Dear PoPville – Be Aware, Everywhere.

Photo by PoPville flickr user JosephLeonardo

Dear PoPville,

Tonight [Sunday] I was sitting on the steps of my boyfriend’s apartment on Fairmont St between 13th and 14th just checking my email on my phone. A young black man who looked to be between 16 to 20 walked by and tried to rip my phone out of my hand. I fell backwards and managed to hold onto my phone. He ran off I guess when he saw it won’t be easy to get the phone away from me. Needless to say it was a very scary experience.

I know you probably get a lot of these emails but I wanted to let you and your readers know that the phone grabbing isn’t just happening on the metro. It’s happening on the street too. I don’t know really of any way to deal with this problem but I guess everyone should just be hyper aware of their surrounding and keep their electronics tightly held.

Another reader writes:

Apparently there have been a string of robberies tonight in the Mt. Pleasant/Columbia Hts area. Everyone should be alert to their surroundings – I thought I was, but clearly I wasn’t alert enough. The police turned up within 10 minutes of when I called after a guy tried to take my purse in the alley between 18th and Mt. Pleasant. They said that they were getting a number of calls within the area. A youngish, slight male tried to take my purse. He said “give me your purse” as he tried to snatch it. He was wearing a black ski mask so I don’t have a good description of him. I could see his eyes, but not his hair. I said “No” and held on and then started calling for help. My neighbors yelled out the window and the guy left. I know I’m not supposed to fight, but I didn’t see a weapon and I got a few good kicks into his kneecap before he let go of my purse. Anyway – everyone be careful out there and I can’t thank my neighbors (who I didn’t know before 10:20pm) enough for getting involved and helping me out. There are amazing, helpful people in this city and as long as we all look out for each other it will continue to get better.

91 Comment

  • But dude! This game of brickbreaker is just too good to look up!

  • Two youths (looked to be in early teens) also attempted to grab my phone out of my hand in broad daylight at 11th and V a couple weeks ago. They too were unsuccesful. But what really made me mad is that I was pushing my baby in the stroller at the time and when they failed in their first attempt, they turned around and started to come back. I had to sprint a block to an area where there were more people around before the youths turned back. Yes – I called the police. No – they did not catch them.

    • orderedchaos

      Nobody should have to put up with this sort of crap. But attempting to mug a parent pushing a baby stroller is even lower than usual (though perhaps not surprising). Sigh.

    • I will say it again and again why do people live “IN” their phones I don’t need to text someone about anything I do . If you were pushing a stroller your phone should have been put away ie: in your pocketbook or your pants pocket .No one in there right mind should be carrying a phone around “flashing it” in their hand while they are walking along the street. Nothing is more important than being “aware” of your surroundings that means no mindless activity with a phone . You might as well be holding a fist full of dollars with your eyes closed. I don’t accept any theft but most people that have these smart phones taken from them deserve it because they think the world revolves around them and that nothing will happen to them

      • I see your point, but if people were meant to not use their cell phones in public, we’d all still be using landlines.

        • I agree with Meg. What you’re doing here is putting blame on the victim by suggesting that they shouldn’t have been using a device for its intended purpose. Why should we have to compromise using devices the way they’re made to be used? Blame lies squarely on people who think they have a right to steal stuff from honest citizens.

          • There is a time and a place to use your device and that does not mean walking down the street with your mind and eyes focused on a phone , while I have seen it happen people don’t realize their lack of attention and awareness to other things which is ideal for criminals to take advantage of (they look for that) . I did not say you should not use it but use some “COMMON SENSE” when you do………..

          • @TheNeighborhoodReporter – No, what you said was “most people that have these smart phones taken from them deserve it because they think the world revolves around them and that nothing will happen to them.”

            You’re suggesting that just because they have they are paying attention to their phones they deserve to have them stolen.

            No one deserves to have something they paid for and earned with their money stolen from them.

            No ifs, ands, or buts. I don’t care about the common sense argument, yes you should pay attention, but you don’t deserve to get anything stolen and we shouldn’t have to worry about thieves. The problem is DC doesn’t do much to stop it.

      • I was mugged on Friday. I took a cab to my friend’s house and the cab dropped me off on the wrong street. I got out my phone to figure out where I was at, and I got mugged. By your logic, it was all my fault. Give me a break.

