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Thoughts on my Walk Home From the Metro

by Prince Of Petworth November 14, 2007 at 12:07 am 29 Comments

Have you seen the cop car that has been parked outside the metro for a while around 6 o’clock on New Hampshire Ave. (By the by, the car was gone by 7:15 tonight.) I guess it is in response to the recent criminal activity. So, my concern is that the cops are just sitting in the car. They are certainly visible. But wouldn’t it be better if the car was parked there but they got out of the car and walked up and down New Hampshire. They two cops sitting in the car looked bored out of their minds. As I imagine I would be too. Is the car parked outside the metro in and of itself enough of a deterrent to hinder crime up and down New Hampshire Ave.? I feel like people complained and the powers that be said “alright, park a car outside the metro.” Do you think this is simply pandering? Does it make you feel safer?

Comments (29)

  1. Your concern is accurate. In the last 30 days there have been 5 muggings on Park Place NW. The criminals are targeting people who look like they are carrying laptops. They are probably being followed from the metro. Given that so many of these robberies have occred right on Park Place between Rock Creek Church Road and Newton I would think the cops would target that area or something.

  2. They might even be made of plastic, who knows.. although in front of the Dunking Donuts I’ve seen some moving ones. ;-) I just kid the police.. I’ve actually seen quite a few on foot as well (or at least saw the weekend after the little shooting party the disgusting thugs put up), including twice INSIDE the Red Derby when I was having a beer and a bite there.

  3. I’ll tell you what makes me feel safe, as a relatively long-time Petworth resident: not walking anywhere after dark and trying to park in front of my house. I sure works for my family and me.

  4. Perhaps it gives a false sense of security, but I’d rather had at least some police presence than note at all.

  5. It’s totally pandering. The very idea that we need a “special emergency” to get the police to patrol a city they are sworn to protect is a joke. But it is apparently too much to ask the police to patrol neighborhoods and get to know their beat. C’mon, anything more than that would be dangerous for those poor fellows! They might get leg cramps or sore feet if they actually stepped out of the car, behaved like beat cops, and learned the area and the neighbors (which might help distinguishing who doesn’t belong — but that’s no fun!). Why would they put themselves out when they can just sit on their fat asses in a warm car, occasionally jumping out to harass someone who may, or may not, be doing anything wrong? This same top-notch policing plan (knowing nothing, annoying innocent people, breezing through) has done wonders in Iraq. Besides, soon all of you will hopefully forget about this and they won’t have to bother coming over here at all when the “emergency” is over. As some MPD officers aren’t afraid to say directly, that’s what we get for living anywhere east of the park in DC. Serves us right.

  6. oden, have you heard a police officer make the “east of the park” comment? i know (sigh) that kind of
    thinking is out there. i am just curious.

  7. This morning, a patrol car was parked by the metro with lights on and a cop was standing by its side with a radar gun. Not sure if they actually gave out tickets or were collecting information for the speed cameras that will be installed on New Hampshire.

  8. What would you think if you saw a police officer walking down a sidewalk in Petworth? You’d assume the officer just got out of his/her vehicle and is responding to something in the immediate vaccinity. It would never occur to you that the officer is just walking through the neighborhood, checking things out. Am I correct? That’s how rare “walking the beat” has become. And didn’t I read an article in the WPost a couple of years ago about an obesity epidemic in the MPD? Hmmm….

  9. Actually, the conversation I had in Columbia Heights with a patrolman looking for someone who busted a car window was more a roll of the eyes and “you’re buying a house here?,” but I seem to recall two or three other commentors on this blog saying they had more direct conversations with MPD officers who were actually patrolling PW/CH and said, basically, “what do you expect?” when they arrived on calls. This was back in June or July-ish… the last time I ranted about the MPD.

  10. The City Paper wrote about criminals being, on average, younger and fitter than cops. “What’s wrong with America” is not walk-through McDonald’s, but this sedentary lifestyle. I am part of it, but secretly wish I could live on a farm and be outside all day.

  11. I live on Otis Pl and they have been patrolling quite a bit more, which is good considering how many muggings and other types of activity have been occuring. I do feel safer with them around but wish that they would get to know the neighborhood more. I will say this though, I know of at least one plain clothes officer who walks around the neighborhood and seems to know it well. So you might not realize that there are more out there.

    I didn’t realize that there had been such a rash of activity on Park Place… Man, I would feel bad for the dumbass that mugs me because of my shoulder bag. All they would find is a super old ipod, some books, and dirty gym clothes.
    Maybe it would make me get a new fancier shoulder bag.

