Thief Caught At Washington Sports Club in DC USA Mall Saturday Afternoon

by Prince Of Petworth July 4, 2009 at 5:17 pm 80 Comments

City Mall, originally uploaded by M.V. Jantzen.

Thanks to a reader for sending:

“I wanted to alert you to what the police activity was about this afternoon around 2:45 p.m. in the Target Mall in Columbia Heights.

I caught a guy opening lockers with bolt cutters in the men’s lockerroom. I had seen him when I was changing and he was looking very shifty and had bolt cutters. The staff there has a pair in case people can’t open their locks, but in this case there was no staff member present. After locking my stuff in a locker with my padlock, I went out and stretched for a few minutes. I couldn’t get the weirdness of the guy out of my mind so I decided to go back and get my wallet and phone to put in the little key lockers they have near the refreshment stand.

When I went back the man was still there and fiddling with his black messenger bag. I immediately noticed that my lock was no longer on the locker and had been replaced with another one. I stopped the guy and said, “Hey you took things from lockers, didn’t you. Let me look in your bag.” He said no. Then he told me to leave him alone and stop bothering him. Then I grabbed at the bag, and he pushed me away and there was a scuffle. Something fell out of his bag and the guy seemed really worried. He pushed me away and ran off. I told the towel attendant to stop him, and he did nothing. I chased the thief as he was leaving and shouted, “This man is a thief, he has stolen people’s wallets from the locker room.” Again the WSC staff couldn’t have been more bored. The young woman at the reception desk let him go out. I chased him out, still calling “THIEF” and an off-duty metro policeman, bless his heart, chased the guy, who by this time was running. I went to the landing to shout to the security guy at the front door of the mall, “Stop that man in the white shirt and black pants, and demand to look in his bag. He has robbed me and others.” The security person saw who I was referring to but did nothing. The thief ran out the door.

Fortunately the off duty Metro transit cop chased after him and tackled him to the ground, which I did not see or know about for a while. I was busy trying to find out who the person was, i.e. if his ID had been checked (of course it hadn’t) on entering. I went out trying to find head or tail of the guy but of course he was nowhere to be found.

Later the off-duty policeman came and said they’d caught him and that he was in custody, and that they’d found two wallets (later brought down to one: mine) and a pair of bolt cutters in his possession. At that point I realized that during the scuffle in the lockerroom had dropped the bag containing my computer and phone. Fortunately it was still where he had dropped it.

What I found most appalling was the fact that a) WSC staff are not doing ID checks on people going into the lockerrooms or entering the gym b) the staff seemed a little blase about the incident, and seemed to think this was an all’s well that end’s well affair c) the supposed “Security” people at the door of the mall are just there for decoration. I gave 30 seconds advance notice, shouting, of the thief’s approach, and security did everything but hold the door for him d) off-duty cops can be very brave and e) the MPD’s protocol for taking notes and filing reports appears, for now, efficient. The thief is to be charged with Theft (1) “if the case goes forward.”

Anyway, sorry if this is too much information but I thought your readers might want an explanation of what went down, particularly since I was yelling Thief! from the landing.”

  • I was at the gym this morning, and did note that the number of staff members on duty seemed pretty low, perhaps due to the holiday. Wish I was there, would have tried to assist the reader in chasing him. How does one get into the gym with bolt cutters, anyway?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks to the writer for being proactive! I hope they throw the book at that creep!

  • I have to wonder whether the staff is so blasé because they really don’t care or because the thief is letting them have 20% of his take.

    Either way, he’ll be out on the street in 24 hours, if that.

  • bogfrog

    This is outrageous — very good common sense and follow through by the writer and no one stepped up to do their job and help. (Except for the off duty MPD officer. )

    We all use that gym — can’t believe the staff didn’t help. Can’t believe the mall security didn’t help. I’d like to urge the original writer to bring the story to WSC manager (Gonzalo) and/or whoever is above him. I’d also urge the writer to take this story to whoever manages DCUSA. I’d like to know the names of gym workers and security guards who were working that shift. Was this today (July 4) at 2:45 pm? You can imagine they are earning overtime for the job.

    I too have been working all through the holiday weekend, but I hope that I have been carried out my responsibilities — if not, then I should be fired

  • Anonymous

    Good for you! If more honest people had your courage, thieves would have less. Thanks for acting.

