Reader Reminders to Stay and Alert

Photo by PoPville flickr user Vileinist

“Dear PoPville,

I was walking north on 14th between R and S St, NW tonight [Wed.] around 9:30 PM. A girl was walking towards me, and behind her were two boys, flanking her on either side but at a slight distance. They both wore hooded black sweatshirts, and one had what looked like a black turtleneck pulled up to his nose. Both were African-American and could not have been more than 13 years old. They started to increase their pace, but then they noticed me, and kept walking. I slowed down, silently checked in with the girl, who switched her direction and asked if she could walk with me. The two boys followed us for a block before disappearing. Definitely strange and unsettling, especially because it was right on 14th St, which is well lit and certainly not desolate on a weekday evening. She called 911 and within two minutes I saw police cars heading in that direction.”


“Dear PoPville,

I was sitting on the Blue line this morning [Wed.] heading downtown from Potomac Ave when I witnessed an iPad snatch and grab. At a stop when a train was across the platform (I think Fed Center SW but I was too startled to pay attention), a young kid got out of his seat and slapped an iPad out of a woman’s hands who was sitting a couple rows ahead of him. He then picked it up and ran across the platform to the other train. Someone by the door grabbed his sweatshirt, but he got away. It all happened very fast and right before the doors closed.

This isn’t news to anyone, and I think there are still ads on the metro about protecting your stuff, but people should be really careful, especially when sitting on the aisle. It was all too easy for him to get the iPad out of her hands, and they’re a lot harder to hold onto than than a smartphone.

He amusingly dropped an iPod or a smartphone which was given to the victim. Hopefully the cops should be able to figure out something from that so later we can hear about the dumb thief who left identifying details at the scene.”

87 Comment

  • until the CANCER that is the housing project on R street between 14th and 15th streets is closed there will continue to be crime in this area.

    time to move the animals that live there away–high density public housing has proven time and time again to be a massive failure.

    think i am being too harsh? google “r street apartments hate crime.”

    • Prince Of Petworth

      You can say what you want to say without calling people animals. Your comment makes it seem like you are calling all the residents animals. That is unacceptable. Obviously I’m not defending criminals – but language like this is not necessary to make your point. If we can’t have a civilized discussion (even on emotional topics like crime) then I will delete comments like this because the conversation gets out of control. I’m leaving the comment up now – as an example of what is NOT acceptable. Thank you.

      • Thanks PoP, I really appreciate your efforts to keep the comments here civil.

      • PoP, we all know what is unacceptable. Please take this comment down; OP can repost in a civil manner if s/he wants.

        • Prince Of Petworth

          Not everyone knows what is unacceptable – sadly.

          • so intelligent. calling someone an animal is really going to address the problem. if you think they’re animals then you may as well be calling for their euthanasia. I personally think ignorant fools who have the resources to add to the discussion but don’t are the animals.

          • I think the point is that there are many people that live in public housing and most of them do not rob or mug people. So, since “concerned resident” and you are referring to all people living in public housing as animals, it’s not just criminals, it is generally poor people that need housing assistance.

            Being poor isn’t a crime.

          • What do you expect when the guys, who did not commit a crime mind you, were referred to as “African American”? Yet the race of the submitter was not detailed… This is a bullshit story that didn’t occur in assault or anything of the kind. Pure speculation. To post insinuation of this kind, and cite being “followed in the city by African Americans” is only going to cause inflammatory statements. Don’t report it if its not news. And the storyteller and his friend need to grow more street smarts… I’m offended by the premise and baseless accusation of the first post. If I wrote that a white male followed me home would it be frickin’ newsworthy? No.

          • I dunno, Jack5. I kind of a agree with you, but what if there were a white male creeper about and somebody wanted to warn those in the community? I think that people should really listen to their gut so even though it was a non-assault that doesn’t make it a non-event. it’s like nobody can win. $1mil says that if the race were omitted we’d be having the same argument we have here all the time about white guilt.

          • Original poster here – I included the race, as well as the approximate ages and outfits – just in case anyone in the area had something similar happen to them.

            Also, just to clarify, this woman and I did not know each other, but the fact that this non-event caused both of us to take pause is worth mentioning. I think we were both demonstrating street smarts – we were walking in a well-lit area, we weren’t on our phones, etc. I usually walk on that side of 14th Street because the Walker-Whitman Clinic has a security camera. I sent this PoP not to defend stereotypes, but just a reminder to stay alert, look out for your neighbors, and listen to your instincts.

            And, for the record, I’m a white female, though I do find it interesting that most commenters assumed I was male.

