Stolen Purse/Chase Around 7:30am this Morning by Thomas Circle

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“Dear PoP,

I was jogging down Vermont Avenue just about where it meets 14th street at the Circle and saw an approximately 30-ish year old black guy in a black t shirt and tan pants sprinting like a bat out of hell across the lawn of the red church on the corner. A 20-ish white guy in a white shirt and tie was chasing him. Someone was yelling, “Stop thief!” I chased after both of them, following them into an alley which split into a Y. The business guy went down the alley one way and I went the other. Unfortunately, we lost him at that point. A passing car said they saw him get on the 14th street bus, so we flagged down a cop (someone apparently called the cops), and several cops pulled over the 14th street bus going south. The business guy got on to try to identify him, but he wasn’t on there. At that point, we were saddened to realize he had gotten away and felt badly for the young women whose purse had been stolen.

I’m somewhat dismayed that more people didn’t try to stop him. I also don’t understand why the people in the car didn’t follow the bus.

Would you please ask your readers if they saw a guy fitting that description in the area at that time? He was running like crazy with a purse so he should’ve been sweating like crazy, out of breath and pretty noticeable. I know catching him at this point is nearly impossible. However, it sickens me that these *holes feel entitled to rob people, particularly in broad daylight at rush hour, and they can get away with it!”

53 Comment

  • I don’t whats more annoying. A Purse snatcher (of which there are countless of in this town) getting away, or someone thinking that a purse was so important that they pull over a full city bus during rush hour and delay everyone on it, and everyone down the line.

    • Recovery of one purse is not the issue; it’s the apprehension of someone who has done this before and will continue to victimize people.

      If folks on a bus are delayed for 30 minutes in order for that to happen, they will survive.

      • Uh huh…sure. Had the guy dropped the purse at any point, the chase would have been over and no one would have pursued him any further.

        And I think your “ROI” calculator is off. Delaying ~40 people by 30 minutes each for a total loss of 20 man hours (just for the people on the bus) to look for someone who got away with the 20 bucks and lipstick in someones purse is a pretty big waste of everyones time.

        Had the guy just shot someone, sure. But for a freaking purse? No.

        • Agree that had he dropped the purse, the pursuit would have stopped.

          But it goes beyond $20 and lipstick…presumably she had her ID, credit cards, house/car/work keys, phone, etc. in her purse. It’s not only a bitch to deal with replacing/cancelling all of those things, but it’s sketch that some dude has my ID (with my home address) and my house keys.

          • Exactly. If you want to get into a bunch of time calculations, how long will it take the victim and the next dozen people this guy mugs to replace all of their credit cards, passes and IDs? Let’s say about four “man” hours per victim. So assuming the average mugger can hit about twelve victims before they can afford their dope for the week, that’s 48 hours lost. That trumps the time lost by a busfull of hapless commuters.

    • Hopefully Joker is just living up to his name

      • He’s always like this. It was my mistake for engaging him, and not treating him like a troll.

        • If “like this” you mean…

          “an adult who is grounded in reality and doesn’t go hyper ADD every time some delicate hipster is affronted with some perceived massive injustice like “Should scooters be allowed to park in a bike rack, it blocks my bike”, or ” Verzion is putting poles in property I had commandeered but didn’t own and I am hopping mad at the “property invasion” or crisis like ” I have a day between ending and starting a lease, what in the world do I possible do with my stuff, help!”

          then yes… I am always like this.

          • Golf clap to you, sir.

          • But if it were YOUR wallet…..

          • PoP, have you ever done any kind of demographic survey of the commenters on here? I’m especially curious about everyone’s age… some of us definitely skew a bit more realist/borderline cynical while others are more idealist/borderline naive. I wonder how much age affects perspectives on this type of thing.

            I mean, the purse snatching sucks because it’s a pain in the ass and probably really disturbing for the woman who lost her stuff. And it hits close to home for me as I live right there (and probably missed this by minutes since I was out walking my dog then). But I don’t really think it’s that big a deal that I’d write into a blog about it (though admittedly, I’m the one who wrote in about the money in exchange for dog poop story so maybe my priorities are off?). Sh*t happens, life goes on. But then again, I’m old(ish) and cynical.

            Long, rambling story short: it does not surprise me that more people didn’t try to stop the guy, but I give major props to those who did.

          • Prince Of Petworth

            This is very old and probably not too accurate today but here is a poll done in July ’08 about how old we are:


          • Would you consider running those polls (neighborhood and age) again? Pretty please?