  • Just J

    To the author of that story:

    It takes real heart to carry through with something like that. A lot of people would have said “I have still have my stuff, that sucks for everyone else.” I was in the gym from 1:00 to about 2:00 that day, so it could have easily been my belongings. Thank you for your persistence.

  • otis gal

    i wonder if he took $120 out of my wallet earlier this week from the women’s locker room, someone did!

  • Anonymous

    I frequent this location daily and I came to the realization that it is honestly not worth it to leave your personal belongings in those lockers because of the lack of concern among its employees. The staff is oblivious to everything around them, specifically those working the front desk who often are unable to provide answers to any questions and are unattentive to those with a need. As for the manager (Gonzalo), he likely could not care less about anything except selling memberships. Equipment is never repaired in a timely manner and half the televisions on the treadmills do not even function properly. Unfortunately, there are not any other health club offerings in Columbia Heights, so this looks like the only option for now.

  • Anonymous

    I am extremely hesistant to put personal items of value in those lockers as I use this gym often as well. The staff there does not care about anything and it is extremely easy to walk past reception without flashing your ID. If I need to use absolutely need to use a locker, I limit its contents to my change of clothing and carry my keys, wallet and phone on me.

  • Shawn

    Wow, very courageous of the reader. I’m very happy that he confronted the thief. Good thing that the thief was not violent and armed (with a knife for example). I’m a member of WSC and I’m very disappointed in the attitudes of the staff there and the lack of security. I might switch gyms unless I get a good explanation from them for the behavior of their staff.

    Also, what is the point of security guards if they do nothing when crimes happen? I thought the whole point was that they get paid for the 99% of the time that they are not needed as long as they do something when there is an actual need for a security guard.

    Very crazy story…

  • anonymous 5

    I haven’t used WSC, but from observation of the activities of mall security as it pertains to the other businesses: the security staff is there to protect the interests of the businesses, not the customers. If someone is suspected of shoplifting or vandalizing business property, they’ll act. Pickpocketing and crimes against other individuals in the facility are not their concern.

  • soon to be ex-WSC

    This is such a disappointing club – love the location but that’s about all.

    The fitness classes are a joke – none of the instructors actually teach — none tell students how to do exercises properly/safely, give modifications, give corrections when people are doing things incorrectly.

    Don’t get me started on the yoga classes – none of the teachers would ever be hired by a real yoga studio. No attention to form, instruction, safety.

    And when I’ve expressed concern to the instructors, management I’ve been met with indifference and unresponsiveness.

    There’s a survey you can fill out here http://www.mysportsclubs.com/regions/WSC.htm
    – perhaps if enough people express their dissatisfaction someone might take note.

  • brian

    yeah, i read this article just before i went to the gym (~5pm?) and definitely paid attention to the “security”.

    i was absolutely *amazed* to be greeted by one woman literally with her nose in a book, facing away from the door. hours after the break in and theft.

    i had my keys out, ready for my keychain member card to be scanned. seems they count on the jingling of keys to alert them of a person entering… if not for that, she would have continued with her reading, and i probably could have entered without scanning. she was against and facing the right wall as you enter. her head buried in a book, and alone. needless to say, the monitor displaying the pool was *not* being watched. any given day, fine (maybe). but only hours after this incident? totally not cool.

    WSC has a duty to provide proper security within their premises, and dcusa has a duty to provide security within their mall. if things like this become regular, the shops will go out of business and CH may start a very unpleasant backslide. not good.

    the only quasi-positive is that it could have been much much much worse. rather than a male thief in the mens locker room, it could have been a man in the women’s room. i am thinking the walk to north dupont WSC may be worth it, especially for my wife, unless this incident is addressed and properly rectified. which, after my visit this afternoon, it has not yet been.

    btw: i saw no signage or information regarding the incident posted during my visit. i counted 3 employees total, but obviously some may have been in offices or unnoticed to me. visit dupont north location, then compare the staff attitudes. night and day.

    sure, this may be because of 4 july holiday… but man. there is no comparing north dupont to CH WSC.

  • brian

    follow up (or pile on?)

    have you seen the “security guards” in the dcusa parking garage? they are certainly very visible, every 200 feet or so, which is good. but they are usually either on the phone, texting, and as allegedly confirmed today, certainly not a physical threat.

    if we are entusting those folk with providing our safety, at least give those cats tazers and/or mace. please.

  • otis gal, either I overheard you or another person telling about having money taken out of a locker at the club the other day.