          • Street Smarts includes not going out at night if you’re easily scared or intimidated by people in certain areas. If you’re females, you should know that males make cat calls and try to holler at you to look good in front of their friends, it does not by default mean they’re robbers or rapists. If you ask me, anyone would be nervous when walking at night in the city. Warning people to be wary of walking near to African American males is like warning people of rain, except its much more stereotypical, but both warnings are just as useless. Screw the whole concept of white guilt, you have no guilt, otherwise there would have been reparations long ago… The whole angle of this discussion is dis-heartening as someone who knows that any human being can be just as harmful as any other. You’re not assaulted until you’re assaulted, and that’s the only fact here.

          • hey Jack, try being a fucking woman for ONE DAY and then tell me there’s no difference between catcalls and the shit men do to intimidate and threaten us on the street. go screw yourself.

            additionally, until you lose that chip on your shoulder, you’re going nowhere in life and will probably not have any fun blaming white people for it. my ancestors were robbed of their land and livelihoods, but my family doesn’t go whining and crying about it. move. the. fuck. on. YOU were not a slave.

          • Street smarts is about being aware of your surroundings and watching for predatory behaviour. Following somebody at night and “flanking her on either side but at a slight distance” is predatory. Does it mean these two individuals are predators? Not necessarily, maybe they’re just walking home from their weekly bible study and are too engrossed in thoughts about the Great Schism to notice they’re walking close to somebody. But you’d be a COMPLETE FOOL not to take warning as the person being followed, and anybody who has ever been mugged knows exactly what I’m talking about. Nobody is warning people away from african american kids. Everybody is warning people away from suspicious circumstances with the strong potential for trouble, regardless of whether hindsight will show that foolish disregard of surroundings to be ‘PC’ led to no injury – in that instance.

            Also: reparations?? Really? You’re right, I have no sense of guilt because I’ve never enslaved anybody (nor have my ancestors, as if that made a difference).

      • Thank you PoP.

    • Thank you PoP speaking up about the language. To concerned resident – I google ‘r street apartments hate crime’ and came up with this:

      I had no idea & this was the kind of building I previously looked at for a year lease.

    • like mountain lions….stalking their prey.

    • Only white people think that they have the right to talk like that…

  • How can anyone be safe in this city? Is much of the crime random?

    Or is there a distinguishing characteristic of the perpetrators that makes them possible to identify? If so, wouldn’t it be wise to avoid this group at all costs or at least to be hyper alert in their presence? Or is there no way to know the age, gender and look of the person likely to mug you?

    • DatsDaWay – Are you asking for a synopsis of stereotypes?

    • I have to say, I am more alert when young black men dressed in hoodies are around. It’s stereotyping, but it’s also common sense.

      • +1. You can either be smart and aware of your surroundings, or you can be naive and think that everyone is all about peace and love, regardless of how suspicious they look.

      • +1 Sad but true

      • anybody in hoodies. really, it’s not about race, it’s about what you wear and how you carry yourself. ain’t nobody gonna freak out over a young black dude in a suit or hipster garb on 14th.

    • keep in mind that the perpetrators are looking for certain characteristics in their victims as well – talking on the phone/listening to music/otherwise not paying attention as you stroll along late at night/alone/with your really expensive phone/device while carrying your laptop bag.

      stay alert, walk quickly, keep your phone in your pocket, choose well-lit routes. same way you stay safe in any other city, where crime is always “random”.

  • I live off of 14th in that area and the other night saw a young man following another pedestrian very closely down our side street. He occasionally made some yelping noise in the pedestrian’s ear. The pedestrian ignored him and the young man eventually turned back and walked back to a group of 2 other friends laughing. It was obviously he was trying to scare the man and laugh it up with friends. I wonder if my partner and I hadn’t been obviously watching from across the street what would have happened. Or if the pedestrian hadn’t ignored him — this was about 8pm.

    • Let’s just put it out there – African-American agression towards whites is tolerated in DC. I know this makes people – both black and white – uncomfortable to admit this, but it’s true. I see it anywhere in DC that blacks and whites intermingle. Is it racist? Yeah, it is – I cannot remember the last time I saw a group of black kids gets on the metro without seeing them or hearing them start getting verbally or physically aggressive with the white people around them.

      How many times have I seen groups of white kids doing this. Zero.

      I am white, and my black/Thai wife agrees with me.

  • I really don’t understand people who choose to use ipads on the metro. I feel like it’s just a matter of time before something happens to it. I use my kindle only because it is not nearly as flashy as an ipad and at a fifth of the price, much easier to replace.

