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Friday Question of the Day – Police Alerts – useful or just stressful?

by Prince Of Petworth May 19, 2011 at 10:22 pm 33 Comments


Photo of ‘last night’s battle’ by PoPville flickr user JosephLeonardo

“Dear PoPville,

I recently signed up for the DC alert text messages and e-mails. I now get several e-mails and texts a day about robberies and other crimes. It is quite surprising. I however caveat this with the fact that I have lived here for 2 years and have never really been near or seen anything bad go down (knock on wood). Will these constant notifications just get me scared/worried all the time or are they actually useful? Do you get them?”

It’s a very good question and one that I often wrestle with when deciding about what crime stories to post or not post here. I’d say I regularly get over a dozen emails a week (sadly, sometimes many many more) from readers talking about crimes (and this is not including the daily alerts sent by MPD.) Often times when I’m on a walkabout I recall a horrible crime on the street I’m passing by. These are obviously not pleasant thoughts. When people introduce themselves to me and tell me where they live, my brain automatically catalogs what crimes have happened nearby. I don’t think this is necessarily a healthy thing. I can’t help it.

For me personally, I think it’s very important that I know what’s going on because of the blog. But if I weren’t running this blog – I honestly don’t think I’d want to know about every single crime that takes place. However, having said that, I still think it is useful to know that some crimes are happening and where they are happening just to remind you to be alert. And some people like to know what is the cause of every single siren they hear – and this is a good way to do that.

So for the Friday Question of the Day: What do you guys think – do you think it is useful or stressful to sign up for MPD police alerts? If you are interested you can sign up for the MPD listserves here.

After the jump you can see an example email from Thurs. sent out daily by all MPD Districts

This report contains Part I serious offenses reported in the Third District, broken down by PSA, in a 24-hour period. If you experience any computer problems with viewing this data, please reply to this message and explain the problem. See key at the bottom of the page.