    I always feel weird about re-locking everything up before heading to the shower, but now it sounds like that’s not even enough.

    Kudos to the reader who sent this info in. It sounds like WSC is not being very helpful in making people aware.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, that is great that someone stepped up to the plate. That’s the only way this stuff will stop, if people in the community don’t accept, so I commend you!

  • New2CH

    First, kudos to the off-duty officer who actually did something about this. I hope he gets some sort of recognition from his department.

    Very disturbing re: the security guards. I mean the bare minimum they could and should do is at least stop this individual from exiting. DCUSA really should answer for their performance.

    As for WASA, unfortunately, I agree that ALL they care about is adding new members (even though the place is way too packed as is) rather than improving service or equipment, or even bringing either up to a minimally competent level. Unfortunately, the company’s customer service is terrible, and I’d be shocked if, contrary to their usual practice, they actually cared about your situation. I wrote a long complaint to them about something a few months ago, and didn’t even receive any sort of response, and I’ve heard others have experienced the same problem. Unfortunately, because they are a monopoly in the area, I will remain a member, but if ever another gym opens in CH, I expect mass exodus of their members … alas, in this economic climate, the odds of that seem small.

  • anonymous

    Send this straight to the Washington Post and Straight to WSC management/owners.

    DC faux-ployees SUCK and they all deserve to get fired. Somehow that black culture of “let my manager do it” has infected the whole city and now no one in entry level desk positions care. In my company we’ve had to fire 7 people this calendar year and every one has tried to pass off the issue as a management problem or “not my job.” We’re having all kinds of morale issues because everyone who got fired looks the same, but jesus christ, they aren’t even TRYING to work.

  • In Petworth

    The more I read about Columbia Heights with the random shootings, gang activity and other smaller but still significant crime, it reminds of Capital Hill years ago. There’s a clash of cultures, law-biding, hard-working, college-educated living near ghetto riff-raff whose time in the neighborhood is up. I expect people to pile on this comment and I don’t even belong to the gym, but it makes me mad. Target, Best Buy, WSC, all are supposed to benefit the neighborhood. But if the crime and poor management don’t improve, they will go out of business.

  • Anonymous

    We are very impressed and proud of the off duty metro officer for his courage when no one else took the initiative to “Do the right thing.”

  • Dcuser

    Good job, off-duty metro transit cop!
    Just another example why we’re glad to have police officers living/shopping/socializing in the neighborhood.

  • Anonymous

    I think chasing someone down around here when often they are crazy and have guns, over a wallet, computer and phone, is incredibly stupid. Those things are eventually replaceable, your life, is not.

  • Christina

    “DC faux-ployees SUCK and they all deserve to get fired. Somehow that black culture of “let my manager do it” has infected the whole city and now no one in entry level desk positions care.”

    This is a “black culture” thing, now? Interesting.

  • Christina

    To the point though — great job by the poster and the off-duty Metro transit cop…I’d guess he is probably black, but maybe not since black culture precludes that sort of action, apparently. It sucks that there isn’t better security at DC USA.

  • Just J

    Anon @ 7:51 (why is it they are always anonymous?)

    Did you ever consider that maybe your black employees dont work very hard for you because they work for a racist company? Be realistic, would you work hard for somebody who thought you were automatically inferior due to somethings so fundamental as your race? Would you work hard for somebody knowing that even if you were capable of being promoted, you knew that your employer would not do so because he was a racist?

    The unemployment rate is almost 10%, which means there are plenty of talented people available in the market place. The fact that your company had to fire 7 (as opposed to lay off) within a year means that you have a management issue, not an employee issue.

    I would suggest reading the following:


    Its based on military life but it translates well to the private sector.

    Since I just helped you out, I would appreciate it if you would return the favor by keeping your unnecessarily racist comments to yourself.

  • Golden Silence

    Somehow that black culture of “let my manager do it” has infected the whole city and now no one in entry level desk positions care.

    Hold up, BLACK culture?!

    Anon @ 7:51 (why is it they are always anonymous?)

    Because they’re cowards. PoP needs to enforce mandatory user names so these craven folks would stop hiding under anonymity. It’s sad that people aren’t bold enough to create a name to back up their nonsense. Cowards.

  • nate

    If it is not black culture, then why the difference between the Dupont WSC and the CH WSC? I attend WSC. I have never had anything stolen. I don’t attend classes or ask for much instruction from the trainers. So I can not comment on the employees at the gym. I can say that I have observed encounters between shoppers and security.