          • Props to Joker for telling it like it is.

          • But you do see the difference between those things you listed (which are not crimes) and the instance in question (which is a crime), correct?

            And that it was a cop who pulled the bus over, not just some fabricated stereotype of a hipster you’ve conjured up, right?

          • Haha if by “fabricated stereotype” you mean “detailed and accurate portrait” than yeah.

            +1 to Joker for keeping it real around here. Keep it up.

  • ledroittiger

    Let the torrent of unsympathetic and snarky quips begin!!

    Why the hell was this woman walking around with a purse anyway?? Clearly got what she deserved!

    • What the fuck is wrong with you?

    • A lot of the snark around the “Dear PoP” entries has to do with the subject matter people write in about, the details in the entries, and the conclusions the author makes about the particular situation. Most of these are non-stories. Cases in point:

      “I was offered a ride by a car that wasn’t a cab. I was freshly showered. Let me give you a three paragraph synopsis of what I think this was all about. Also, should I call the cops?”

      “There’s a lot of trash on the streets in my neighborhood. Let me throw a bunch of impractical suggestions about how this immediately needs to be addressed because my dog eats the chicken bones. I’m mad.”

      Today’s posting is a non-story. A woman got her purse snatched, two people gave chase to the thief, but he got away. That sucks. Is it a story worth posting about? Not really.

    • If you don’t want your purse to get stolen then move to Clarendon!

  • Protip: don’t chase criminals into alleys. It was a purse snatcher; not worth becoming the Jogging Crusader Six Feet Under edition.

  • I saw a 30’s-ish black guy in a black shirt and tan pants in my hood around 8am. I also saw one at work an hour later. Better call the cops…

    But more seriously, it’s great that two people came to the aid of a theft victim. Pretty selfless. Now, responding to the ponderings of the dismayed poster:

    I’m somewhat dismayed that more people didn’t try to stop him. I also don’t understand why the people in the car didn’t follow the bus.

    Perhaps because people have other things to do, like getting to their jobs on time. How many people should have chased the guy down? Every able bodied person?

    However, it sickens me that these *holes feel entitled to rob people, particularly in broad daylight at rush hour, and they can get away with it!

    I’m not sure if robbing somebody is acting in an entitled way, or how the time of day matters. It was a brazen theft that could have easily gone wrong for both parties. The thief performed his own risk/reward calculation in his head, decided it was worth it, and went for it. Crime happens, especially in a *ahem* diverse and vibrant neighborhood.

    • i’ve never seen the word “entitled” used in a useful way.

    • I completely agree with the OP that this kind of thing is dismaying and sickening. Is it, in the grand scheme of things, a major crime? No, and people should always be alert to their surroundings. But robberies like this that happen on major streets at rush hour in broad daylight indicate a certain level of brazenness, comfort, and lack of fear of getting caught on the part of criminals that should be a concern to every law-abiding person in this town who’s just trying to go to work. It’s really hard to avoid being a victim of opportunity when there’s nothing — not even a crowded street at rush hour — that can discourage these pieces of shit.

  • Call me selfish, but there will never be a time where I will chase down a thief. The contents of someone else’s purse aren’t worth me risking injury or death at the hands of someone brazen enough to commit a crime in broad daylight. I’m not even going to give chase if my own purse is snatched.

    • Emmaleigh504


    • Totally. I’m not getting shot because you got your purse snatched. I might try to obstruct his path if he’s running towards me, but other than that the most you’ll get from me is a 911 call and a witness statement.

  • I guess I’m in the minority, but I appreciate postings like this. Yes, crime in DC happens everywhere and at all hours of the day, from someone’s bike being stolen on Flager in broad daylight to this.

    But hopefully it’ll be stories like this that will keep people vigilant. It’s one thing to read about a Friday night shooting in Columbia Heights — quite another to read about a purse being snatched at 7:30 in Thomas Circle. And who knows? Maybe a reader of this blog will find that purse somewhere on 14th street. Perhaps empty of money, but with IDs and other belongings intact. You never know.

    • Yes, a shooting on a Friday night in CH is different than a purse snatcher in Thomas Circle: the former is a serious felony and the latter petty theft and merely annoying. I hope all future crimes trend toward purse snatching.