    • I live near there and basically never take my phone out of my pocket after 2-3pm or so when the local school gets out. The kids/thugs that get out of school around there basically wander around and harass people. I’ve seen mothers with strollers “forced” off of the sidewalk, people intimidated, racial taunting (white b*tch, etc.), cars keyed, windows broken, etc.

      There are police at the school to usher kids away quickly, so it’s no longer a school-related crime stat, but these loser kids just wander around and wreak havoc elsewhere.

  • props to these people for pushing back and not instinctively showering the criminals with all their possessions. I’m sure if a weapon was even referenced they would have had the good sense to give it up.

    • This is a really ridiculous comment. Don’t demean people’s reactions to what is a very scary situation.

      • I don’t think he was demeaning anybody’s actions — just the opposite. “Props” is slang for “good job.” No sarcasm detected.

        • “Instinctively showering the criminals with all their possessions” is the demeaning comment I was referring to. I don’t think people who decide not to fight in that situation should be made to feel bad, like they made the wrong choice.

          • Give me a break. He/she’s giving props to people for standing up to thugs. God forbid we congratulate anybody for anything, because the people who don’t act that way might get their feelings hurt.

  • Why do people have to be such jerks?

  • Seems to me that this happens all the time in DC, and that it’s much more frequent than in other cities like New York and Boston.

    I was mugged about a year ago at Ontario and Euclid by three black men who beat the crap out of me even though I never resisted. One grabbed me from behind and the two others punched me repeatedly in the face as they searched my pocket for my phone.

    The thing that pissed me off the most was (obviously) that I had the crap beaten out of me, but I also was pissed because they are stupid enough to risk their freedom for a piece of electronics. What has this world come to? I have to always watch my back in this city, and I hate it.

    • They’re not risking their freedom because the majority of robbery suspects will probably never be caught.

      • This is especially true in the District of Columbia, and these kids know it.

        • Is it the council members or the mayor that change these laws with enough voter pressure? Excuse my naivety, but really something needs to be done!

          • The legislative branch (councilmembers) writes the laws. The executive branch (mayor’s office) enforces them.

            I’m not clear whether the lenient punishments are part of law, or if it’s a matter of how offenders are sentenced. There’s certainly been a lot of criticism on these pages of DYRS, which is part of the executive branch.

          • It’s all part of a cycle. Absurdly lenient juvy-crime laws, judges can’t/won’t get tough, police realize enforcement is pointless and so don’t care…..the kid thugs know all this…..the one who pays for all this (literally) is the tax-paying, law-abiding citizen…

            (…and Phil Mendelson et al. will cite “research” showing that changing anything won’t work…..)

          • The end result of gentrification will mean a stop to this crap.

      • This is what I mean – absolutely no effort to catch most robbers in this city means they can prey on the hard-working people who earn their money and they take our things with impunity. It sucks having to constantly be aware and frankly, scared walking home. I should be able to walk at home at night and not be afraid, but instead I have to constantly be alert and worried. It’s stupid.

      • LisaT

        Just a point of interest, but this morning WAMU reported on the DCentric blog’s feature on unemployment in the District and this stood out to me:
        “About 60,000 D.C. residents – 10 percent of the city’s population — have criminal records.”
        It’s an interesting and worthwhile piece:

  • LisaT

    Last week while waiting at the bus stop at 5th and Kennedy around 7:30 in the morning, a young/teenage-looking male approached me and asked if I had a phone he could use. I pointed him to the payphone across the street. Seriously? Who would let a stranger teenager use their phone?

    I have a new Kindle Fire and I thought it would be great for bus stop/bus ride reading, but I’ve been leaving it at home because I’m pretty sure someone is going to rip it out of my hand.

  • Can someone offer information on how to push for stricter laws related to youth crime? This is ridiculous and until there are actual consequences this sort of animal behavior will only continue

    • I’ll second that. It seems like theft and robbery is a slap on the wrist while even murder only gets 15-25 years in the District, which makes no sense. Something is seriously off in the justice system in this city.