  12. Several cities have successfully improved both the police and policing by getting the cops out of their patrol cars and out on bikes. They can cover a lot more ground than being on foot, they can get to know the community AND they get in shape in the process. Granted it’s getting a little cold for that now, but it would be nice if the MPD requisitioned some bikes in time to get them out on the road by spring. I’m sure the cops will moan about it just like they did when they implemented it in cities like NY, but the moaning stopped as soon as they started seeing results — meaning a drop in crime and a drop in waistlines.

  13. The police are not a substitute for a neighborhood watch program. The safety of your neighborhood is up to you so please, stop pointing the finger, the only people that have ever solved this kind of thing are average citizens- there was no magic era of beat cops walking the streets in DC that you’re imagining. I think you’re thinking of the cop on the corner in reruns of Top Cat.

  14. Prince Of Petworth

    The safety of my neighborhood is up to me? In that case we are in some serious trouble. What pray tell is the purpose of the police in your esteemed opinion, DCer?

  15. It’s not jsut more police on the beat, or just more neighborhood involvment, it’s both, working together. That means everyone from the homeowners to the police to the city council. You could put every cop out on the street, walking around, and crime would still occur, all over the place. As the All Hands on Deck weekends have shown, crime still finds it’s way to sneak between the cracks. And there will always be gaps in coverage.

    And FYI, Chief Lanier has been pushing an increase in mountain bike certified officers, and getting more equipment. It’s not an overnight process. The certification course is 40 hours long, and it isn’t easy. It’s definitely not for every officer out there, as you well know. Also, I know you all think DC cops are out of shape, but there are plenty of in shape officers. They are out there. The problem, as you all know unfortunately, is that there is no physical fitness standard requirement over the course of an officer’s career.

    Improving the messed up department left behind by 8 years of Charles Ramsey will not happen overnight. It might never happen at all. But this Chief is trying really hard to improve police service in this city. As I have said before on this site, instead of just complaining, go out there and figure out what you can do to contribute, because it ain’t gonna happen without active community participation. I don’t mean patroling on your own, but work with your local leaders to figure out how to improve your neighborhood.

  16. The truth is “preventing crime” is a hard nut to crack, and while sending PoP out on guard patrol to be accosted and tied to a tree by a pack of small girls (yet again) might make us feel safer (like lights in Chinatown), it is true that there is no substitute for putting time and money into the neighborhoods (and schools) to create opportunity and options for boys between the ages of 15 and 30. Keeping younger fellers otherwise occupied is one of the few provable ways to lower the crime rate. Just ask Lil’ Gal… if’n I’m allowed to go play Halo 3 in the basement I don’t cause any trouble (other than threatening 12 year olds in Pittsburgh for shooting me repeatedly online — cheatin’ punks!).

    That being said, a real relationship between the police and the neighborhood they patrol does also have some provable positive consequences. Most of Giuliani’s “results” in NYC in the mid 1990’s were the happy accident of demographics, but increased police presence does seem to lower crime in public spaces more swiftly, and although Rudy famously derided community policing in NYC when he came in, there is also evidence that the local precinct commander’s use of community policing programs in the 1991-93 time frame (before Rudy’s much lauded “Compstat” initiatives were implemented) helped to accelerate the downward trend in crime that existed PRE-Rudy. Community policing is hard to do because it requires a lot of work on the part of politicians, police leadership, beat cops, and citizens willing to repair broken relationships.

    In DC we have a police chief and mayor that seek headlines with temporary “surges”, “all hands”, and other quick fixes that mean nothing at all. Wouldn’t it be more productive to really invest the MPD in the communities they serve? True community policing would mean they would no longer be rarely seen, ineffective, outside interlopers with no connection to, or respect for, the neighborhood they patrol. MPD could start to repair the huge rift with citizens, especially younger boys, if they were around and involved in a positive and consistent way. Where are the police-sponsored youth b-ball and football leagues? Where are the police living in AND working in PW? I’m sure there are officers trying to be a part of this community and helping out at the Boys & Girls Club, etc., but why isn’t MPD more out front as an institution helping kids instead of intimidating and alienating them? It certainly doesn’t seem to be a priority of this broken department.

    I’ll give you an example. Last week Lil’ Gal and I were out back and our neighbor’s grandson was standing in his own back yard talking to his friend. These boys are typically outside after school every day. Sometimes playing hoops, sometimes hanging. Same boys, sometimes a couple of other fellas, no odd traffic, and not even Barney Fife would be DUMB ENOUGH to think these particular two 14 year olds were doing anything worth mentioning. Two white officers roll up the alley and start beefing with the boys pointlessly (never bothering to get out the car), telling them to stop hanging out (in their own yard!) and that they are “watching” them (yeah, right – we’ll never see these two lazy jerks again). No “what’s going on fellas?” just typical bullying. We start walking from our deck to the property line and Adam 12 zips off into the night rather than wait to see what Lil’ Gal wants — lucky for them — as I’ve said before, she’s meaner than a rattlesnake with a sunburn.

