Dear PoPville – Three Hours and Eight Calls for MPD to Respond to a Home Burglary

Dear PoPville,

On Friday night, at around 11 PM, I was out in Adams Morgan with friends when I received a call and voicemail from an unknown number. The caller was one of my landlords, who had received a message from their alarm security company that an alarm had gone off at their unit above mine. The cops had responded, and although nothing seemed out of place, they wanted me to take a look. At about 12:30 I got home with my girlfriend and everything at the apartment looked normal (nothing out of the ordinary in front of the house, and the gate was locked in the back). About 20 minutes later I walked back into the kitchen and happened to look under our deck area, which was covered in shattered glass. I opened the door, ran upstairs, and saw that my landlord’s sliding glass door had been broken, most likely by a brick or rock of some kind.

I immediately went back downstairs and called the police station at the top of 18th Street (again, Adams Morgan), who subsequently connected me to 911. I placed that call at 12:58 AM. After getting off the phone with 911, who assured me that a unit was being dispatched, I called my landlords to tell them what had happened. I told them that I would wait outside for the police to come, and they directed me to not enter the house for fear that someone might still be inside.

Following that initial call, I followed up with the police EIGHT times – between 12:58 AM and 2:48 AM – and not a single police officer showed (please see screenshots of my call history above).

By the fourth time I called 911 I was getting frustrated, and the operator – who was clearly annoyed that I had called again – stated that a unit had stopped by the house and no one had been there to talk to them. Ironically I placed each call from the front steps of the house, while my girlfriend waited inside. By my fifth call at 2:09 AM – over an hour after my initial call – the operator stated that there had been “an incident of higher priority in the third district, and that the police would respond to my call as soon as possible.”

While I understand that the District is a major city where violent crimes occur every day, and that being a police officer must be an extremely challenging line of work, I am shocked and disappointed that a home burglary was not a higher priority for them. Over the course of nearly two hours not a single police officer came to our residence, and for all we know someone may still have been upstairs (something I reiterated to the operator more than once).

I reviewed different DC blogs and the Washington Post’s crime section Saturday morning, but saw no mention of major incidents that occurred last night. I’m curious about what the “incident of higher priority” was, and would like the police to explain to me how they are able to allocate dozens of resources to oversee the drunken shenanigans occurring on 18th street but are incapable of sending a single unit to the scene of an actual burglary.

I contacted my landlords via email on Saturday afternoon and learned that the police eventually showed up at 3:30 AM. Not only had their house been robbed, but our neighbors had been broken into as well.

If you know of anything that happened on Friday night, or have other thoughts/opinions, please share.

75 Comment

  • Seriously? I think that the urgency of the call was probably diminished somewhat by the fact that you took 1.5 hours to finish drinking before bothering to go home and check on your house.

    • Exactly, and why are you calling “Adams Morgan PD”?

      You always call 911, always. This was confirmed by the fact that they actually transferred you there.

    • Funny, I didn’t see anything in the story that indicated he lived right next door to the bar he was at.

      • He wouldn’t have called Adams Morgan PD to notify police if he didn’t live there. First sentence says he was out in Adams Morgan. Come on.

      • He said he was out in Adams Morgan, and he called the Adams Morgan police station. It’s reasonable to conclude that all the action (or inaction as the case may be) here took place in Adams Morgan. In any event, complaining about slow police response when you yourself can’t be bothered to follow up on an alarm is so…so…Millennial.

        • I think he just didn’t see the voicemail right away. Doesn’t this happen to anyone else or am I (and this guy) the only ones not glued to their cell phones 24/7?

  • It takes police 8 hours to get around to responding to a burglary call, but the mayor and police don’t support us carrying weapons to defend ourselves? The police certainly aren’t responsive (I’ve had similar responses from police), so what are people supposed to do?

    When seconds count, the cops are 8 horus away.

    • Sorry, 3 hours, not 8.

    • Your comments don’t make any sense in the context of a burglary that happened 90 minutes earlier. At that point what would you be defending yourself against? How do seconds count when the perps almost certainly have been gone for well over an hour?

      • yeee haaaaaw!

      • The caller was advised by 911 to wait outside because of the police feared the burglar may still be present. Sure, we now know that the burglar had departed, but at the time, the cops thought there may be a burglar present. So, what if the burglar had still been there? That’s my point.

    • I know the first thing I want to do 90 minutes after the burglar has left my house is start firing my weapon.

