“Citizens Take Action and Nab Car Thief” Sparks Interesting Debate

Photo by PoPville flickr user Collin David Anderson

Over the weekend MPD sent out a note on the 4D listserv:

Last night at around 7:40pm in the 5200 block of 4th Street Northeast one of our neighbors was in his home when he noticed two suspicious males lurking around his vehicle. He noticed that one of the males appeared to be a lookout as the other male approached his car and began to use some kind of tool to manipulate the lock on his vehicle. The neighbor quickly grabbed his smart phone and started to record the activities of the suspects. As he continued to record the activity the suspect was able to gain entry into his vehicle, the second subject then handed the first suspect a brick and the first suspect began to try and use the tool and brick to dismantle the ignition to the vehicle in an attempt to steal his car. Our neighbor decided to take action and not stand by and watch, he handed his cell phone off to a family member to continue recording and asked them to call 911. As the neighbor ran outside to confront the suspects he enlisted the help of a neighbor. One suspect took off running while the two neighbors confronted the second suspect who was still in the vehicle. The neighbors attempted to detain the suspect however the suspect began to fight them. As the struggled to detain the suspect the commotion got the attention of at three more neighbors who quickly came to assist, including a retired police officer who was armed with a set of handcuffs. The five neighbors were able to restrain the suspect until on duty police officers arrived on the scene and placed the suspect under arrest.

The suspect who was a juvenile was placed under arrest and charged with a host of offenses to include Destruction of Property, Attempt Theft in the First Degree, and Assault. Other than a few scrapes and bruises no one was seriously hurt during this incident.

Our thanks go out to the neighbors who stood up to make a difference in their neighborhood as they showed they will not tolerate this behavior in their neighborhoods anymore. Thank you to all that stood up and took action.

One citizen responded:

“Instead of recording the action as it was unfolding, the citizen should have been dialing 911. And after anger consumed him, instead of soliciting his neighbors for a situation that could have escalated into a deadly confrontation, alternatively, if he just had to act, he could have made some type of loud noise (after dialing 911) that might have scared the suspects off.

He did not know if the suspects were packing heat. The victim put himself and his neighbors in potential harms way over something replaceable – his vehicle.”

MPD leadership quickly tried to clarify:

“Never has MPD condoned or advised victims of a crime or witnesses to a crime
to confront or challenge those engaged in such criminal behavior. Our message has always been consistent, constant and clear, that if you see a crime in progress or someone that is acting suspiciously, call 911. Dispatchers will alert police in the Fourth District and help will be on the way.

Alfred Durham
Asst Chief

22 Comment

  • This is amazing! Wish it happened every day. Honestly, vigilante justice does come with a risk of getting shot/stabbed, but if the person is willing to risk their lives stopping a crime, what does it matter to you?

  • The conversation is being heavily influenced, I suspect, by the Trayvon Martin story (rightly or wrongly). The fact is that a person saw someone breaking into his personal property, and felt justified in taking the action he did. Was it smart? Maybe not – who knows what weapons criminals have. But having been the vicitim of multiple car break-ins and one attempted auto theft, I can’t blame the citizens. In each break-in/attempted theft, the police have told me that there was little chance to find the cuplrit, and indeed, no one has been arrested, nor property found.

    Good on the citizen for protecting his stuff, and to the neighbors for helping out.

  • How about “Instead of DC law protecting the identity of violent and criminally minded juveniles, including many who seem to be trying to hone their skills as career criminals, DC should share information on the identify and records of any child in DC who has more than 2 violent criminal offenses, and all juveniles who are caught with a handgun should be prosecuted as an adult.” Do we really want a city that allows the vast child criminal network to continue to operate in sanctioned secrecy?

  • This is the most heart warming thing I have read in a while. Always nice to see neighbors helping out neighbors. Just wish they would have nabbed both of the crooks.

  • the owner of the car put no one else at risk. He simply made the decision to video tape the theft who knows he is called 911. If he did, how fast would the police show up?

    His Neighbors put themselves at risk for the sake of their neighbor. I commend everyone of them. If these kids got just got caught by the police they would be back on the street right away. Next time they think about stealing a car in the back of their minds they will think about this event. Dangerous yes, stupid maybe, brave… you bet. Oh you might get hurt… then why would anyone sign up for the military. These are DC residents that respect and look out for their neighbors, we all should have neighbors like them

  • Yes, it could endanger the neighbor but we need more of this ‘action’ against criminals instead of passively standing by as criminals do as they please. I also hope the scrapes and bruises were on the perp. Good work!