  • On Saturday, I went to U street to get takeout. As I was walking back, I heard class shatter in front of Town and looked to see two young black men standing awkwardly near a car. I kept staring at them — and they could see me — and so they started to casually walk away. I made sure we stayed the same safe distance apart as I walked towards the car. When I got there, I saw that they had broken a window. I called the police and continued to follow them. They turned a corner ahead of me and were gone before I got there. I was really frustrated that I lost them.

    Geoff, it’s not the whole city that’s a problem. Difficult as it may be to admit, there is one demographic in particular that is choosing to rob, beat and kill people. Avoid it, and you’ll be fine. How to avoid it? Don’t text while you walk, keep a buffer zone and cross the street or go in the other direction if approached.

    Hurts people’s feelings? Too damn bad.

    • @Bloomingdude

      Absolutely. Not saying that it’s city wide. It’s absolutely a certain demographic. If I’m being honest, it’s black youths in this city. Just a quick glance over the DC Metro Police Twitter account makes that pretty obvious. I’m not trying to be racist, but 98% of the reported robberies, thefts, assaults, and murders on that Twitter feed report the suspect as B/M (Black Male).

      The problem is that there is much more rampant crime in DC than other cities and it’s VERY frustrating to live in constant alertness. I shouldn’t have to worry about walking home once it’s dark out and I shouldn’t have to constantly be looking around to see who’s coming up the street or down the street in front of me. It’s unnerving to constantly have to be alert. The citizens of the city deserve to live in safety and unfortunately that safety doesn’t exist. Once I get anywhere near my home in Adams Morgan I put my phone away and don’t take it out past a certain time of day. I shouldn’t have to do that. It’s ridiculous.

      • Geoff, where have you been? There’s just as much crime in New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Miami, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, as there is in the District. However, this isn’t to say most of the thugs are black males. Sad but true. I imagine in locations where there’s a large white poor uneducated population, you will find many of the thugs white. I do understand how you feel and as a black man, I can’t change those feelings.

        • Charles,

          I’ve only lived in Boston but know that I never felt unsafe in the city no matter the hour, and never experienced a mugging nor did I have any friends who were mugged. On the other hand, I’ve had numerous friends mugged or assaulted in DC and if they haven’t been, they know someone who has. It’s telling that after it happened to me, my friends who’d been in the city said, “Welcome to DC, happens a lot,” and the people at AT&T said that they get numerous people each day needing to replace a phone that was stolen.

          I’m aware Philly and Baltimore have high crime rates similar to the District, but I also know that the District has a very high crime rate. For instance, according to 2010 crime statistics DC has the third-highest robbery rate in the country among large cities with 250K plus people (trailing only Cleveland and Oakland with 650.5 per 100,000 versus 299 for Boston, or over 50% higher) and has a higher violent crime rate than most cities (top 10).

          Obviously the crime rate by race is going to differ by city and like you said, in a majority white city I’m sure the majority of crimes are committed by white thugs.

          Unfortunately, due to my experience (and due to reports on the DC Police Twitter feed, @DCPoliceDept) I’m now very wary when I see black youths who are dressed a certain way and who are in larger groups. It’s unfortunate, but when a majority of the crimes are perpetrated by that group of people I’ve learned to become wary if they are gathered in a group or dressed a certain way. I didn’t used to be this way, but my experiences have made me have to be.

          It’s very frustrating that crime is extremely prevalent in DC (particularly robbery) and that walking at night (and even during the day) I have to be aware of everyone around me. You shouldn’t have to worry about being robbed on the street for your wallet or a piece of electronics that you have paid for with your hard-earned money.

          • Just to echo Charles point: “I imagine in locations where there’s a large white poor uneducated population, you will find many of the thugs white.”
            You said you lived in Boston. Ever been to the South Side? If not, there’s a reason you haven’t set foot there. It’s a poor, uneducated population lacking in access to social mobility with high rates of crime. And it’s almost a homogeneously white population. I surely wouldn’t pull out a nice phone in that area at any time of the day.
            I know having a discussion on race – particularly when it relates to crime, and especially so in the comment section of PoP – can be touchy but let’s keep a little perspective. And for the record I don’t think you’re racist, but believe you might be drawing broad conclusions from your personal experience, something I have been and am still guilty of too. Working on it though.