    Driving around aimlessly and haphazardly harassing local kids standing in their own yards isn’t very effective on many levels. If they KNEW the neighborhoods and KNEW the people that lived on the streets they patrolled then they would be more effective and maybe get some respect. As it is, they seem completely useless, if not disruptive, to me. Tax dollars well spent.

    Even in backwards ol’ Houston, HPD officers are encouraged to live in the neighborhoods they patrol and I can think of at least three different places I lived in town where my neighbors included patrol officers (including one guy who owned a sweet ’66 Chevelle). Back in H-Town we had many small storefronts (instead of a half-dozen HUGE police bunkers like DC), visible patrols, plenty of outreach, and there were many, many bicycle cops. If bubba can ride a bike in H-Town in August when it’s 125F with the heat index, then DC cops can do it in December. Houston’s officer to citizen ratio is a measly 2.2 per 1000 residents, while in DC it’s 6.5 per 1000 residents, or TRIPLE the police representation Houston has (and that’s not counting Capitol PD, Park PD, Secret Service, and the thousands of other law enforcement in this little burg). The difference living in PW and the moderate income intercity neighborhood I previously lived in is striking. HPD certainly has it’s faults, and it’s share of trigger happy bullies, but MPD looks like amateur hour comparatively.

    MPD and it’s (few) defenders can babble on about how “police can’t do everything”. Well, how about SOMETHING? I don’t know whether it’s poor management, lack of will to really be a part of the community, low morale, or poor discipline, but MPD is awful given their manpower and seeming invisibility in what is, quite frankly, a smallish city. It’s true that the citizens have to try to make things work too, but that’s hard when the police swoop in and act like a gang rather than part of the community.

  17. Anon: All due respect, the “all hands” stuff is BS. There is no applicable difference on the streets of 4D on a “all hands” weekend. Rolling an extra radio car or two around the same pointless pattern waiting for a call is worthless. It is *not* the same as real local beat policing. Let’s be honest.

  18. I’m so, so glad I don’t carry a laptop or an iPod. I’ve seen the car in the mornings too. But I usually get home late at night and there’s no one around. Where are the cops then?

    I think there should be emergency phones like some colleges have, not just in Petworth, but throughout the city. It’s a notable presence.

  19. thanks for the info, oden. i, too, have occasionally gotten the cynical remark from some of dc’s “finest” concerning the neighborhood…. to protect and serve….. whom?

  20. The safety of my neighborhood is up to me? In that case we are in some serious trouble. What pray tell is the purpose of the police in your esteemed opinion, DCer?

    We both know what the police are supposed to do. Don’t play games with me because it makes you look like a dork. If you don’t know what the cops do, then go back to high school civics class, sigh.

    It’s not the job of the police to be on your block at all times. It’s your job to get out there and be a presence on your block at all times so that the “bad guys” as the modern parlance calls them or “perpetrators” as we used to say in the 1980s see you and know that they can’t mug people on this block. Anyone who thinks the police should be out walking a beat has watched too much tv. I grew up in the suburbs where there was never ever any kind of beat cops. So I laugh at your suggestion that cops in a suburban area like Petworth with large residential single family home/ townhouse blocks (as opposed to an urban area with apartment buildings and more businesses) should have some kind of magical cops walking the beat and able to run to a location 4 blocks away in 30 seconds. It’s a great sounding goal in a science fiction future, but that kind of policing never ever existed here. That is how things operated on a Brooklyn street where there were 18 4 story walk up apartment buildings and one cop for the block of 800 people. Not a block where there are 44 townhouses and maybe 120 residents total. You can’t seriously think that makes sense.

    On my block there used to be three elderly women who would sit on their porches and yell to each other and talk to the people who were walking on the sidewalk. I once heard one scream my name, so I ran outside and a cop told me to move my car before I got a ticket- Those ladies were our neighborhood watch and looked out for us. Two passed away in the last 10 years though.

    You, yourself, Prince of Petworth are in fact documenting your neighborhood and its changes in a way that shows people are paying attention. I don’t get your reaction because you should be the first person to form a neighborhood watch group because you’re already out with your digital camera, why not wear the orange hat too?

    Because if you think Santa Claus is going to bring you a cop for every corner you’re deluding yourself or you read too many comic books as a kid.

  21. actually, you know what, I could have summed it up much better:

    It’s always easier to be a whiner who points fingers rather than be a man who stands up for himself.

    end of story for the lot of you

  22. DCer: “I grew up in the suburbs”. No?? Really?!? We’d never have guessed based on your puerile notions that the citizens do the job full time police are failing to do.

  23. We’d never have guessed based on your puerile notions that the citizens do the job full time police are failing to do.

    puerile? It’s childish to think that you have to grow up and be a man? What kind of weird ironic misuse of the word is that?

