be an important part of keeping safe in the city. I couldn’t imagine going out without one. If you want to be disconnected turn it off but have a way of communicating!

  • It seems clear that the car owner does not read PoP. How many times does the Prince tell all of us loyal readers to never leave anything in plain view in our cars?

    tsk, tsk! If only they woud have read the blog or, you know, used common sense.

  • Thanks for being a good neighbor.

  • That’s astonishing, b/c when I called the cops last year WHILE witnessing an armed carjacking, 40 feet from wonderland on Kenyon “first responders” didn’t show up until, and this is not an exaggeration, an hour and a half later.

  • 1st District is fast, too. I’ve called a couple times for things that seemed semi trivial to me. I was transferred from 311 to the police and cars were visible in less than 5 minutes. Big improvement since I called for a burglary about 4 years ago and waited 45 minutes for an officer to show up.

    • I waited well more than 45 minutes with a burglarly just a couple of months ago. Third District.

      • When the suspect is long gone and there isn’t a viable lookout to catch the perp, there’s no need to make it a priority because its no longer “in progress.” Plus, its not up to the officer how quickly he or she responds, it depends how the 911 call-taker prioritizes your “emergency” and then how its dispatched.

  • Couple of other points on being a good witness:

    Get a good look at pants and shoes – they are harder to change than a shirt.

    Get a look at the criminal next to a staionary object – like a light pole. You can better estimate height that way.

    Sadly enough, this experience is not always repeated. The Washington Blade is covering a truly horrific story, at least for those of us who are LGBT:

    • Emmaleigh504

      God, that is horrible! The police wouldn’t even take a report after letting the attacker go, b/c the women weren’t calm after being attacked?? Doesn’t sound like those police were serving or protecting.

    • This is awful.


  • andy

    I saw an armed robbery on my block when I was running. I got a look at the dudes who did it because I was passing by, but as soon as I saw they had guns, I bolted.

    I called the cops right away, put in a report, saw a photo lineup, but apparently couldn’t make an ID.

    It is really sad how fuzzy memory is for this kind of thing.

  • seriously props to the cops that camp out by the CH metro. I had an “incident” right around there a little bit ago, police on the scene literally in under a minute. …and I was in an ambulance within 5.

  • When the community was complaining about Walmart intention
    to come to Georgia ave. they said that theirs kids will be
    tented to steal from the store and crime will increase in the area and their kids will land in jail.

  • Good for you, you did the responsible thing. Be forewarned,however, about what will now likely happen. If the suspect is not in possession of the stolen bag when/if he is apprehended, then the suspect will likely plead not guilty and go to trial. You will give up a day from work to go down to Superior Court and testify as a witness. The suspect will likely walk if there is no evidence directly tying him to the stolen bag beyond your testimony (and that’s assuming that you can i.d. him).

    Having been through this drill before, I would always encourage people to get involved and report crimes, but do not expect that the perpetrator will actually be punished.

  • Gosh, DC has changed so much in the past 5-10 years. I use to call to report break ins as I was watching them happen and the dispatcher would tell me if I wasn’t the owner of the car they couldn’t respond? ????!!! I once asked if I was witnessing a stabbing, would the policy be the same in that they couldn’t respond unless I was the person being stabbed and the person reporting the stabbing. Their response policy was so confusing I stopped calling. I’m so glad to see a constant influx of newcomers whose (and rightfully so) knee jerk reaction when they see a crime in progress, they call to report. I might start calling again since it appears the policy has changed and is now similar to other cities in developed nations.

    • Nope, that still the policy! I called in to report a car that had been broken into and ruffled up. I was told they couldn’t do anything about it if the owner hadn’t contacted them. I asked if they could at least look up the registered to contact the owner–negative.

      • OP again: Interestingly enough, the dispatcher never asked if it was my car (probably assumed it was my car), but the cop asked right away when he showed up at my front door. Even though I said no, he probably wanted to go ahead with the show-up since they had already caught someone. So, you’re probably right that ownership-only is still the policy.

        To New London Boy: I interned in the Superior Court this summer in the juvenile division, so I know the drill. Depressing generally, but even more so when respondents get off because of unreliable witnesses. It’s surprising how much memory breaks down, days, weeks and even months after the crime occurs. Would be more than happy to go down there and testify if it means breaking up (temporarily at least) these mini-crews.

  • 3 instant thoughts on reading this:

    (1) To the OP — thanks. Awesome that you did this. My guess is 90% of us, in the absence of a cell phone, would have gotten home and figured it was too late to do anything. I wish I could say your actions are the norm here, but as any reader of this blog knows, they’re not. Keep working with the cops, and know that there is a silent (significant minority? probably not a majority, sadly) out here applauding you. (Also props to the cops for the quick response.]

    (2) This happened on 14th Street, presumably with lots of folks around, and the kid went ahead and committed a noisy crime. There’s no wonder as to why so many people think DC kids are a lost cause. When kids have neither shame nor fear of consequences, it’s nearly impossible to move them in a better direction.

    (3) Odds that the kid they actually caught rats out his buddy? I’d say about 50:1. Disgusting. And a perfect reason why we should celebrate item (1) on this list more than we actually will.

  • The good news is that OP cared enough to get involved and that the police responded to quickly. (And a ‘thank you’ to the poster who gave suggestions about what to look at and notice that will help ID the suspect later – I would never have thought about things that way.)

    All that being said — what I find shocking is that there were ten people around, and still the kid committed the crime. Clearly these kids just have no fear of being caught and that can’t be a good sign for the future.

  • they responded quickly because that neighborhood is a war zone and they always have cops on patrol…not that it helps.

  • Metro Connection on WAMU today had a segment on DC juvenile crime – talking with young offenders who had absolutely no sense of remorse, regret, or even the concept of right and wrong. Really revolting. Thought not as revolting as the mom with a 4 year son with cancer who lost her job and now has no health insurance for her child’s treatment.

  • i would have just said the kid they showed you was the one who did it

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