          • If I see two or more “number 1 males” on the street ahead of me, I go another direction.

            Rhody, there’s no “South Side” of Boston. If you mean South Boston or the South End, you’re about twenty years out of date.

      • Geoff,

        I can understand your frustration since being beaten up would make all of this personal and doubly maddening. One thing to keep in mind — you’re living in the one of the areas where you’re more likely to be beaten and mugged. I think people feel too comfortable in Adams-Morgan, because it’s in upper NW and near Dupont. In reality, that place has some serious crime issues.

        I walk around Bloomingdale at night, alone and quite a bit. I’m on guard but feel quite safe. Yea, it may take me 15 minutes to walk from my place to the bars, but that 15 minutes of distance is a nice buffer between me and the b.s.

        My point — sorry you had that experience; I can understand why you’d be so pissed; and you should consider another/safer neighborhood.

        • @Bloomingdude,

          Thanks. I know that Adams Morgan has a higher crime rate than some other parts of the city.

          I’ve learned to try not to walk around past 9 or so on a Friday or Saturday night and if I’m out I always get a cab home, but it’s still frustrating to live in an area where I have to worry about getting home safely.

          To be honest, I’m looking into moving to Cleveland Park or even Bethesda. I just don’t want to have to constantly be looking over my shoulder. It’s just frustrating that trouble areas like Adams-Morgan don’t get appropriate police coverage.

          For instance, on Friday and Saturday nights it’s nice to know that there’s a heavy police presence on 18th ST but I can’t help but feel the real crime occurs on side streets where people walking home get mugged. It’s beyond me that 1. DC allows such a high concentration of bars in one area, and 2. They don’t patrol the side streets more.

          I NEVER feel safe on 18th ST and hate when my friends want to go out there. I don’t see the appeal of it and try to get them going somewhere else. Just blows my mind that people like the area.

          Point being – I love my apartment but want out because of lack of safety. It’s just frustrating that any part of the district has crime like AdMo.

          • It’s unfortunate but true. AdMo has a ton of crime in relation to neighborhoods across Ellington Bridge. If you like the area but don’t feel safe where you live, try Woodley Park or Cleveland Park. You’d still be near a lot of restaurants and stuff, but far enough
            away from the AdMo weekend madness.

          • @theheights – Yeah, moved into the city last year and fell into the apartment thanks to my boss knowing people who had it up for rent. It’s a beautiful place on Harvard ST. It’s just unfortunate that crime is so rampant.

            Any idea why it’s so bad in AdMo?

            I realize 18th ST on the weekends is a great source of easy, drunk prey from out of the city (or from other, safer parts), but curious why it’s so high in an area that’s otherwise relatively nice.

          • It’s defintely the fact that people come to the neighborhood on Friday and Saturday nights looking for trouble. On a weekend day, Adams Morgan is a nice, fun neighborhood. But on a weekend night, there are loitering troublemakers just looking for victims. Ironically, you’re generally safe in the bars, but on the street? Not at all. It all comes back to AdMo’s reputation as an entertainment area. H st. and Gallery Place will increasingly face the same challenges, I’m sure.

        • Well, Adams Morgan is crime ridden because it is a massive strip of bars, an unchecked public spill area, and zero police presence except on the main strip, where the only crimes are drunk idiots from other neighborhoods getting into fights. If bloomingdale eveer gets a huge strip of bars that bring in a thousand people from VA/MD all with disposable income in their wallets… you will get mugged in bloomingdale at the same rate.

          and, FYI, Adams Morgan is not upper NW. It’s mid-to-lower – With it’s southern boundary almost the same as bloomingdales northern boundary, not that that means anything.

          It’s funny that as areas that were completely unsafe due to drug wars/gang crews in the 90’s are now safer (for street crimes and robberies) than the gentrified areas. Is it a “where the money goes, the muggers go”? And by funny I mean.. sad and yet, predictable. You mug where there are people with things you want to.

          • I really have a hard time understanding why the District allowed an area like 18th ST to form.

            It makes no sense to allow such a tight concentration of bars in one area, especially dive bars like those on 18th ST. Every single building has a bar occupying it and very few are more than dive bars. As a result, you get thousands of people packing narrow sidewalks on the weekends. It’s crazy and the District could save money by simply shutting down half the bars and taking away their liquor licenses.