  24. It’s childish to suggest that people shouldn’t expect public servants to do their job and it’s childish to live in some Charles Bronson fantasy world where crime magically goes down when you stand out on your porch.

    So yes, puerile, sophomoric, fantastic… or if you prefer, dumb.

    It’s not “science fiction” to expect community police efforts unless you are going to contend that Houston, a rather large city with 1/3 the police of DC, is somehow a made-up mirage. Taking your own (low and incorrect) number of 120 residents per block in DC, that means there is an MPD officer for every 3 city blocks. So even using your hypothesis, you’re actually wrong about there not being enough police officers. More importantly, community policing IS NOT about police officers standing on every corner, and nobody BUT YOU was suggesting the mythical “beat cop” you remember from the movies. Perhaps you ought to find out a little about community policing before you spout off about your movie-bred notions?

    Community policing is a philosophy wherein the police are members of the community, not interlopers, and the work proactively with members of the community, youth groups, churches, businesses, so that they are not simply reacting in a useless, counter-productive way (as they are now). Visible signs of community policing are just that: visible police, patrolling, working with youth, being members of the community, not wardens that swoop in occasionally and don’t know anything about the streets they patrol and often don’t live in DC. Community policing’s radical underpinning is that “[p]olice, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

    This revolutionary and shocking suggestion that the police be involved actors in the community was made by Sir Robert Peel in 1835 when he created the modern Metropolitan Police in Britain — so, CALL ME CRAZY, but I’d like to see MPD, and you, step into the friggin’ 19th Century.

    Also, your haughty notion that this can all be solved by “manning up” is somewhat spoiled by your single heroic “true crime” anecdote wherein you heed the siren call of Ol’ Ethel down the street telling you to stop double-parking.

    Man, are we sure glad you were around to… er… stop yourself from illegal parking.

  25. Look Oden, I don’t know what your point is, but you seem to be speaking entirely independent of what I said and what others said before you.

    More importantly, community policing IS NOT about police officers standing on every corner, and nobody BUT YOU was suggesting the mythical “beat cop” you remember from the movies. Perhaps you ought to find out a little about community policing before you spout off about your movie-bred notions?
    Please read the thread, this is the first time anyone here mentioned “community policing.” Neither I nor you nor anyone else brought this theory up prior to 2:45pm. To suggest that I didn’t address something no one is talking about is, um, what did you expect me to say to that?

    Note that on 11/14 at 11am you bring up the topic of the beat cop walking the beat. You brought it up first and I was responding to you!

    I’m not going any further here. You’re changing the rules in the middle of the game and I can’t have a discussion when that happens. Whatever your point was, is pretty lost now.

  26. November 14th, 2007 at 7:43 pm : “Wouldn’t it be more productive to really invest the MPD in the communities they serve? True community policing would mean they would no longer be rarely seen, ineffective, outside interlopers with no connection to, or respect for, the neighborhood they patrol.”

  27. I said at 11AM yesterday: “it is apparently too much to ask the police to patrol neighborhoods and get to know their beat,” which is far and away from “cop on every corner” as you suggested from your TV viewing past. A policeman knowing their beat is integral to community policing. I haven’t brought up anything different and have consistently said that while citizens being involved is well and good, it doesn’t mean a damn thing when the police force is as broken and ineffective as MPD currently is in DC. To this you reply with “me no understand”. I don’t know what you could possibly be confused about either as I very clearly stated that your notion that we ought to be patrolling the streets ourselves is utter and complete foolishness. “It’s your job to get out there”. Wrong. If you want to address that, go ahead, but I expect saying you don’t understand the argument is a better way out for you.

  28. All I know is that the most “police presence” seen in my neighborhood are the cop cars that put on their sirens to run through the two four-way stops at either end of the block.
    I am glad that the police put a car at the metro stop in case there is an emergency, but I do wish that they would also get out of the car every once in a while.

  29. I used to live near the Shaw metro, where they had a police car stationed in a similar fashion. Once when I needed a cop pronto and the dispatcher wouldn’t sent one (I had my bike stolen, it was for sale on craiglist, and I’d arranged to “buy” it back from the seller and was going to meet with him in 20 minutes…), I knew that I would be able to find an officer by the metro, so I walked there to enlist his help. The positive here was that there WAS, as I predicted, a police officer standing guard there. The negative was that he COULD NOT leave his post to help me. He thought it was ridiculous that he couldn’t leave, but it was what he had to do. He did call some of his buddies to come help me, and that all worked out well, but I did find it a bit ironic that, when police presence was actually needed in the nearby community, he couldn’t provide it.

    Alll that being said- I love the cops by the metro stations. BUT– having them there is by no means a solution to any problem.


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