    • If you’re out drinking at a bar, you’re not allowed to carry a concealed weapon in many of the states that do permit concealed carry. So I guess that means your gun stays home while you drink, thus giving the burglers access to a weapon they can use against you when you come home and surprise them.

    • Had he been a citizen who chose to exercise his right to self-defense, in this case, by having a gun in his home, all that would have happened is his gun would have been stolen, and we would have another illegal gun on the streets.

      On the chance you are suggesting he should have had the gun on him at time, thats an interesting idea that we should allow people to be armed in Adams Morgan bars..? I was at Mister Days in Arlington on Saturday night, and two of my friends got sucker punched by some clown as he was getting carried out by bouncers. He then mentioned he was going home to get his gun. Good to know you believe he should have been allowed to have his gun on him at that time.

      The issue here is the police. Not sure what the hell they are on about, but 3 hours is absolutely absurd. How there wasn’t an officer there in 5-10 minutes is ridiculous.

  • This is typical from 3rd district, and probably MPD in general. I called to a burglary in progress in Dupont 6 months ago and they showed up half an hour later. Of course, they never caught the guy. I’d love to love MPD, but sometimes it’s like they don’t even try. Would that they could get as excited about attacking crime as they are about snowball fights.

    Also, aren’t the cops outside the bars on 18th in AdMo off-duty cops paid overtime by the business district? They might not be allowed to be dispatched, may not have to be dispatched, or just may not want to.

  • Yeah, that’s frustrating. I had to wait 2 hours, and I was scared to go in the house because it wasn’t clear if the criminals were still lurking around in there. And once the police did show up they treated me as if I were the criminal, insisting I must have had drugs in the house. This kind of behavior is to be expected, sadly, but it makes a horrible experience a million times worse when the people that are supposed to be protecting us are so indignant about responding to our calls.

    • Seriously! A few years back my house was robbed in the early evening hours. The responding officers were very nice and took our statements. The crime scene people (who took pics and finger prints) were total jerks, to the point where they made me and my roommate cry. Why…over 2 cats. The crime scene guy told me he “won’t work if their are cats in the room.” He then lectures me all the way upstairs about having animals in a crime scene. I felt bad thinking they were bothering his work or something. Nope, instead when I got to my room they were hiding in the backcorner of my bed shacking in fear. As I tried to get them out the officer continued to yell at me and curse out my terrified cats. Because the obvious response to a terrified kitten and cat is to curse out the victim of crime.

      • thebear

        To which you should have gone and filed a complaint with MPD for discourteous and unprofessional treatment. Those actually do trigger “Attitude Adjustment” action.

      • Yeah, I was pretty close to tears myself. The ransacked house was just shocking, but the MPD response really hit a nerve. Funny you should mention the cats. My roommate and I had two, and the officers that showed up were standing around laughing at how skittish they were acting. I had no choice but to watch them further traumatize our pets and not do whatever it is they were supposed to be doing for a good 45 minutes.

        • Oh heeeeellllll no. I had a home break in a few years ago–different juristiction though.I was home, asleep and woke up when he broke into my bedroom, before realzing someone was home and (thankfully) running away. Not cool.

          Anyway, the cops were actually fairly reasonably nice to me. Even let me take a little time to find my cat. They resisted a bit at first, wanting answers to their questions immediately, but I said “look, the only way my night gets worse is if I lose my pet in the process”. They gave me a minute, and I found the shivering little ball of fear under my couch. They didn’t bother her at all, didn’t ransack my place. And if they had, I’d have flipped out both on the spot and afterwards, taking the issue to the police chief (which I suggest you do).

          Only complaint about my experience with the cops is that they were really impatient in asking questions. I had just been woken up from a dead sleep and was terrified and I guess I wasn’t making too much sense or something because they were pretty short with me during the questioning process. But they got to my place in under five minutes and honestly that was the most important thing to me that night, so their method of questioning is really just quibbling (but man, if they’d messed with that cat…different story).

    • Anonymous 10:45 a.m., are you the OP, or a different person with a similar experience?

      (I’m having trouble following.)

      • Different person (why would I be responding to myself)?

        • You said, “Yeah, that’s frustrating. I had to wait 2 hours, and I was scared to go in the house…”

          You didn’t say, “Yeah, that’s frustrating. MY PLACE WAS BROKEN INTO X MONTHS AGO and I had to wait 2 hours…” Next time, provide some context.