            A nice weekend raid by the police where they checked IDs of patrons would be pretty easy to do and besides, I’m certain places like Dan’s Cafe have to violate some sort of health code.

            The police really need to step up their presence on the side streets and the District needs to ensure a more even spread of bars. The high concentration makes the area nigh unliveable.

          • Geoff, you’re righ, but the horse has left the barn, unfortunately. There’s really no way to restrict the bars there because the bar owners run the neighborhood now. Without wide-ranging and strong police presence, nothing will change. And most of the bars in AdMo aren’t dives. Dives can be fun. Most of the bars in AdMo are just trashy and generally cheesy.

          • well geoff:

            1) the city really can’t just STOP new businesses from opening up, and in the 90’s as Adams Morgan started turning from bar + retail into bar only – the city made money on it, so…. wasn’t a problem.
            2) Georgetown (and downtown M St/19th St strips) used to be as bad or worse than Adams Morgan – it wasn’t until 90’s that Adams Morgan became the defacto crappy bar and VA/MD frat party area.
            3) Adams Morgan has a cap on new bars/licenses. The city has recognized this is too much a concentration of crap, but … you can’t just shut down a business that’s making money and not violating the law (and no, Dan’s Cafe is up to code, just so’s ya know).
            4) The rent is so high in Adams Morgan – nothing else can make it as a business.
            5) As the Heights says: the bar owners RUN adams morgan, and they will do nothing to cut into their profits.

            It’s too late to fix it. But, i just avoid 18th Street on Friday and Saturday. All other times, I love the area.

          • Thanks to both of you!

            Totally agree. I was voicing what I wished could happen more than what could legitimately happen.

            It’s just hard to believe that it was ever allowed to become such a concentrated area.

            Two things that, I think, aren’t that unrealistic that I think they could do to help the situation on Fridays and Saturdays:

            1. Foot and car patrols on the side streets in a radius around 18th ST. A lot of those side streets are dark and it’s where muggers wait for their prey.

            2. Widen the sidewalks or make 18th ST a pedestrian walkway after 11 PM on Fridays/Saturdays. Half the issues on 18th come from incidental contact with someone who’s drunk and looking for a fight.

          • I think they’re widening the sidewalks now. Also, your idea to make 18th St. a pedestrian plaza has been brought up several times and might be part of the answer. Unfortunately, though, the problem isn’t people staggering out of the bars and getting into fights. It’s people roaming the streets looking to prey upon the people coming out of the bars. On a asaturday night in AdMo there’s always a ton of people wandering around that will never step foot into a bar. They’re there to see & be seen and sometimes, to get into fights.

      • It’s like being in a jungle, on alert for predators. completely absurd.

  • My husband was walking the dogs last night near Q and 5th St. and a guy ran passed him warning that there were kids up on the church steps with a knife. Tis the season!

  • I am sorry to say this, but I hate they created cell telephones. Everywhere you go today, you see people walking and talking/texting on cell phones. You see them in the grocery store, Target, Walmart, Macys, and at funerals talking or texting on cell phones. During Thanksgiving dinner relatives had to be told to stop texting on their cells because this was family time to celebrate our blessings. Enough is enough people with these darn cell phones. What would you do if they no longer existed? LOL

    • But here you are using similar technology to write on a blog while you’re probably at work….I know the point is different but I couldn’t resist 🙂

      • [email protected] Record; you are correct.

  • What do they do with the phones after they get them? Sell them? Use them for themselves? After it is reported stolen is it easy to get them functioning again?

    • Unfortunately it’s pretty easy for them to sell them.

      Technically the manufacturers/wireless companies have the power to “shut off” phones that are reported stolen, but they won’t. If you report your phone stolen they’ll disable your account so that the thieves can’t use your phone or minutes, but the thieves can easily sell them on eBay/Craigslist to someone who can then activate it and use it.

      It’s frustrating that in this day and age of GPS etc. tracking down these people is a low priority. Apple makes it easy to download “Find my iPhone” which helps you track it if it’s lost, but if you go to the cops and say that you can see where you phone is they most likely won’t do anything. Only way I’ve seen people recover their phones is by doing it themselves – for instance, going to the place the GPS says the phone is and calling it – or by making a blog about it and getting attention to the point where the cops agree to help so it doesn’t make them look bad.