    • I only read books on the Metro and I’ve never been mugged. None of those thugs are going to steal a book. Remember what Chris Rock said about that?

    • So you assume your technology will be stolen? And question why anyone with a convenient and highly portable device that has a ton of potentially productive and/or entertainment applications would want that device with them each day in a city where the average commute probably consumes 60-80 mins. a day?

      I don’t question your stance, and grant you that it’s the pragmatic one, but it basically admits capitulation to the lowest common denominator and an acceptance of a self-imposed, less-than-optimal lifestyle to accomodate sh*tty people. In other words, I’ll adapt my lifestyle rather than expect sh*tty people to adapt theirs or the government to force sh*tty people to adapt theirs.

      Dare I say it? This is why we can’t have nice things.

      • No, I understand why someone would want to have their ipad with them. I get bored on my 60 minute commute just reading from my kindle. However, I know that I would be incredibly upset to lose such a valuable possession. And I think the same goes for most people. So in my mind, if you’re an intelligent person and you value your ipad, don’t take it out on the metro where it is well known that there are thiefs.

  • I’ve lived in cities since I was a legal adult and always thought I’d be a city girl. After I moved here, however, I was pining for suburbia. In ALL urban settings, you have to be on guard, and maybe it’s my perception but DC seems to have more than its fair share of crime. It’s a shame, because this place has such potential.

    As far as how I regard avoiding criminals (which I’ve been lucky enough to do – knock of wood) is regard EVERYONE as the person that’s going to mug you OR your friend after you get mugged. Also, if anyone looks like they wouldn’t want to be identified (hood up around their face, dark clothes), it’s probably a safe bet to avoid them.

    • The great thing about DC is that our first ring suburbs are also very urban (more urban than most of DC). Inside the beltway NoVa and MoCo give people the option of a walkable, diverse lifestyle with lower crime rates and less high-density low-income projects.

      • “More urban than most of DC?” What the hell does that even mean?

        • dense, and built up. much of arlington is more urban that most of ne and se dc.

        • And upper NW. Look at a satellite image of the District, a large amount of the land area is single family homes. I will say, though, that our more urban areas are more urban, though possibly less dense the the inner ring suburbs, but our suburbs definitely aren’t lacking in urbanity compared to most areas of the county.

      • this is a ridiculous description. I especially love “diverse lifestyle.”

        • I’d bet a bunch of money downtown Silver Spring is more diverse than anywhere you’ve ever lived.

          • sure. you win the anonymous internet fight by betting me “a bunch of money”. I’ve been to ss, honey, and it ain’t more diverse than ny or toronto so suuuuuuck it.

          • Wow. You win by claiming all of NYC and all of Toronto. We’re talking neighborhoods, hun.

    • I don’t understand the logic of assuming that everyone in the city is a criminal. The fact is most (if not nearly almost all) of these crimes are being committed by young black men. Why would anyone be as cautious around a group of older Asian women as they would be group of black teen boys? That’s just silly. The whole city isn’t criminal. There is one particular segment, namely young black males, that is responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime. When they are around, be on guard.

      • But of the young black men, only a small fraction are criminals. How are you supposed to pick out the criminals from 50 feet away?

        • Best bet is to be aware of your surroundings and not walk alone late at night or after going out drinking.
          Thanks Anon for the reminder that not every black teen who walks down the sidewalk a criminal!
          The prejudice of people on this site is a real put-off.

          • As the white mother of black teens who occasionally wear hoodies and pants below their butt (I hate it but can’t enforce against it when I’m not with them), I can attest that they are not criminals. However, I am aware that when walking with them at night, or day for that matter, people of all races seem to tense up a little. I probably would too.

            I always feel the need to break the tension a little by broadcasting that they are with me by saying something like “did you finish that project at school?” I instantly sense the relief on the part of the other people. Same thing when we walk into a store together. I try to stay as close as possible to them to let others know my boys “are OK,” whatever that means.

            I know they want to look cool around their friends, but I also have to explain to them the reactions they may get because of how they dress. And I feel the same way when I encounter young men–usually black or latino–who look “the part.” However, I don’t tense up when I encounter young men, who, to me anyway, appear to be harmless. How do I describe that look? Middle class? Bright eyed? We all know we don’t have the nervous reaction around every kid with a hoodie.

            I wish I knew the answer, and I’m sorry my kids and others get lumped in with the troublemakers, but they do.

      • I guess my point was to exercise reasonable caution ALL the time. Don’t assume someone is a friend OR foe.

    • Even though you’re more likely to be killed by a car in the suburbs than a gun in the city?