PSA: 301
CCN: 11069196
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Theft
METHOD:
BLOCK: 1700 B/O LAMONT ST NW
LOCATION: Residence/Home
START DT: 05/15/2011
START TM: 12:00:00
END DT: 05/17/2011
END TM: 17:00:00
——————————————-
PSA: 302
CCN: 11068971
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Theft F/Auto
METHOD:
BLOCK: 1500 B/O SPRING PL NW
LOCATION: Street/Highway/Road
START DT: 05/18/2011
START TM: 00:30:00
END DT: 05/18/2011
END TM: 04:00:00
——————————————-
PSA: 302
CCN: 11068813
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Robbery
METHOD:
BLOCK: 1300 B/O IRVING ST NW
LOCATION: Sidewalk
START DT: 05/18/2011
START TM: 02:25:00
END DT:
END TM:
——————————————-
PSA: 302
CCN: 11068883
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Theft F/Auto
METHOD:
BLOCK: 1500 B/O MONROE ST NW
LOCATION: Street/Highway/Road
START DT: 05/17/2011
START TM: 19:00:00
END DT: 05/18/2011
END TM: 10:00:00
——————————————-
PSA: 302
CCN: 11069038
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Stolen Auto
METHOD:
BLOCK: GEORGIA AVE NW & PARK RD NW
LOCATION: Alley
START DT: 05/17/2011
START TM: 02:00:00
END DT: 05/17/2011
END TM: 02:00:00
——————————————-
PSA: 302
CCN: 11068751
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Robbery
METHOD:
BLOCK: 13TH ST NW & PARK RD NW
LOCATION: Sidewalk
START DT: 05/17/2011
START TM: 22:58:00
END DT:
END TM:
——————————————-
PSA: 302
CCN: 11068908
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Theft F/Auto
METHOD:
BLOCK: 1300 B/O KENYON ST NW
LOCATION: Alley
START DT: 05/18/2011
START TM: 10:50:00
END DT: 05/18/2011
END TM: 11:00:00
——————————————-
PSA: 303
CCN: 11069230
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Burglary
METHOD:
BLOCK: 1800 B/O VERNON ST NW
LOCATION: Residence/Home
START DT: 05/18/2011
START TM: 08:45:00
END DT: 05/18/2011
END TM: 20:30:00
——————————————-
PSA: 303
CCN: 11068859
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Theft
METHOD:
BLOCK: 2400 B/O 16TH ST NW
LOCATION: Residence/Home
START DT: 05/17/2011
START TM: 13:00:00
END DT:
END TM:
——————————————-
PSA: 303
CCN: 11069143
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Burglary
METHOD:
BLOCK: 1800 B/O VERNON ST NW
LOCATION: Residence/Home
START DT: 05/18/2011
START TM: 09:00:00
END DT: 05/18/2011
END TM: 17:55:00
——————————————-
PSA: 304
CCN: 11069256
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Robbery
METHOD:
BLOCK: 1200 B/O GIRARD ST NW
LOCATION: Sidewalk
START DT: 05/18/2011
START TM: 21:15:00
END DT: 05/18/2011
END TM: 21:25:00
——————————————-
PSA: 304
CCN: 11068897
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Theft F/Auto
METHOD:
BLOCK: 2700 B/O 13TH ST NW
LOCATION: Street/Highway/Road
START DT: 05/18/2011
START TM: 10:00:00
END DT: 05/18/2011
END TM: 10:30:00
——————————————-
PSA: 304
CCN: 11069001
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Robbery
METHOD:
BLOCK: 700 B/O GRESHAM PL NW
LOCATION: Residence/Home
START DT: 05/18/2011
START TM: 14:20:00
END DT: 05/18/2011
END TM:
——————————————-
PSA: 304
CCN: 11069039
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Theft
METHOD:
BLOCK: 2800 B/O SHERMAN AVE NW
LOCATION: Alley
START DT: 05/08/2011
START TM: 21:30:00
END DT: 05/18/2011
END TM: 13:00:00
——————————————-
PSA: 307
CCN: 11069281
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Theft
METHOD:
BLOCK: 1400 B/O RHODE ISLAND AVE NW
LOCATION: Convenience Store
START DT: 05/18/2011
START TM: 23:00:00
END DT:
END TM:
——————————————-
PSA: 307
CCN: 11068838
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: ADW
METHOD:
BLOCK: 1400 B/O 12TH ST NW
LOCATION: Residence/Home
START DT: 05/18/2011
START TM: 06:48:00
END DT: 05/18/2011
END TM: 07:00:00
——————————————-
PSA: 308
CCN: 11068983
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Robbery
METHOD:
BLOCK: 9TH ST NW & P ST NW
LOCATION: Alley
START DT: 05/18/2011
START TM: 12:23:00
END DT:
END TM:
——————————————-
PSA: 308
CCN: 11069006
RPT DATE: 05/18/2011
SHIFT:
OFFENSE: Theft F/Auto
METHOD:
BLOCK: 400 B/O FLORIDA AVE NW
LOCATION: Parking Lot/Parking Garage
START DT: 05/18/2011
START TM: 15:00:00
END DT: 05/18/2011
END TM: 15:20:00
——————————————-
KEY:
PSA – The Police District (first number=District) and area or police beat where the incident occurred.
CCN – The Complaint Number for the incident.
RPT DATE – Date the incident was reported to Police.
SHIFT – Estimated tour of duty crime occurred. DAY=Day EVN=Evening MID=Midnight
OFFENSE – Crime Classification.
METHOD – Subcategory of the Crime or the Degree (i.e. Burglary 2 = 2nd Degree Burglary, meaning Burglar not in contact with the victim.)
BLOCK – Block where the crime occurred.
LOCATION – General description of location where crime occurred.
START DT – Earliest date the incident could have occurred.
START TM – Earliest time the incident could have occurred.
END DT – Latest date the incident could have occurred.
END TM – Latest time the incident could have occurred.
ADW – Assault With A Deadly Weapon
F&V – Force and Violence
PBS – Pocketbook Snatch
P/P – Pickpocket

  • ontarioroader

    Ignorance is bliss. A lot of folks simply don’t want to know all the bad things that go on in their neighborhoods, and that’s their choice. The reality is there’s a hell of a lot more than just what you see on the listservs. If you do a ride-along with MPD you’ll see the crazy amount on crime & incidents that go unreported.

    • ro

      I’m with you, when I first bought my house 6 years ago I was checking the alerts and crime stats and mpd listserves daily. It will drive crazy if you do that. After a while I just stopped looking, and I’m much more relaxed about by neighborhood now. I still check the mpd listserve or go to the dc alerts web page every so often just to see what’s been happening but that’s it. Keeping tabs on this stuff by the minute just creates too much anxiety, much of it irrational.