      Not to sound so negative here, but it’s very frustrating how little action the police take to curb robbery, how few suspects they actually catch, and how little punishments the thieves actually get.

      • How about a “destroy this phone” app? Seriously it shouldn’t be that hard. Render the physical phone forever un-useable. Like how we pressed a couple of buttons in the control room and “self-destructed” that drone spy plane Iran got hold of.

        • I thought the iphone already had such a thing? I was told (I do not own one) that you can set a password, which after X failed tries, renders the phone useless. Maybe it’s not permanent, though…

          • Unfortunately that’s incorrect.

            Basically, the iPhone has a feature that resets the phone and clears all your information off of it if someone enters the password incorrectly. But, they can plug the phone in and reset it like a fresh factory install.

            In theory the iPhone (and all smartphones) should render the phone unusable and if someone tries to use it again it should report them to authorities based on IP address but I don’t think that will happen because there are people who might forgot their pins or whatever.

  • I also had my cell phone ripped out of my hand while walking on 16th St in Adams Morgan a few weeks ago at 7:30pm. I know better than to walk and be on the phone but it was still felt so early I did not think much of it. In the grand scheme of life not a huge deal but still really upsetting. Remember to call 911 as soon as possible!

  • How about the fact you can go into almost any corner store and but a “Ninja Mask” for a couple of bucks. . .

  • I’m so glad police had to be concentrated in other parts of the city last night to fight “real crime.”

    Do protestors realize that while their spending their unemployment building Ghetto barns in big government DC, there are actually citizens who have chosen to live in this city. And it’s because of them that our resources are being taken away from us so they can be focused on getting jokers down from an unsafe structure and searching tents for drugs.

    It was very fustrating yesterday evening when, my twitter feeds were alternating between the latest developments at the square and DC crime alerts.

    • Yes, before Occupy DC, there were no crimes being committed! Damn those hippies for distracting the every single one of the district’s cops.

  • The USA could learn from Australia:

    Cellphone thefts have dropped 25% since 2004 even though there are 10+ million more phones being used.

    • Nice bit of info… sad cell phone companies here are not considering it. Looks like good old corporate greed wins again!

  • On Friday evening there was a robbery on the 2200 block of 12th Place NW with the perp matching the description of the perp in the second incident — young, ski-mask-wearing B/M. He approached a woman who had just gotten out of a taxi and demanded her purse. She gave it to him and he fled.

    By the way, there is a PSA (police service area) 305 meeting at the 3rd police district HQ tomorrow night (Dec. 6). The meeting is 7-9PM at 1620 V Street, NW in the Snyder Community Room. If you live near U Street, Howard U, or in LeDroit Park please attend (police service area map: I suspect there will be quite a turnout of neighborhood residents turning out to voice their concerns.

  • Seriously – DON’T BE LOST IN YOUR PHONE IN PUBLIC. period. I don’t know how many times people have run into me, annoyed the sh*t out of me by carrying on inane conversations, or the worst…when I’m in a store and someone is standing in front of the stuff I am looking for and I can’t get to it because they are just zombiefied on there f*cking phone! If you can’t put it away until you get to a safe place to use it, you deserve what you get. I might just snatch it from you myself next time.

    • “If you can’t put it away until you get to a safe place to use it, you deserve what you get.”

      Seriously? People lawfully using personal property on public streets deserve to have it stolen? Yeah, and that woman wearing the short skirt, dancing provocatively at the club? Totally deserved to be assaulted.

    • YUP. There’s a major problem with a couple of the statements on here that suggest the problem isn’t the thieves but instead the people using their devices on the street.

      The solution shouldn’t be that we should know better and have our phones in our pockets until we’re safely at home, it should be that we need to be following-up on these thefts and arresting the perpetrators.

      Why blame the victims for using something they purchased and that are meant to be used anywhere?

      Just because you might have a problem with people using phones doesn’t mean you should say they deserve to have them stolen. Like the previous poster said, that’s about as inane as suggesting a girl wearing a short skirt deserved to be assaulted.