  • There needs to be more street level justice dealt out by neighbors that are impacted. Props to all who volunteered!

    Wasn’t it just last week that two cousins died in car crash of a stolen car? I’m sure their relatives wished someone had stopped the car from being stolen.

  • T

    I completely support the homeowner’s decision to intervene and the neighbors’ decision to assist. They are adults, they know the risks, and they made a judgment call. Certainly MPD cannot (and should not) advise all citizens to act in a similar manner, but that is not their place. If citizens that witness/are subject to a crime are willing to stand up and take action, in my opinion, they are perfectly capable of making a judgment call and deciding whether it makes sense in any given situation to do so.

    At some point, we need to make it clear that crime will not be tolerated. Where do we draw the line? Watch as some 15-year old kid boosts your car with his buddy? Watch as some kid steals steals your neighbors’ porch furniture? Watch as some kid starts smashing all the pumpkins on your block? Watch as some guy tries to drag some girl into his car?

  • Fantastic. A juvenile. So he’s probably out roaming around by now looking for his next heist. He’ll show up in court, get a slap on the wrist and return to his network of friends where they will all share ways to avoid getting caught next time.

    These juveniles are NOT kids. They are menaces who will never change, particularly if the system doesn’t hold them accountable. Why bother changing if there aren’t any consequences to your actions?

    Hey, DYRS, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Nice work.

    • As a matter of fact, they are kids. Their brains are not fully developed. That’s why the Supreme Court ruled capital punishment of minors is unconstitutional.

      I don’t know what do to with these kids, but I know that pretending they are the same as adults is fundamentally wrong.

      • gotryit

        I didn’t see any mention of the death penalty above. There’s a good deal between slap on the wrist and death penalty that can be both fair and protect the neighborhood from these menaces.

        The right answer involves both stick and carrot.

        • I don’t disagree with you. I disagree with the person who said “These juveniles are NOT kids”. And I wasn’t saying the death penalty has anything to do with this situation. I was using it as a citation that juveniles are different than adults.

          • One difference: in DC, “kids” are apparently free to commit crimes with impunity.

            And the weapon he’s pointing at you doesn’t know whether the 17 year old shooter is a “kid” or not. All it knows is that he is a hardened criminal and public menace.

  • Frankly, I think a little more “street justice” is exactly what this city needs. Now that stories like these run viral, the potential perps might, just maybe spend another half a second condsidering the possible consequence of their action.

    Then again, I am kind of biased as I’ve handed out a little retribution myself. I hadn’t lived here a year (this was ~30 years ago) and I heard crashing glass outside my apartment, I looked out and saw someone hanging in my car, half in. This was on a street that got hammered by smash and grabs daily. I ran out with my baseball bat and took him out at the knee as he was trying to get out of my car.

    I didn’t know when I went out if he was armed or not and I wouldn’t recommend a course of action someone might not ordinarily take but if you let yourself continually get walked on through life, then you can’t really complain about it.

    What brings a smile to my face even today, three decades later is the memory of sitting in a courtroom 3 weeks later (I don’t know what it took that long, this was in Alexandria at the time) and watching him hobble in, limping on his still busted knee. I can only hope he carried that limp with him the rest of his life.

  • It’s an interesting question. If I saw someone trying to steal my car, I’d call 911 and then probably get myself killed trying to stop them. Love the idea of recording it, though. It’s a great idea, once you’ve called 911, and probably a lot safer. That said, I’m glad the neighbors helped out and stopped one of them – without killing him. That’s what needs to happen more often.

    If anyone breaks into my home, however, I will kill that person, or die trying. If I do die trying, maybe the criminal will get more than 2 weeks for the crime – perhaps even 4-5 months!

  • Neighbors need to stand up for each other and stop criminal activities. Community activism is a great deterrant for someone looking to cause trouble. And this is coming from someone who had her car stolen twice in the same neighborhood to have it returned (minus the ignition) both times and was told by police “well, it’s just kids, and they are rarely caught.”

  • recording it seems smarter than calling 911, if you can get the perps face.

  • I do wonder why the victim’s first reaction *wasn’t* to call 911. He did so only after recording them for some time, getting really pissed, then deciding to charge after them. Not wise.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they caught that kid, but there was a better way to handle it, for sure.

    • I would have called 911 first, if i knew that MPD would respond in a timely manner. The first time my car was stolen, they never showed up.

  • The beatings will continue until criminal behavior declines.

  • Kudos to the owner of the car and his neighbors! We need more people standing up to crimminals in this city!

  • is the video on youtube?

Comments are closed.