    I once saw a lady curse the security guard for telling her not take a shopping cart out the door. She did it anyway and then to add insult to injury, left the car outside on the curb. That culture or behavior, which is prominent in the black community, will render a security guard impotent. Those guys are not empowered to stop brazen criminals. I’m sure DCUSA would be liable if a security guard broke someone’s arm trying to stop them.

    As this relates to WSC, I see a lot of guys in the CH WSC that do not look like they are the type to pay the premium to be a member at WSC. They are often playing bball. Someone has to be letting them in and giving them the basketball. Identifying those staffers would go a long way.

  • Brian

    “If it is not black culture, then why the difference between Dupont WSC and the CH”

    i had more in mind the length of time the establishment has been operating, and the competency of a few individuals at the top to run a proper business.

    the racial make up of the employees at the two locations is equally diverse…

  • Anonymous

    Writing the executives in NYC at Town Sports (the parent company) will not accomplish much, like management at the Columbia Heights locations….their priority is increasing memberships. The company never launches any initiatives to retain members and nothing ever takes place to emphasize the value behind a membership. Unfortunately, this is the only option in Columbia Heights and the new YMCA several blocks south on 14th doesn’t appear to be opening anytime soon.

  • [email protected]

    @Christina Says
    Sarah Palin quit her 160k job half way through her assighment, are you saying it is a white female lazy thing. Many of these white people who use PoP are on a different planet. Seems like they are just looking for specific incidents to justfy their racist attitudes. Bernie Makoff stole billions is it a jewish thing. Don’t blame all of the fucking people within a specific race. Remember they can burn every fucking town house like they did in the 60s don’t become too comfortable with your racist attitudes and gay friendly sentiments. Try to value diversity in the community and still hold specific individuals accountable. Did you have he balls to tell the worker at WSC to be more customer friendly, why did you not visit management. Dam Coward. Pop try to keep these bozos off he blog.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Anonymous a 1:41 pm, you excercise to reduce the size of your fat ass. Stop bitching wining, moaning and complaining: Let’s celebrate the dc city council will be AW very soon Marion was arrested for stlking our plan worked. Everyone just hold on for a few more years the District will completely return to it’s wrightful citizens.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting…I had to drop-off some paperwork for a colleague who happened to be at WSC on both Thursday and Saturday. Both times, the folks at the front desk waved me through with just the slimmest of explanations (instead of calling the person to the front). I have to admit I was surprised about that. I thought for sure I would have explain at length why I was there and give a blood sample to get in…instead the folks at the front counter looked perplexed when I tried to explain my in detail why I was there. And just to stop the haters out there, the four people I encountered over the two days at the front desk were black, Asian and white….

  • eric in ledroit

    the only thing that will change this is you QUITTING YOUR MEMBERSHIP!!! You can bet management will magically improve if everyone bitching on this thread quits.

  • Anonymous

    I was actually there this morning and there was no one even at the front desk…so I just walked in.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing this story and many thanks to the quick action of this individual and the MPD.

    We just spoke with the management at WSC and as a result of this robbery, they have taken quick action to hopefully ensure that this doesn’t happen again. As a result, they will now have permanent bathroom attendants and second, they have been in contact with the building security though that seems to be unresolved.

    In WSC defense, it’s unrealistic to expect their staff to go chasing individuals with bolt cutters. They said that they did call police right away and the manager also mentioned that the individual with the bolt cutters was a member.

    Beyond the complete brazen nature of this crime, the real issue seems to be the “so called” security at DCUSA. I suggest that as a community we press DCUSA to fire the texting attendants and get some real security at that place.

  • brian

    3:32, right on.

    though, it might be a moot point… from my vantage point, it looked like dc usa caught fire just a bit ago? or someplace right next to it… smoke everywhere!

  • Todd

    I am the reader who experienced this and wrote in about it. I enjoyed reading all your comments. Even the person who said I was crazy to go after someone with bolt cutters. If it helps out they were already back in his bag; he wasn’t wielding them like Edward Scissorhands.

    I fear I didn’t give enough kudos to the off-duty MPD officer who caught the thief. Really amazing and I will follow through on the suggestion to write to the Post and MPD.