    • Well it doesn’t seem like the writer of the first email was “lost in their phone in public.” They weren’t walking around or blocking anyone’s space. They were sitting on the steps of their boyfriend’s apartment building and were obviously aware enough of their surroundings to realize some guy was grabbing for their phone and hold on tight. Also, the steps of your apartment buidling or house should ideally be a “safe place” (even though I admit that is not always the case).

      However, it’s probably easier to just ignore all that and blame the victims instead of the people trying to commit the crime….

  • Someone other than me cause I hate FaceBook, should start an on-line petition demanding that Apple and the Droid people make an app that kills the phone dead. If 5 million people or whatever can get Betty White on SNL, surely they can encourage some developer to write an app.

    • You shouldn’t need an app. Someone above posted an article about how Australia simply disables phones reported stolen because they can track the 15-digit ID code that all phones (including those in the US) include.

      The reason US carriers don’t do it is because a stolen phone gets sold or gets used and requires a new contract. In addition, the person whose phone was stolen has to buy a new phone.

      Why stop theft when the reward is so much greater for not stopping it?

    • The smartphone you buy for $200-300 costs the manufacturers much more than that to make. The wireless companies subsidize the cost of the phones and recoup the cost back from customers over the life of their contracts. That’s why the unlocked iPhone 4s (which you can use on any carrier) will cost you $650-850, depending on how much memory you want. These companies are not going to thrown away the hundreds of dollars they eat on each phone just because the phone has been stolen or lost. That phone has to reappear somewhere and when it does, some carrier is going to get paid for supplying a phone and data plan.

    • I would also accept a small explosive to be activated, or maybe just a dye packet (with blistering acid-agent).

      These devices could also be activated in restaurants. Or really whenever the speaker ‘s voice passes a certain decible-level.

      I’m kidding of course. A kill button (of the phones circuits) would be great though.

  • Do people really need a thread on a listserv to remind them that they should always be alert to their surroundings? Is it really a huge surprise to find out that phones are not just being grabbed on the Metro?
    Unless it’s a case of getting information out quickly to catch someone who committed a crime recently, or some kind of pattern of crime involving the same suspect(s), what purpose do all of these anecdotes serve?

    • Prince Of Petworth

      If it’s not useful to you, with all do respect seriously, don’t feel obligated to comment or even read the post. Though the post may not be useful to you, it may be useful to others. Thanks for understanding.

      • I’m not questioning your right or decision to start this thread and I don’t doubt that it is useful to some people. That’s why it’s got so many comments. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask those people why or whether they find this post useful. It might even be instructive for them to think about those questions.

    • Well, as a community blog it’s intended to remind people that no matter what part of the city you live in, no matter whether you’re on the metro or on you’re front step, and no matter what time it is, thieves can strike.

      The other reason it’s on here is so people can discuss their experiences and share. Unfortunately we shouldn’t have to be vigilant at all times. The problem is that this city doesn’t seem to care about “petty crime” such as assault and robbery. The perpetrators are rarely caught, and as a result, it’s free reign on honest citizens.

      • But are people who commit assaults and/or robberies caught less in DC than in other urban areas? I’m asking because I don’t know the numbers. I know that is the prevailing sentiment in the posts that accompany these kinds of discussions.

        • That’s a good question.

          I think the best way to figure that out – not scientifically, but at least from a relative sample size – would be to have it be a poll on here.

          “If you’ve been mugged, have the police caught the perpetrator?”

          I know in my case the answer is no.

          I also know, for a fact, that among cities with 250,000 or more people DC has the third-highest robbery rate in the nation.

          Beyond that it’s speculation based on popular sentiment. My guess would be it isn’t unfounded.

  • Not a month goes by in which MPD doesn’t report to ANC 2F about telling people to stop using their smartphones, particularly iPhones, while on sidewalks. I’ve written a blog post, mentioned it in my monthly newsletter and MPD has started posting fliers in common areas throughout Logan Circle.

    Still I routinely see people walking down the sidewalk looking at their phones, making themselves easy targets.

    Hopefully this post and related comments will help spread the word that smartphones, particularly iPhones, are being snatched and grabbed at a quickening pace. It’s best to keep them in your pockets until you’re off the street.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      It’s an important message. But keep in mind the OP was simply sitting on her boyfriend’s stoop. Not walking around. I think it is important, as another commenter noted, to recognize the difference.