          • Okay, sorry for the confusion. I think it’s a common enough experience that I didn’t have to spell it out.

          • Oh, and since you also think I should include this piece of information– it was 4 years 6 months and 6 days ago.

          • P.S. – This is Anonymous at 10:45 in case you weren’t following. 🙂 Next time I’ll use a name.

      • Are K and Anonymous the same person? I’m sorta confused too.

  • Friday morning at 2:00 am, my wife and I awoke to the sound of broken glass. She called 911 while I went downstairs to investigate. Police were at our house in approximately 5 minutes. (Turned out is was just a light fixture that came loose and crashed to the floor.) We live in the 3rd District.

  • I’d be willing to bet this was dispatched incorrectly as a ‘burglary report’ not an ‘open door’, which is a possible in-progress burglary type situation. MPD can’t do their job well if they’re dispatched poorly, and OUC [Office of Unified Communications] which does all call-taking and dispatching for the city, fully and truly sucks. As much as folks love to bash MPD, OUC is as much if not more of a problem & a huge impediment to efficient police service here.

    • So it was classified incorrectly 8 out of 8 times he called? That’s not any better.

    • thebear

      OUC is in desperate need of a total overhaul across the board. A friend of mine, who is an MPD officer has told me a number of times how he can’t get them to work even after identifying himself as an officer. The area commanders are pretty ticked off with OUC, since they are the ones who get the flak and look bad for OUC’s inability to get calls right.

      OP, and anyone else who does not get satisfactory service after calling 911, notify your PSA and district commanders, your ANC commissioner, and your Council Member so they are aware. The more complaints that stack up against OUC (especially that are consistent with other complaints), the sooner corrective measures will come about. Better than 95% of people who are dissatisfied with 911 response fail to follow through with notifying their officials. That must change.

      • Definitely complain to Jim Graham and others.

      • That’ll never happen. The OUC is headed up by a former MPD commander, who is there at the request of the chief, according to an MPD officer I talked with some time ago. He was claiming it was so they can adjust crime info, etc.

        • thebear

          Absolutely wrong. Current commanders will not stand for having their standing ruined by OUC not being able to process calls effectively. There’s movement on this front but it’s being hamstrung by the residents failing to provide timely and adequate information about complaints to document just how bad the situation is. Bitching about problems on blogs, listservs or Twitter IS NOT AN ACCEPTABLE FORM OF DOCUMENTING COMPLAINTS.

          • But if the chief recommended the commander of OUC, do you really think it’ll change?

          • +1 thebear

          • thebear

            Yes, Petworthian, it can and will change if there is enough public blowback. If you pay any attention to the goings on in the city, you will note that Chief Lanier is quite astute and knows that if there is heavy community criticism (especially if it spills into the MSM) she has to deal with the problem or face even bigger problems if she doesn’t.

  • austindc

    I think the response may be de-prioritized if there is no immediate danger and the burglar is gone. I had a similar experience in Boston where our alarm had gone off while I was out. When I got home and called 911, I waited two hours for the police, but the 911 operator first asked me if I was sure that the burglar was gone. The detectives did eventually come and explained that they had been busy with some dudes who had been stabbing each other, which I had to admit did take priority over my break in.

    • This is a great point. I agree 3 hours is too long, but with apparently no possible victims in the building, it is indeed a lower priority than anything that could escalate to violence. Further, the thief (if any) likely would be in-and-out – if the police haven’t responded in 30-40 minutes, then they may de-prioritize it because the likelihood of any urgency is gone.

      I know it sucks to have to wait for them and not go into the house until they get there, but I can see why this might not have been a priority (if there were indeed other priorities there).

  • I didn’t read about anything being stolen, or burgled, so it sounds like a vandalism to me…

    Did you ask if the police had any leads?

  • 911’s a joke in YO town, DC.

  • For what it’s worth, it’s my understanding that MPD “allocate[s] dozens of resources to oversee the drunken shenanigans occurring on 18th street” because the police prescence is paid for by the bars. These police may be on overtime or even technically off-duty (anyone with more insight?).

    • thebear

      Establishment details are paid for by the establishment(s) they are assigned to. They are not allowed to respond to calls. If they observe something going on (that is not an immediate life-or-death situation), they are restricted to radioing it in for an on-duty response.

