Dear PoPville – Theft or Loss?

Dear PoPville,

WMATA Metro Police failed to take my police report stating that my alleged theft of my personal property was not “theft”; but “loss of personal property”.

Theft or Loss?

This morning at 7:15 at the Shaw Metro Stop I sat down on the bench for a two minute wait till the train arrived. I set my bag directly next to me, and my cell phone in-between myself and my bag. I bent over to re-tie both my shoes and when I sat up my phone was gone. While I am fully aware that this is not the best practice for safekeeping of an iPhone, I suppose my guard was down due to the hour of the day, my perceived sense of security of a station with attendants at both ends of the station as well as cameras.

When I called Metro Police I was told I had to give a report in person, and therefor went back to the station where I waited for 20 minutes for an officer to show up. An officer who after listening to me for 5 seconds blatantly interrupted me to tell me he was NOT going to write a report. That if I didn’t see someone take the phone, that it was lost property. To further substantiate the loss, I explained that I had tracked the phone after its theft to see its location services deactivated, and later to see the name on the iPhone change from mine, to a generic AT&T iPhone, confirming that whoever stole this phone knew exactly what they were doing.

My fear is that while most of us living in the city know there is a rampant problem with thefts of iPhones and other mobile phone devices; that the officials responsible for controlling crime are in some ways covering up the problem by their unwillingness to file such crimes as actual crimes. Is metro attempting to skew crime statistics with this policy? If so, this is completely unacceptable! If the problem is not appropriately being addressed, and not being made visible in public crime statistics, then we are therefore condoning such behavior (a behavior that I would in no other way characterize than as theft).

42 Comment

  • Right in between security guard and university campus police officer on the hierarchy of failed would-be cops is Metro cop. This is someone who will never advance in his career because he cannot bring himself to do the bare minimum. If he ever becomes a real cop he will be the guy who they send out to take reports when cars are hit-skipped and the owner needs a police report for insurance reasons.

    • I understood Metro Police to have authority in DC, MD, and VA… that makes them a few steps above security guard.

      Unfortunately what good is the report if there is nothing to report.

      First it was there then it not… ?

      Sounds right to me.

      • So if you went outside and your car was gone, and you hear that it’s been seen across town, does that mean it’s not a case of auto theft, but a lost car?

      • The report is good for establishing crime statistics on metro. This goes down the same as someone calling lost and found to see if their umbrella turned up after leaving it behind on a train. If Metro falsely establishes petty crimes like theft to be down, they get rewarded.

    • T

      This generalization is completely baseless. A good friend of mine went through the academy and is now a police officer in Virginia. To be a transit officer, I believe you have to complete the police academies for DC, Virginia, and Maryland. Thus, these officers are supposedly the best-trained out of DC, VA, and MD.

  • This is disgusting. And also why I am terrified of anything serious or violent actually happening to me on Metro; clearly the officers there have no interest in helping. I once had to call 911 for an unconscious man having seizures on the platform because the station attendant simply stood by idly and watched.

    • Reminds me of an incident I observed over the weekend, where DC EMTs clearly took their sweet time responding to someone who had suffered a serious injury. Stuff like that makes me hope and pray that I never find myself gravely injured in this city, because I will probably end up dead.

  • I’m sorry this happened to you and even more sorry about the officer’s response. How unbelievably frustrating.

    And, just a reminder, put a passcode lock on your phones. Make it complicated.

  • So the actions of a pickpocket would be considered loss? This policy ought to go over well with the tourists.

    That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the metro police were trying to skew statistics. MPD does it all the time. It’s a great way to simultaneously do less work while making it appear (to your supervisor and the general public) you’re doing more.

  • Absolutely unacceptable, and I hope you got the name of the officer and take the time to report this to Metro chief of police Michael Taborn (if those announcements are to be believed and there is in fact a Michael Taborn). In a train station, of all places, they easily could have gone back to the security camera footage and found this guy — you probably could have provided them the 5-minute window to review and they’d have evidence of the crime if they ever found the thief.

  • I had a similar incident with MPD. The rear license plate was stolen off my car, and the officer was adamant about writing it up as ‘lost property’ as opposed to theft even though the bolts & nuts that held plate on were sitting on my fender from the thief unbolting them. My understanding from other officers is this is a common method used to doctor crime stats and make it seems like crime is lower than it really is.

  • Not surprised at all. This is why we can’t have nice things.

  • By this standard, it is acceptable to rob a Metro station so long as no one is looking.