  • PetworthRes

    Best. Photo. Ever.

    • Anon

      A. Greed!

    • me

      Yes. It needs to be a caption contest!

    • PG

      The scary thing is those aren’t regular wigs – they’re merkins!

  • Anonymous

    I guess it’s ok in St Lucia and Brookland. What’s with the horrific crimes going on.

  • ds

    It’s a useful tool if you look at trends over time.

    I tend to only pay attention to incidents on the report within a few blocks of my house, and between my house and the metro (since I regularly walk that way).

    There are definitely quiet periods and times when things seem to spike. When robberies and thefts seem to be at a high I definitely take more precautions. For example, given the recent spate of early morning robberies, I am very cautious when I go to the metro in the early morning hours, and try not to leave the house while it is still dark.

    • rooty tooty

      agreed. those of us who walk around in our neighborhoods a lot can get a pretty good sense if something’s starting to trend and avoid it. i’m out walking with my dog most mornings and evenings – it’s good to know which blocks/areas have been most popular for robberies within a short timespan. like NBC says, “the more you know.”

      so i’d say the crime alerts aren’t a stressful. they’re a useful.

  • Anon

    Ignorance baby! Periodically check stats, etc. but to get alerts throughout the day would drive me to Reston! ;-) Okay, not really, it would just drive me to turn off the alerts.

  • Anon

    Do you get an alert everytime someone has a car crash or gets a cancer diagnosis? Danger is everywhere, minimizing risk is our only defense.

    • photodork

      Aren’t car crashes usually accidental?

      Would you rather not hear when there is an outbreak of salmonella in contaminated milk?

      I think one of the most useful portions of this reporting is learning the methods and tactics of the robbers/muggers/rapists.

      It educates people on how these things go down so they can be more aware they might be walking into a bad situation. For example: the recent reporting of the mugging in MtP where there were 2 suspects (one ahead, one behind). By exposing their MO the average citizen is better equipped to sense danger.

      • Chris

        Excellent point.

      • MichelleRD

        Yeah, that’s a key benefit

  • WhittyKitty

    For awhile when I moved to my neighborhood, I looked at all the crime statistics. It made me unnecessarily paranoid and I’ve found that ignorance of knowing that crimes happen is bliss.

    Basically, since I always take precaution (don’t walk home from the metro with my headphones in, keep my head up and pay attention to my surroundings, don’t have my phone out for people to see, try to take a cab if it’s past 10 or 11) I don’t know what else I can do to make myself less of a crime victim. Why would I read crime alerts just to drive myself bonkers when I’m already doing nearly all I can to not make myself a victim of crime?

  • I get too many emails already and if I wish, I get the list of crimes via the MPD listserv. Sometimes I scan my PSA, but not worry about the other areas.

  • Dave

    It makes me happy to see the busts posted every day. Especially when they are in my area…It means that these criminally minded people got served with a lesson for their ways. I appreciate the police’s efforts here. Them and the teachers are the only government employees that I give a damn about.

  • bobadbloggity

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    at any time.
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    Please find your long lost head before the rapture

  • JayCee

    I follow on Twitter and have found the tweets rather informative. I don’t think I could handle receiving the texts though — I’m paranoid as it is.

  • MichelleRD

    Awareness is the main thing. It’s so easy to get complacent when you don’t know about happenings in your surroundings.

    That said, I look at the police report in the Northwest Current Newspaper (http://www.currentnewspapers.com/admin/uploadfiles/NW%2005.18.11%201.pdf) to get an overall sense of things and only read listserv items close to my house.

    That’s disturbing enough–for example, I think it’s only a matter of time before our house and/or car is broken into–but it’s a constant reminder to stay alert.

    The TRULY bothersome thing to look at is the sex offender map. All the red dots near my house affected me for months.

  • Anon

    Yes, getting alerts and following crime statistics has made me well aware of the fact that 90% of people who comment to PoP are irrationally paranoid and they also think that every neighborhood that looks a bit different than theirs, including mine, is completely overrun by crime and is the ghetto. When in reality, the incidence of crime in the areas that people perceive to be the worse are actually far lower than in areas where a lot of people in this city, and on this blog, live.

    To me, it has offered a sense of reassurance.