  • call from a pay phone and tell the operator you’ve exchanged gunfire with the perpetrator, who is still in the apartment. that’ll get em runnin’ to ya.

  • I live in 3D/south end of Adams Morgan and accidentally set off my alarm late on a Friday night. The police were at my windows (living room and bedroom —not front door) within five minutes. I apologized profusely and thanked them for responding so quickly. I felt like an ass, but it’s nice to know they would show up that fast.

  • Doesn’t surprise me, I called I think it was Friday morning /Saturday morning around 2a about what I thought was a police van with the horn stuck. I saw no movement from police around the van so I called thinking it was really odd because normally around my way, they never come solo and shit does happen. Anyway, the second time I called the operator hung up on me because she said that I didn’t state I lived in NE and I told her that I indeed did so she got an attitude and hung up. Nice move right? Well it ended up being the horn of another vehicle and the police van was just sitting there doing nothing. A few cops came, looked around and left doing nothing. The last cop I saw, I went outside and spoke to him and he said that he could not do anything (I told him to tow it because it had been 45 minutes and it was now 3a). He said that he could ticket it and I could call the number and then have it towed…

    But my point is that I called because I thought a cop could have been in distress and this chick hung up on me. Regardless of anything else, I clearly was not joking and she should have never hung up on me.

    • Kam, you absolutely MUST report this. I don’t know who, but I hope you investigate and find out. If she hangs up on you because she doesn’t like your attitude, what’s to say she won’t do it in an emergency situation when lives could be at stake?

  • My home was robbed yesterday – and I arrived soon after. Called 911, cops, detectives, and crime scene units (yup, 3 diff cars) were timely, respectful and helpful. I live in the 3rd District – call the cops somewhat frequently when things go down in the neighborhood. They’ve always showed up. I try to call from a landline whenever possible and be respectful and friendly as well. I consider it a two-way street.

    • I think it depends on what neighborhood you live in too. Well-off neighborhoods generally get a faster and more professional response.

      • I live in the 5th District, not a well-off area by any means, and have been pleased with the police response to my calls and those of my neighbors in all but a small number of instances.

        • I call BS. I live in Ward 5 and have always had bad police response from MPD-5D. A cop from downtown said that’s sometimes common where I live and that several officers from MPD-5 were recently suspended because they were caught playing cards at a hotel instead of working.

    • Are you the OP or someone else whose house just happened to get burglarized on the same day? Seems like an odd coincidence.

  • So let’s re-hash this series of events, as related by the OP.

    1. Gets call at 11 that alaram had gone off.

    2. Is informed that COPS HAD RESPONDED, nothing seemed out of place, but they wanted him to take a look.

    3. Stays out for an hour and a half. Comes home, finds nothing wrong for another 20 minutes.

    4. Then calls cops and is upset that they’re not showing up quick enough.


    • 1. Gets call at 11 that alarm had gone off.

      2. Is informed that COPS HAD RESPONDED, nothing seemed out of place, but they wanted him to take a look.

      3. It takes him an hour and a half to get home (maybe he is one of the responsible few who take public transit out to Adams Morgan?). Comes home, finds nothing wrong for another 20 minutes, but then finds clear evidence of a break-in and immediately calls 911.

      4. Is upset that the cops are not not showing up quickly enough. It’s the middle of the night and he can’t go into his apartment because for all he knows the criminals are still in there.

      • Except that the police station closest to home that he called was the one on 18th St. So seems like he just stayed out for a while.

        • I don’t know if it’s been the OP’s experience, but I’ve had so many false alarms with my security system that I’m not always inclined to race back home after the cops have checked it out. Although, if I were already in the neighborhood I would.

          • Hmm, I just reread the story and it sounds like the guy didn’t hear the call or see that he had a voicemail right away. So maybe the alarm company called at 11, he looked down at his phone, saw the missed call, and listened to the message at 12:15, and got home at 12:30.

      • 1. Gets call at 11 that alarm had gone off.

        2. Is informed that COPS HAD RESPONDED, nothing seemed out of place, but they wanted him to take a look.

        3. Decides to walk the two blocks home an hour and a half later. (Maybe this is true considering that there were two burglaries showing up on the MPD Crime Map in the 3rd District between 8/10 and 8/11, both in Adams Morgan, one on Kalorama and one on 18th Street.)

        4. Comes home, finds nothing wrong for another 20 minutes, but then finds clear evidence of a break-in and immediately calls 911.