    I would like to correct a point in the previous post: the manager at WSC asked if I would like them to call the police. From that appeared to me they had not already done so. I asked if they would post a sign alerting users to the robbery and they said (very politely) no. I’m not sure what this “quick action” entails, and am dubious it will last very long. I also wonder how many of the other victims of robberies of WSC, who may have assumed, that they hadn’t spun the lock properly, or fallen prey to an over the shoulder scam artist, may have been victim to the bolt cutter. The thief’s placement of another lock on my locker was ingenious, and to my amateur eyes at least, indicates someone with foresight, a plan and experience,

    As several of the posters said, I think the priority is to sign on as many new members as possible. Customer service, including safety, take a back seat. I will write to TSI, the parent company, but I’m pessimistic it will achieve anything besides making me poorer by the cost of a certified letter.

    And to one of the previous posters: yes, I am quitting WSC.

    Again, apologies for my verbosity.

  • Victoriam

    Aren’t bolt cutters kind of BIG? Dose one not notice them being carried about? Kind of like – bazookas?

  • Anonymous

    Was he off duty MPD or MTPD?

  • ontarioroader

    Bolt cutters range in size from pliers-like 8″ to big 3′ ones. I’m guessing these were something in between. You could probably fit 2′ ones in a courier bag without too much trouble.

  • Anonymous

    I know a handful of people who had their lockers broken into at New York Sports Clubs locations in Manhattan.

  • Anonymous

    Link to an article about robberies at New York Sports Clubs:


  • Fig Newton

    My husband and I have been talking about quiting WSC because of the crowds and broken machines. This pushes us over the edge – we’re done.

  • Anonymous Says:

    I love WSC, the chicks are hip and friendly. let the ugly ones leave because of small bolt cutter occurance. This is the big city not the burbs. If you want ulra safety move to boring Woodbridge or Onley MD. Today I workes out besides a couple of MS13 gang members.

  • Christina

    That’s a statement almost as silly as blaming bad employees on “black culture,” so I”m going to hope that’s a joke. I have to move to Woodbridge or Olney to be safe? Sorry, basic safety is not a suburban thing. And believing that it is is why bad behavior is allowed to continue. We’ve gone from outright bigotry to the “soft bigotry of low expectations” in just one comment thread, geez.

  • Christina

    Sorry Anon 11:08, my comment was intended for Anon 10:47.

    And for Nate and others who are all down with the black culture being the cause of everything bad in this city — for the love of God, could you please get away from DC and visit an area where the “underclass” is not black? Such places exist, crazy but true.

    I would say that if you have a bunch of ill-trained, low-paid and mis-managed people working in one place, you’re going to end up with crap like the OP had to deal with. And he’s doing the right thing by walking. Don’t put up with it. When you have well-managed people who feel some pride in their work and are empowered by their supervisors, it’s a different story. “Black culture” doesn’t enter into it.

  • New2CH

    Wish for the day: that not EVERY thread about a problem that occurs in CH becomes a discussion about “black culture” and the like. Please. Maybe POP can set up a permanent discussion topic in his forum “bashing black people” so that I won’t have to wade through this garbage on every … single … frigging … discussion here. Or maybe just make providing a valid email address (no need to display, just make available when posting) mandatory. That would weed out a lot of the detritus on here. Sheesh.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    @New2CH I’m strongly considering it. I agree that comments talking about “black culture” as the cause of all crime will no longer be tolerated. I don’t enjoy censoring comments but this site is not going to become a venue for bigotry and racism.

  • New2CH

    Sounds good to me. I mean, I don’t see what anyone who is not a total racist a** (like some of the commentators above) or troll has to fear from simply providing a valid email before positing — you can still retain total anonymity, but I think that would dissuade some of the worst offenders without scaring away the regular, productive commentators … and even regular, productive commentators (including myself) can get carried away in anger (not necessarily racist in fashion, but personal attacks and the like) in the heat of an internet flame war or something; so some incentive for everyone to behave at least a LITTLE bit more like they would in a face to face conversation I think is warranted and useful. It is tricky to find a balance between honestly expressing controversial views, on the one hand, and preventing beyond-the-pale commentary, on the other, but at this point, this blog’s comments section has swung towards the latter …

  • Erin

    Has anyone called and spoken to someone at WSC about this incident? If so, what response did you get? I’ll call tomorrow morning to ask about the details and their plans for beefing up security/paying more attention to who comes in and out of the club. Wanted to see if anyone had received any ‘official response’ from an inquiry about what happened.