  • gotryit

    Hey! MPD is just as good at cooking their books to show that crime is down. Because that looks the same as real statistics showing crime going down.

    Also, what sense of security at the Shaw metro station? Sure, there are worse, but it’s no Cleveland Park.

  • you put your iphone down in a metro station?

    would you put a $500 stack of cash down in a metro station and look away from it? putting your iphone down is fundamentally the same move. hope you learned your lesson.

  • Call the Washington Post and ask them to follow up.

  • Consider it a theft and consider lazy that this was not written up. I think it is REASONABLE TO ASSUME that if you place your belongings right next to you while you tie your shoes, that in that short amount time, your stuff should be safe. However, that is not the case at all when it comes to city living, so yes dumb move on your part, but it is still a theft. You had it, put it down, someone took it – period.

  • Transit cops are USELESS. Trust me they dont care about your phone. They sure didn;t care when I got off the train and reported that a teenager just threatened to kill me on the train. WMATA is a hot mess.

  • It’s like MPD saying crime is down as young thugs shoot people in the face! Oh right, we don’t have gangs in DC, just crews.

  • I tried to report my car as stolen last spring and the officer that came to take my statement said that I must have forgotten where I parked it and he refused to take a report. He also said he didn’t like my attitude (I was crying). That’s the last time I’ll ever call MPD to report a crime.

  • Should have said you saw a guy in a wheelchair hurrying away. They know how to handle that.

  • Had a similar incident in New York a few of months ago, I got pickpocketed (don’t think that’s a word), but my phone was stolen from the jacket of my over coat in a subway train. There is absolutely zero chance that I dropped it because the tracking app was on for a good hour or so after it was (not) stolen and it was not just going up and down the NY Subaway. The officer refused to write it as stolen property.

    I am sure it hurts their ward’s crime statistics or their compensations or something. And since it was a case of lost property I couldn’t even file a claim with Amex.
    It probably hr

  • this is sad. dare I say that someone should start a blog collecting stories from people in DC who have been discouraged (or flat out refused) from filing a police report by local police? Based on the stories I heard recounted on PoP alone, I imagine the site would deluged within a few days and would easily be big enough to attract enough attention from media and public officials so that they’re forced to respond…

    • unsuckdcMPD? I think you just started it.

      They do a lot of good work, but fudging stats is not ok.

    • gotryit

      Good point. We shouldn’t hold government accountable or ask for any transparency.

      What planet do you come from?

    • Maybe you don’t think it’s a serious problem…. but it’s harder for the city to track crime trends and catch the parties responsible when they don’t have accurate data.

  • No one has to accept the refusal of an officer to file a crime report. These stories involve conduct against policy. Yes, it causes an inconvenience, but when you don’t let the incident pass, and report it to a superior officer, you are addressing a very serious problem. If enough of us refuse to accept misconduct, it will become less common.

    • its not misconduct to not take a report. imagine bumping into a hundred idiots a day thinking they know how to do you job better then you and demand things you cant do. Ya its people like you lol.

  • Lazy cops…reminds of how Ukraine’s former Transportation Minister’s death was ruled a suicide – he apparently shot him self point blank in the head, twice.

  • Consider this hypothetical – you put your phone down in the seat next to you on the metro; you get up from your seat and leave the car at the next station, leaving your phone behind; at some point, you discover you no longer have your phone; you check whatever online thingamabob tells you such things and find that the tracking has been turned off and your name has been erased from the phone; it appears as if someone is readying your phone for service under another account.
    Has your phone been stolen?

  • As much as it sucks to hear this, criminal intent has to be established in order for an incident like this to be considered a theft. You need to be able to prove that someone stole it, and that a raccoon didn’t mistake it for a snack, where it was carried for 2 blocks, dropped, at which point someone picked it up and decided that they had a new phone.

    As much as you and I know that it is likely someone took it, if you didn’t see someone walking away with the device or in it’s immediate vicinity when it disappeared, the current interpretation of the theft statute in DC superior court would not consider this incident a theft. If the device in question was secured in a reasonable fashion, and it’s removable required breaking a lock of some sort, the intent is inferred.

    • +1. I know right.

      You all crack me up.

    • bfinpetworth

      While you are correct when it comes to getting a conviction against someone or even charging a person with a crime, that degree of proof is NOT required to file a police report. If something disappears without any reasonable explanation EXCEPT that it was stolen, that would be sufficient grounds to file a report.

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