        5. Is upset that the cops are not not showing up quickly enough a second time. It’s the middle of the night and he chooses not to go into his apartment despite it being okay for his girlfriend to be inside the apartment because for all he knows the criminals are still in there.

  • Email your ANC Commissioner, Councilman, At-Large Councilman in charge of public safety, and chain of MPD officers responsible for your address (Lt., Sgt., Inspector, etc.) with your complaint. Regarding the dispatchers, it’s especially helpful if you include their ID numbers but even if you don’t, including the date and time of the call is normally enough to allow folks to go through the logs and identify the dispatcher(s) who took your call.

    I had an issue with 911 earlier this year where I called b/c of an illegal club blasting their music so loudly I could have hosted the party in my own living room. Officers only responded to the first call (and did nothing). Since their inaction was documented and reported (to several people and with details) after the fact, they’ve been far more responsive on my block. I believe OUC got a fair amount of flack for their part in the problem.

  • Hey, at least they picked up. The last time I called 911 (was in a major car accident at 3am, both cars totalled), NO ONE ANSWERED.

  • You know what amazes me is that there were multiple armed robberies and carjackings all over the city this weekend and just about zero press coverage, not even PoP was on it!

  • This is horrible news to read about. In my opinion, Mayor Gray and his administration hasn’t focused enough on crime. We have been having many street robberies at gun point in the Fourth District and it seems business as usual. Why haven’t Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier address these robberies and other crimes? Is there a police shortage and why don’t we see police officers walking on foot like they do in Philadelphia and in New York City?

    • Why should she address crime? She just got a multi-million $ contract for the next few years! She’s going to get paid regardless.

  • 911 has sucked since Gray took over. And what happened to 311? No wonder no has time to answer 911 when people are calling about minor stuff on the same line. But a robbery in the 3rd district probably is low priority unless someone is shot. I lived in the 3rd district for a while and those police are CONSTANTLY on the move with so much going on. The 4th district doesn’t seem to have that problem and the police response seems way better.

    • You are correct Anonymous, 3D is a very busy police district. I’ve called 911 in the past in 4D and the police have responded quickly. However, some dispatchers at 911 can be rude and down right nasty at times. Most people prefer not to deal with surly D.C. Government employees. Mayor Gray and his adiministration has been a joke on addressing public safety. I don’t recall hearing Gray ever discuss public safety. I miss former Mayor Adrian Malik Fenty. Public safety was a priority for Adrian and he impleted foot patrols. It seems, PSA Lieutenants are doing whatever they like by staffing officers in our neighborhoods.

  • “I’m curious about what the “incident of higher priority” was”

    A fresh batch of donuts.

  • I’m pretty bummed out by all the nit-picking of the OP’s story: WHY did he stay out after receiving the initial phone call? WHY did he call the A-M police station before 911? Blah blah blah.

    Who knows? The guy had to wait over two hours for a police response to a call in what could have been a dangerous situation. I hope the OP will follow up according to the suggestions/advice re filing a complaint. Perhaps there is a reasonable explanation for the lack of response; an investigation following the report will determine that. Will MPD automatically investigate after every complaint filed? I don’t know – but even if not, your complaint will become part of this division’s permanent record, and these records ARE reviewed.

    All the commenters stating “of course the burglar had left by then” – how do you know? And if the OP had gone all Rambo and run into deal with the situation himself – gun toting or not – and someone was now on PoPville collecting $$ for medical expenses, I bet you’d be the same folks saying, “why didn’t the fool call the cops?”

    Granted, criticism or skepticism regarding the behavior or judgment of PoP reader-submitted complaints is often warranted (if perhaps unecessarily malicious or snide, but hey, this is the Internets, I guess) but the level of scrutiny applied to some of the irrelevant details of the incident are absurd (if the OP had gone home IMMEDIATELY would that have guaranteed a prompt police response?)

    A home was broken into; the criminal (or even some opportunist passerby who saw the broken door after-the-fact) may or may not still be on the premises. You call 911. Do you think 2 hours is an acceptable response time?

    At least no one suggested that the OP move to the suburbs.

    • Thank you. I think people are fixating on the irrelevant fact that he was out in Adams Morgan when it happened. That unfortunate fact made some people jump to the conclusion he was an irresponsible party animal, instead of focusing on the more likely scenario: that he did not hear the phone ring or see that there was a voicemail for the first hour and a half.

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