Dear PoP – What can I do about the “Columbia Heights Creeper”?

Photo by PoPville flickr user christopher.poole

“Dear PoP,

I’m curious to know if your other readers have encountered this extremely creepy guy that’s been stalking women in the area of 14th and Florida pretty much every weekday morning around 8 am (usually 8:15 is when I am passing by) for the last couple weeks- right in the area by the Pica Taco, which is delicious, btw.

Anyway, this guy hovers and waits for a woman to approach then starts walking toward her and begins to rub his bare stomach and then… This is the point where I stop watching and walk as fast as I can. It’s become extremely concerning because it’s clear that he stays in this specific area waiting for women to pass and will switch sides of the street depending on where women are walking. He’s a black male, maybe late 20’s or early 30’s (I’m terrible at estimating age and I really try not to make eye contact), wears glasses, and has been wearing a black jacket lately.He’s getting more aggressive and quickly approaches.

This morning I was relieved to see him walking to the opposite side of the street as me and thought I wouldn’t have to deal with him- turns out he was trying to avoid being seen by a police car that was driving by. As soon as it passed, he spotted me and immediately came back to my side. This freaked me out, so I turned around and started walking in the direction of the police car, now stopped at the light at 14th (but still a decent distance away). It was enough to scare him off, which makes me think he’s been in trouble with the law before or at least knows he could get in trouble for this.

I’m not sure what to do here, short of altering my walking route. I used to see him on New Hampshire walking up from U Street. It was less creepy then because he seemed to be walking from point A to B, rather than hanging out in an area waiting for women to, um, rub himself to- though he was still doing the stomach rubbing thing back then but it came across as more of a “maybe he has a few screws loose” then “this guy is definitely getting sexual gratification out of this” type thing.

I’m reluctant to call 911 since I’m not even sure if it constitutes a crime. I know I feel icky, but since there’s no physical contact, he doesn’t say anything to me, and I never look long enough to see if he exposes himself, I’m not sure what I would tell the 911 operator. It’s weird because I’ve observed him enough times to know it’s a pattern and that he waits there and intentionally crosses paths with women, but each incident taken separately might just seem like a weird guy walking down the street rubbing his stomach (even if it is an extremely grotesque rub)?

Any insight is much appreciated, this is the first time I’ve legitimately dreaded walking to work.”

I think it’s very important that MPD and then social services are notified. So to be blunt – I would not hesitate to call 911. You never know if this sort of thing can escalate into something more aggressive. I strongly believe that if you feel threatened you are completely within your rights to call the authorities and let them work it out. Odds are this will be a social services situation. But you needn’t feel threatened every time you walk to work – that is unacceptable in my opinion. What would you guys recommend for this situation?

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