Jeremy Barr Investigates Why an MPD Light Tower Was Placed Near His House

Jeremy Barr is a writer and journalism student. A native of suburban Maryland, he now lives in Mount Vernon Square. He last wrote about Green Hat Gin.

In early December, I noticed a police truck attached to a light tower on M Street NW between 4th and 5th streets (pictured). A few days later, the light was set up near my house, a few blocks away. It was switched on late at night and stayed on until morning.

I spoke with an officer on the scene, and he said that the light was a response to two recent muggings in the area. Angled as it was, the police light made our living room ceiling light almost unnecessary, cutting down our electricity bill dramatically, I’m sure. But after only a handful of nights, just as we were starting to get used to it, the police truck and light disappeared.

I checked with a spokesman for the city police department to find out more, and heard back from Lieutenant Derek Larsen, who patrols the encompassed area, Police Service Area (PSA) 308.

Lt. Larsen confirmed that the light was a response to a series of muggings in November:

“All of our victims report that the suspects came up from behind them and committed the robbery. We have found that when robberies like this occur the suspects were hiding behind vehicles and in between buildings. We have found that these towers assist us in deterring robberies and burglaries as well as order maintenance crimes, such as drinking in public.”

Larsen said that each of the Metropolitan Police Department’s patrol districts has a light tower assigned to it, and that in this case, the department immediately saw results.

Incidentally another reader sends in a photo of a light tower (above) and writes:

This light tower showed up on both sides of the Harrison Square complex (13&W) after a mugging the night before. Below is an email we received from a resident.

Everyone,
Apologies for the scary email but better that people know and will be alert. Monday night, a little before midnight, a Harrison Square resident was robbed at gunpoint on 12th place by the parking alley and V street. There were two or three assailants, and they were likely hiding near the bushes at the entrance way to the courtyard underneath the decks. No injuries, but wallet and phone were stolen. The criminals ran off towards U street – no news yet on whether anyone has been caught.

Police arrived quickly and a full report was made.

12 Comment

  • Sigh. Remember the good ‘ol days when the muggings and assaults with deadly weapons tapered off as summer faded away? We’re on course for a non-stop, relentless year of violence and general thuggery. Sometime I daydream about leaving this city. If I didn’t have a great job, i would already be long gone.

  • T

    I’m a big supporter of these light towers, annoying as they can be. Especially when they come with a patrol officer stationed in the adjacent car/van…

    • I agree, the light towers work, and they really helped control a serious crime issue in my neighborhood. It’s worth putting up with the lights coming in the window for a few evenings.

  • I almost bought one of the town homes in Harrison Square about a year ago. Sometimes I really wish I did. Other times, like when I see things like this, I am very glad that I didn’t.

  • Wow – intrepid investigation.

  • I saw one at the corner of 7th and T just last night, and was wondering what in the world was going on. I thought they were cleaning up after a traffic accident or something. So does that mean that I should avoid areas that have random light towers?

  • I was thinking, many many of the recent armed robberies as shown almost daily on MPD twitter involve groups of young males, all in black, wearing ski masks. I say we need a special task force to track these roving bandits before they strike. It’s insane we have to tolerate so many gangsters with guns, it’s like the wild west around here. A light tower here or there isn’t going to stop it citywide!

  • It is great that these seem to be curbing the issue in NW but sadly they are not being utilized in other areas of the city. For a neighborhood in NW, they put up these lights after 2 muggings. In the Brookland/CUA neighborhood since Christmas there have been (that I know of) 5 armed robberies with a shot gun, 1 armed robbery with a hand gun, 1 armed robbery with what looked to be a machine gun but turned out to be a paintball gun not to mention the robbery of a house in the wee hours of the morning while the family slept upstairs. All of these incidences have happened in a 10 block radius of the metro yet no lights have been put up and the crime isn’t slowing down.

  • I went and spoke with an office the other night, when one was posted quite near my townhouse (14th and Euclid). Apparently there had been 6 incidents where phones were taken from people walking along that stretch of Euclid St. in the week prior. The light tower is gone now, but that’s scary stuff!

  • These things are absolutely ridiculous! The answer is not a light tower. The answer is more cops on patrol. I could tell the cops exactly where to position themselves in my neighborhood if they really want to deter crime. A few days of the light tower treatment is like closing the barn door after the horses have already escaped. Criminals will move to the next block.

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