  • anonymous

    WHOA! Enough of the NAME CALLING people! I wrote the above about the it’s-not-my-job culture in DC. Sorry if you just moved to the neighborhood and think I’m something I’m not, but that’s YOUR PROBLEM not mine. I spent the 4th with a friend who owns a restaurant in your neighborhood and he can’t for the life of him keep- an employee who is a longterm resident of Columbia Heights employed. At my own company the last 7 people who were fired all look the same and all came out of DC public schools. Frankly I have no concern if you want to attribute your conspiracy theories to me because I have a good job and I own a small company and there are seven people at my company who are out of a job because of their inability to accept responsibility for themselves and you know that is not my problem but it’s their problem. Do not make their problem my problem.

  • New2CH

    Irony: someone who claims that there is a “black culture” of laziness asking OTHERS to stop the name calling. Ridiculous.

  • anonymous

    again New2CH, that’s your problem, not mine. If all your friends look the same then you cam assume that others have the same values as you. When you have diverse friends you realize that many cultures value things differently, from Arab misogyny, the Jewish love of education, Hinduisms’s zen-like stability, etc. To suggest that cultures don’t translate into action is to suggest that cultures don’t exist at all. Ridiculous- particularly to a scientist who has representative samples throughout this diverse Ward 1.

  • Jim

    Anon at 8:00 am is a scientist in the mold of Lothrop Stoddard apparently.

  • Nate

    [email protected] Says:
    July 5th, 2009 at 2:34 pm
    Don’t blame all of the fucking people within a specific race. Remember they can burn every fucking town house like they did in the 60s don’t become too comfortable with your racist attitudes and gay friendly sentiments.
    So you are saying what? That they (presumably black people) will burn everything down like they did in the 60’s? Yep, that is the mentality that many people on this board have a problem with. If things don’t go your way or something is said that you don’t like, you react with violence. It happens everyday in cities all across America.

  • DCDave05

    The lockers at WSC are easily broken into and you don’t need bolt cutters. I used to go to the K Street location and those lockers were regularly broken into by someone using a screw driver or other device to pry the entire latch out . . . easily done since the lockers are just fiber board (the lockers in all the newer WSC gyms seem to be built with the cheap fiber board). My locker was eventually broken into . . . I was forunate, they just removed the cash from my wallet. Now I never leave my wallet or keys in the locker, they are always with me on the gym floor. In response to my theft, WSC staff took a report for internal use, and encouraged ME to call the police and report it, they weren’t going to call the police. For some reason they didn’t feel the vandalism to their lockers was a crime worth reporting.

    I feel WSC’s approach to profitability is like a ponzi scheme . . . as long as they keep cranking in the new members, they don’t have to worry about retaining old members with good facilities and customer service.

  • Nita

    [email protected] Says
    “Don’t blame all of the fucking people within a specific race. Remember they can burn every fucking town house like they did in the 60s don’t become too comfortable with your racist attitudes and gay friendly sentiments. Try to value diversity in the community and still hold specific individuals accountable.”

    While I agree that one shouldn’t generalize based on race, apparently [email protected] believes it is nevertheless okay to spout homophobic and Asian-related racist comments in the “Nora rescues cat” story (which it appears PoP has since removed). If you don’t agree with racism and discrimination, you shouldn’t engage in it yourself.

  • This is ridiculous. I joined WSC that very morning.

    I used to work at the front desk at LA Fitness and I was always a hard-ass about only letting people in after they scanned their cards. You just never know.

    But then, gym scammers and thieves can be members/staff as well…

  • Marcus Aurelius

    I hate to rain on yet another “if we could just get those pesky black people out of Columbia Heights” parade, but there is nothing new or unusual about someone breaking into a locker at a sports club. In fact, the WSC in Silver Spring has signs posted all over the place carrying a warning from the local police department about a rash of locker breakins at area gyms.
    There is also nothing unusual about a gym employee – or anyone else for that matter – not wanting to stick their neck out to try and catch someone who is running away from a crime. How many gym members did this person run by on the way out the door? How many shoppers in the mall did he run by? The victim was willing to risk his safety to retrieve his belongings. Fortunately, there was another trained law enforcement officer who was willing to risk his safety for those belongings. I don’t fault civilians or minimum wage “security guards” for not being willing to risk their lives by confronting a fleeing criminal.
    I do fault the gym employees for the lack of diligence at the front desk. I will wager that if every person who vented in this forum about this incident sent an email to the company that runs this gym threatening to cancel their month-to-month memberships, there would be some changes. But I doubt that more than a handful of the venters will do so. It’s much easier to complain than to step up to the plate and take some action that might make a difference.