  • The easiest thing we can all do is be good neighbors like the guy in the first post and the metro rider that tried to grab the perps sweatshirt. Be on the lookout for your fellow citizen and step in when its safe.

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” E Burke.

    • +1 Part of what I think attributes to the crime is that criminals know few people will step in and intervene if they see something happening. We need to be more aware and more willing to look out for each other instead of standing around like sheep when crime is in progress.

      • I’m the original submitter of the first post — and just to clarify, I’m also a chick. There was another guy walking by who just continued on his merry way, even though it was clear there was something was up. Disheartening.

        I only moved to DC two months ago, but +1 to being good neighbors.

      • Nothing highlights the need for this more than yesterday’s revelation at the Lululemon murder trial. Apple store employees heard the victim yelling “God help me!” They even went over to the shared wall to get a better listen and yet they did nothing, not even a call 911.

    • That’s an interesting quote. So many times on here and other places I’ve read that people were victims of crime, and those that were around did nothing. DC, as I’ve heard and observed, DC residents by and large will avoid confrontation, or at least getting involved in a confrontation that doesn’t immediately affect them. Not everyone, I’m sure, but as a general rule. If a crime happened on the metro or on the street, I’d expect more people to do their best to ignore it. I’m sure there are saints out there that wouldn’t…but perhaps that’s the problem with our city. NOT the people that do the crime, but that people that let it happen.

      • Go read about the Lululemon trial. Apparently, employees at the Apple store next door HEARD the victim pleading for her life, banged on the wall, and did nothing else. Didn’t go next door, didn’t call the police, just closed up shop and did nothing while she was beaten to death.

        Lesson: sometimes bad stuff happens and it’s a whole lot better to call the police over what turns out to be nothing than to let someone be violently murdered next door.

    • Be on the lookout for your fellow citizen and step in when its safe.

      I agree but in this case, but you’re making a huge assumption that the little criminal thief is also not carrying a weapon.

      • yes. anyone remember that nice young man who was helping the woman over on 1st street a while back? paid for it with his life.

  • Sadly for the woman with the stolen iPad, the cops won’t do a thing with whatever the thief dropped. A guy who stole my wallet a couple of years back dropped a phone in the effort. The cops told me they wouldn’t even think about looking into the phone because “for all we know he stole it too.”

  • It’s not just pedestrians that have to be wary. I had someone follow and harrass me from Sherman Circle all the way to 5th and H Street NE when I was driving and he didn’t stop until I took out my phone to call the police. This was probably around 9 PM on a weekday. Never thought those things actually happened – but now I’m much more aware of cars I repeatedly see next to me at intersections/circles.

  • Much like the allegory of running from a bear, I just need to be faster than you. I hope enough people keep their phones in plain sight. If you dont, the criminals are going to start having to try harder and it increases the chances they’ll hit me up.

    • +1. I encourage everyone to walk around with headphones on and the music turned up while ostentatiously parading their affluence. It’s the only thing keeping me safe.

  • Between this thread and the thread yesterday about crime in Ledroit Park, the cognitive dissonance of some of the posters here is incredible.

  • andy

    in honor of Steve Jobs and to prevent crime, ban the turtleneck in favor of the mock turtleneck.

  • Everyone should protect themselves & their belongings at all times regardless of where you are. Sure you WANT to walk around oblivious to your surroundings texting & talking away and be safe, but that’s not reality. Protecting yourself should be priority #1 regardless of where you live or who you are.

  • I made it a habit a long time ago to constantly look around me when walking alone at night. And if I’ve been drinking, I take a cab to my front door. Vigilance is key.

  • Let the increased paranoia come to a climax now that winter is fast approaching and EVERYONE will look like Eskimos as if they are trying to hide their identities. It may even be hard to tell the races of people. As a young Black male, I don’t dress like a “thug” or “Criminal” as I am a pretty clean cut guy with a masters degree. But when winter is around and it is COLD, I may wear a hoody to keep my head warm on top of my winter hat…And I do get the stares from people, primarily distressed white women who feel threatened, so I usually say, “Hello how are you?” And they quickly relax because I sound articulate like Barack Obama. I have to agree that usually the stereotypes are correct(See the film “CRASH” and take notice of Sandra Bullocks character) and everyone should take caution regardless of race. As a Black GAY man, I feel uncomfortable around an array of people as I have been harassed by primarily WOMEN of all races. Looks can be deceiving.

    • lordscarlet

      I would argue that just saying “Hello” is enough to put people at ease. You don’t have to sound like Barack Obama for people to feel less intimidated by a person that says “Hello” as opposed to someone that walks by with their eyes on the ground.

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