      • What I find offensive is that the message is “Please don’t use your phones in public.” The reason we have smartphones is so that we can talk, check email, and surf the web from anywhere.

        This is along the same lines as blaming the victim. Why should we have to change the way we live because a criminal element is allowed to go virtually unchecked in the city?

        The message shouldn’t be “Don’t use your phones,” it should be, “We’re stepping up patrols and doing our best to track every robber and thief so you can go about your daily business safely.” There’s a point where having to change the way you live to keep safe means the city is doing something wrong.

        • I agree with this 100 percent. While I always tried never to use my phone in public, I needed to this one time, to check the map to see how to get to my friend’s house, and the guy got me. What is the city doing to respond to this? Why is it so easy for criminals, but so hard for the rest of us? I agree: Use common sense. But we deserve to feel safe in our communities.

        • What good are diamond necklaces if we can’t walk down the street showing them off????

        • But keep in mind that there will never be enough police on the street to deter every crime of opportunity, like the standard snatching of a phone, neckchain, iPad, etc. Unless it’s that rare instance when a crime happens in the immediate vicinity of a police officer, by the time a police officer is called the thief has long gone. The best the police can do at that point is take a description, log it in their records, and have some sort of general lookout. But they’re not going door to door to find your smartphone. And even if they catch up with the thief, if there is no stolen property in his possession, he’s not getting charged with anything. I don’t know what percentage of these types of crimes are solved in other cities, but I’ll bet it’s pretty small.

        • I don’t think saying “Please don’t use your smartphone in public” is the same as blaming the victim. I think it’s street-smart advice. This is the world that we live in right now (dislike it, if you will, but it’s what it is). I think we have to come to terms that to “lessen” your chance of being a target that is all the advice is suggesting. Of course, it’s up to you. If you feel that it’s your right to use your smartphone in public (and you do have every right to) that it may make you a target because if someone sees that you have something you want, they might just try to take it from you. What you think about people who are on their smartphones 24/7…well, save that for another rainy day.

    • Nick – what, in your opinion, needs to be done to stop this type of criminal activity?

  • In reply to the second post, we helped a girl on saturday night on Irving St. between 14th and 13th. A guy with a black ski mask and dressed in all black tried to snatch her purse. He ripped it apart but didn’t get anything from her. The police showed up w/in 5 min of the incident which pleasantly surprised me.

  • Similar incident happened to me. I was sitting on my doorstep and the guy actually ran up the stairs and cold cocked me and took off with my phone. I got up and chased him down the block but he got away. And I live on Florida and 14th and this was about 8pm on a Friday night. I hate the lowlife teenage criminal element in this city.

  • Allison

    Additional word of warning to everyone:

    Last night (Thursday December 08) at about 5:30pm (curses it gets pitch black here so early!) I was walking on Euclid street toward 14th on my way back from the 16th street bus stop. Behind the BP gas station (next to the children’s mural with the beluga whale) I passed a man walking unusually slowly and eyeing me in going the opposite direction of me on the sidewalk (about 6′ tall, 230lbs, African-American– can’t miss the guy he’s gigantic). He got about 1 foot behind me, spun on his heel (never seen someone turn on a dime so quick) and started following me extremely scarily closely. I was carrying my laptop in my school bag so I was certain he was about to mug me. I spun around, looked him straight in the face (so he would know I could identify him,) and showed him that I was carrying mace. He backed off and went the other way and I feel lucky that my tactic worked this time.

    I called the cops as soon as I was at home and filed a report. The inspector was really nice and offered to drive me around the neighborhood to see if I could point the guy out, but the officer and I decided it wasn’t worth it because the guy technically didn’t do anything wrong. (It is also entirely possible that I am just crazy and at the exact moment the guy passed me he realized he forgot something really important at home and I was in his way on the sidewalk.)

    Anyway, this worked for me once before the mugging started, but if he had actually gotten ahold of my bag I might have just given it to him– life isn’t worth a laptop, even if it would really suck because I’m in the middle of finals at school and my life is pretty much stored on it. I’m going to go back up my data now…

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