  • First of all, I am a Black woman who lives in Columbia Heights and I’m completely offended by the notion that laziness, ignorance and a lack of work ethic has been labeled “black culture”. In no way are these principles a part of my background or upbringing – as a BLACK woman. Coming from the South, however, I am used to the ignorance spouted by the person who didn’t have the guts to attach his name to his “rhetoric”.

    Second, I actually purchased a two week trial at the CH WSC that ended last week. I took the 6:30 am boot camp and total body conditioning classes and loved both instructors. However, I noticed the front desk was poorly manned, employees seemed annoyed if you asked them questions and the manager was more concerned with me signing a year long contract than if I was satisfied with the facility. After reading about this incident, I sent an email to the manager citing my concerns about safety and the employees lack of interest. I received a pat email saying security is “their number one priority” but more time was spent trying to convince me to sign a membership contract. As much as I liked the morning classes, I am not inclined to give my money to a club that cares more about signing new members than the safety and satisfaction of its current members.

  • New2CH

    Marcus, I generally agree with your comment, but I WOULD take that bet — I have written to WSC in the past. They just don’t give a damn. They have a monopoly in CH, thus have folks like myself who want a nearby gym with indoor hoops by the b***s, and they know it.

  • I am sorry to hear that a man can’t even work out anymore with not have to worry about losing or having things stolen. Nobody ask me, but I say this anyway. Don’t pay a gym just to work out – you are your own gym. Run outside or at the high school track. Buy a workout tower for your apartment by bodysolid for $300 and you will look better than you ever did in you whole life. And you get to keep all your belonging.

  • Parkwood Person

    Most commercial gyms are more concerned about new membership than current member satisfaction. It’s just part of the business model and it sucks. Public pools, rec centers etc won’t get you a personal TV to watch on your stair climber, or a stack of clean towels, but at least you’re getting more value for your buck. The only benefit to a gym is that you can work out in an air conditioned room in summer. Other than that, they’re pretty worthless.

  • Odentex

    Jellous: Or you can go on the Oden BBQ diet. You eat all the BBQ you want and remove all of the mirrors from the house.

    Works great. I only break a sweat when I’m trying to fasten my pants.

  • anon

    It is far from fancy, but I love the folks at Thomas Circle Sports Club and I always get scanned.

  • CH Resident

    It’s VERY simple folks!!

    You live/patron in an area that is undergoing gentrification. This incident is NOT the first nor the last time. You either choose to be a part of the solution and do something about it or MOVE.
    Its that Simple.

    BTW: For the ignorant folks on this blog, gentrification does not = Black, so please spare the educated and cultured bloggers your mindless nonsense. Thnks 🙂

    Now, I can see if you are new to the city/neighborhood, I can expect your shock and anger, but if you’ve lived in DC or Columbia Heights for more than six months to a year. You should not be suprise.

    Granted, this does not excuse the incident and I applaud the gentleman who took action – but lets be realistic here!!

    1.) This is a commercial gym, not an airport. You can’t expect x-ray check points at the door. From what I understand, WSC along with the 5 other businesses in the mall depend on a independent security company to protect all the patrons and the mall property – collectively.

    2.) Do you REALLY expect the young front desk girl to hop over the desk and tackle the guy?? What if that was your little sister or wife, would you give her a high five for risking her life?

    3.) Fact: Most people have slow reaction time. If this guy was running (and I’m pretty sure he was running). The general public will look first than react. A well trained security officer SHOULD have reacted and since that did not happen – DCUSA needs to re-evaluate their security standards or implement better training.

    4.) From what I noticed the WSC is under new management (don’t know the guy’s name). So this may be a good time to voice any concerns.

    I did notice in the men’s locker room a sign that warns members to protect their belongings. This sign has been up for a few weeks now. Right by the mirror on your way out the locker room.

    Now, I must say it’s a great idea to have staff members in both locker rooms. Hopefully this idea will be implemented soon and I don’t have to think twice about my belongings – just my workout.

  • Todd

    Hi, just want to give an update. (I was the victim of the thwarted robbery.)

    First, the thief was arraigned today.

    Next, I want to underline that the response of the MPD was really impressive from start to finish. Obviously, the off-duty policeman was amazing. But also the lieutenants who took the narratives and followed up with me afterward did a really good job. I feel I didn’t get that across adequately in my posts.