  • dreas

    I get the daily digest of the MPD-3D and 3D substation that I’m in–you get one email every day, instead of an email every time someone posts to the group. I used to read them religiously, but, like the OP said, it was just making me paranoid and stressed. I still get the emails and scan them, but rarely read the list of crimes or arrests unless I’m looking for info about something particular I saw or heard about. Or if William Jordan has posted something; that’s usually good for a chuckle.

    • Anonymous

      Is that guy actually serious? When I read his stuff, I either feel like I’m stupid because I don’t get it, or that he’s the Glenn Beck of Columbia Heights.

  • Eckingtonite

    I don’t get them, but I think they are useful. I figure if anything is trending (like the MO of the one-front, one-behind muggers, or certain crimes in specific areas) I will hear about it from this site.

    I take it as useful information, not paralyzing prohibition: using more awareness in an area where there have been muggings vs. avoiding the area altogether.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been getting them for 3 years, and I think they’re useful for getting a feel for what the balance of crime in your area is and when it happens. It’s one thing to look at the summaries and read through the archives, but it’s more interesting to get the text messages in more or less real time and think “ok, is that somewhere I could have been right now?”

    On the other hand, they give you a very dim view of race and crime in this city. In 3 years I’ve never seen a lookout message that listed the race of the perp where it was anything but black or latino, with the balance running about 90/10. I know that sounds like some kind of Ben Stein pronouncement, but it’s the unfortunate truth.

  • Joe E.

    I think the text messages are useful, more than once I’ve been thinking about venturing out late at night and seen an alert about a crime nearby and it’s good to know that something has happened to be on my guard.

    Also, when I’ve brought some of my friends from the suburbs into DC for dinner I’ve pointed out where crimes have taken place as we walk past, conversation goes something like “This place is good for takeout, someone was stabbed right here the other day, they have good beer at this place, someone was shot over on that block last month, good music here, there was a drive by over there about 6 months ago…”

  • ET

    What I find stressful is reading listserve and blog comments from people I sometimes feel do nothing but obsess over crime. I have tried not “read” the comments but I still want the information and still have to wade though them to get information.

  • Lauren

    I subscribe to the instant DC Police Alerts over email and have been receiving them for more than a year. Yes, it does sometimes stress me out to receive a lot of crime alerts nearby and I debate about whether to cancel the subscription. But as others have said, it also lets me know that I need to avoid a street or not go out late at night because of a specific incident, and I feel better having that insight.

    My two cents is if you’re going to pay attention to crime reports, get the instant ones so you can do something about it – don’t just get a daily digest that makes you paranoid about all the awful things happening nearby.

    • Lauren

      One more thing: I do wish MPD would provide updates that say they caught a perpetrator, instead of just telling us they’re looking for a suspect; especially for more serious crimes like shootings and attacks.

  • Lady

    I had no idea so much crime was happening in DC before stumbling on to this blog. Ignorance IS bliss. As a result, I do feel I am much more street smart. I also started to talk to everybody to come off more assertive, like anyone who gets near me will hear a, “How are you doing?”. Sometimes I throw in a little slang if I want to sound like I’m hip to youth, so that goes, “How you do-in”. First of all, and very unlike most of DC, it’s friendly. I’m rebellious that way. But more importantly, I feel like their response or lack there of gives me a sense of what they are about. I don’t know, I think it’s good advice. A few more hellos certainly can’t hurt this city.

  • StubsDC

    I got the crime alerts for a while. 90% of the ones in our neighborhood went something like “Car stolen. Complaintant released from jail, went to retrieve car from cousin, cousin refused to surrender property.” Or someone stole someone’s girlfriend so the former bf shot the new bf. The random crime was always a low percentage, which made me feel a lot better.

  • C Money

    I used to get the crime alerts but decided to stop for a few reasons that people have mentioned. 1) I did start mentally cataloging crimes and it was the first thing I thought of when people told me where they lived or when I walked around. 2) I found that the reports were really spotty, I’d see a lot of police activity that never showed up on my police reports, which is why I signed up for it in the first place. 3) They never send out information about catching the suspects so I started thinking there were all these criminals just running around with the cops doing nothing about it. Oh yeah, and they also tended to not be about the neighborhoods I requested the alerts about.

  • Allison

    I signed up for the DC Alert by e-mail (but disabled texts because they started sending WAY too many) because I like to know when the police have shut a road down. I think these are different than the MPD alerts you must be talking about because they don’t give details, they just state “police activity” in X, Y or Z area. Good enough information for me!

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