      • While I agree with your crime severity breakdown here, Jimmy, I don’t think you should be so quick to dismiss ShawRes’ point. ShawRes is not saying that the purse snatching is more serious, but rather a further indication that people should be vigilant at all times of day and in all parts of the city. Let’s face it: lots of people from the ‘burbs never set foot in Columbia Heights, Petworth, Shaw, etc. etc. and certainly not at night. To them, overnight shootings in CoHi, while sad, further reinforce their perception that the neighborhood is dangerous, and confirm their decision not to go there. In short, they don’t think such shootings affect them, and don’t pay much attention. What ShawRes is saying, validly, is that crime can happen anywhere, at any time, and shouldn’t be dismissed or ignored as a problem that doesn’t happen in neighborhoods frequented by suburbanites and residents of Upper Northwest.

    • +1 ShawRes. I don’t agree with others that stories like these shouldn’t be posted as it definitely helps to remind us what’s going on in the community and keeps people vigilant. But I do agree with others here that the shock, disgust, surprise, and self-righteousness that’s often present in Dear PoPville submissions is pretty ridiculous and ripe for mockery.

  • I for one am glad to hear that there are still citizens out there that would run after a purse snatcher. Regardless of whether it was safe to do so or not. Thank you OP!

  • I was on an S bus in April when our bus was surrounded by cops and pulled over. We were “detained”, their words, for about 20 mins because they thought a suspect in a crime was onboard — which he was. Although it creeped me out because I had no idea what his crime was for those 20 mins, I wasn’t too upset with losing my 20 minutes in order for this guy to be caught. What an idiot — steal a purse and then jump on a bus that goes in a straight line for 10 miles….

    • I am going to have to come up with a more creative moniker. After posting for months as KT, here is another KT. However, as this other KT seems like a reasonable poster, I guess that is okay with me.

  • A few thoughts:

    1) It depends on how he acquired the purse. If he grabbed it off her shoulder, then this is just larceny and probably a misdemeanor, unless she had items worth over $1000 in there. If however he said, “Give up your shit” and she handed over the purse, then this is a robbery. And as a robbery it is one of the 7 major felonies that the FBI tracks and is essentially on the same list as Arson, Burglary, Homicide, Grand Larceny, Auto Theft and Rape. So it’s a bigger deal for the District Commander.

    2) As a cop, if I’m searching for a perp, even if he is a crackhead who stole a purse to hit the pipe, I have no problem stopping a bus, a Metro train, or other conveyance, until I’m satisfied the perp isn’t on there. I am told to enforce the law, not to weigh people’s time and obligations versus the nature of the crime. That would take too long, and most cops aren’t going to be very good at that amount of critical thinking, as they shouldn’t be.

    As for chasing the guy, that’s on the good samaritan. However, I’d think twice about chasing someone who robbed someone, versus lifted it off their shoulder. If they showed a willingness to use violence to acquire the object, its a good bet they would be willing to use it to keep the object.

  • Another reason we need CCW permits in DC. One less living purse snatcher.

  • Good on the people chasing down the robber. You didn’t get him but kudos for trying. There is obviously an inherent danger in this and I wouldn’t be mad if somebody didn’t help, but it’s always nice to know that there are still those out there that believe it’s their shared responsibility to prevent crimes on the street.

    I chased down somebody who just broke into a car on my block (after calling the police as I spotted him looking into cars). I didn’t catch him but I was certainly sick of seeing glass on the street every single morning from car break-ins.

  • I’m the OP.

    The bus was pulled over for no more than 5 minutes, just long enough for the other guy and I to look at the passengers. Where did the 30 minutes or whatever come from?

    If someone is screaming for help (and this lady was, which was what started the businessman chasing), how can you ignore that?

    Finally, the goal shouldn’t be just to catch these guys… but to make their crimes harder. If they know people are just going to stand around and watch others get victimized, they have zero incentive to hesitate to victimize.

  • SO this all explains why there were a lot of police cars still there when I passed through on the bus a little after 8 AM. My bus was stopped very briefly while a police officer said something to the driver but nothing more than that. I wondered what was going on.

  • DC folk, you gotta love em. Situated in the lap of luxury for some, comfortable life for others and pure poverty for many….smh.

    The thief should not have stolen the purse, it would have been good to have seen him caught and gut punched a few times. I do wonder however, how it feels to see the many preppy, edumacated folk strolling around in neighborhoods some can only hope to dream about while slogging off to their jobs at the copy store or street sweeping job. The divide seems stark in DC…interesting.

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