    Next I made two calls to speak to the manager at WSC today but did not receive a call back. So much for the “new and responsive management” though they may be under instruction from lawyers not to talk. Disappointing, but not a huge surprise.

    I take some of the commenters’ points of “why would staff risk their lives for someone else’s belongings.” I think you are right, and plus there’s an element of surprise, like, is this really happening? I think Shaw Girl made the point better than I did: it is the responsibility of the management to check IDs and at least act as if the safety of their members is of concern.

    Lastly, the ingenuity of the thief in replacing my lock, after clipping it, with another one, and of not taking everything (just valuables) indicates to me that he’s done this before. So I guess I just want to say caveat gym goers! And think of using those little key lockers by the water vending machines, like the ones they used to have at Port Authority.

  • Anonymous

    Just wondering if the final arrest was made between 13th and 14th on Irving St NW? I saw an event unfold right in front of me at the time you mentioned. When the confrontation between one guy (later placed in handcuffs by police), and two other guys chasing him occurred I stopped dead in my tracks, called 911 to report something was going on (unsure of what was going on, just that something was clearly wrong!)… I turned to walk back out to 14th to see if anyone could help with whatever was going on… by the time I got up to the CVS police sirens were going off and the car was headed in towards the scene. Police made it down the street to the scene and by the time I got back to the scene I saw the thief in cuffs. If it was you who tracked down this criminal thanks for taking a criminal off the streets.

  • PartoftheSolution

    “You live/patron in an area that is undergoing gentrification. This incident is NOT the first nor the last time. You either choose to be a part of the solution and do something about it or MOVE.”

    Got it. The solution is what this victim did: stopping a criminal. But spare us the hints that if we move into an urban core, we have to chillax on the crime. Nope. Any person in this country has the right to live anywhere in this country, and no person in this country has the right to victimize others anywhere in this country. As more people come to this realization, the better off we all are, regardless of race or creed. Wrap your head around the basics, or have it wrapped around your wrists in the back of a squad car. Pretty simple.

  • Will S

    That is exactly what happened to me a week and a half ago. The guy broke my lock and put a new one on my locker. I’m still dealing with getting my ID, credit card and debit card renewed. I am so happy you caught him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    My roommate had the exact same thing happen to him last week at the Columbia Heights WSC – lock taken off, wallet stolen, new lock put on the locker. This is definitely not the first time the thief has hit the WSC.

  • Will S.

    Thanks Todd!

  • Hmm…So is this indicative of typical life in Columbia Heights in general or is this the exception? I am moving to the DC area soon and am shopping neighborhoods.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for the update about what happened with the case. Does anyone know if they have already put in bathroom attendants at the Ch location? I haven’t been there in two weeks, but am planning to go this Saturday. Also, Did TSI in NY respond to this?
    Maybe we should send on a link to this blog.

  • Anonymous

    Response to “SLEZE”
    To give you input as you’re shopping around for neighborhoods and new the the area I’d like to say that Columbia Heights is an awesome neighborhood. I was the one who posted the comment about seeing the WSC event unfold (the tackle) and calling 911. I’ve lived in DC for 15 years. Lived in CH for 9 months. CH is my favorite neighborhood yet. I’m proud to live here. It’s diverse and undergoing changes which is why I love it. I am a small single female and have never felt threatened walking the streets in CH. Crime is everywhere in DC so as long as one takes natural smart precautions (as with any big city) I think you would enjoy DC and Columbia Heights. Good luck

  • Anonymous

    Oh, and to further respond to my above post to “SLEZE”:
    I’ve had my car broken into in EVERY neighborhood I’ve ever live in within DC… from Brookland and Columbia Heights to the ‘safer’ neighborhoods of Dupont Circle and Georgetown. I’ve even had my car stolen in Georgetown. My point is that crime of this nature is not just targeted to CH.

  • matt

    This is truly amazing. What bravery by Todd. That thief sounds like Deng Xiaoping, a short wily man with a mind as keen as mustard.

  • DMC

    I’m absolutely amazed! No one should have to put up with that anyplace, but at a gym in a mall with security – ridiculous. Kudos to the protagonist – so brave. Take your practice to the streets!

  • So I guess life would be much easier/safer in the burbs of VA? Thanks for the feedback.

  • Wow! I can’t believe no one helped you. What a bunch of losers!


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