More on MPD Disconnect With Residents on Crime Alerts
Report from Last Night’s PSA 107 Meeting in Southeast Library
by Larry Janezich
Recent crimes committed on Capitol Hill have revealed unresolved communication issues between MPD and District residents. Last night, MPD Inspector Mario Patrizio of the First District made a rare if not unprecedented appearance before the PSA 107 meeting, in anticipation, perhaps, of questions regarding police response to the two recent Capitol Hill slasher/robbings, and questions regarding a morning-time robbery on June 4th.
Information reaching the community, and the awareness and preventive steps that community members might take to thwart crime, were recurring themes at last night meeting.
It became clear that residents learn of crime by various methods: traditional news media, listservs, monthly reports from commissioners, or DC Alerts sent via email or followed on Twitter. The latter is a popular option among people who do not want a clutter of emails, but, as the MPD acknowledged once again last night, not every crime is posted on Twitter – only those for which the MPD has reason to hope that a community member may spot a suspect get posted. An attendee at last night’s PSA 107 meeting summed it up as follows: “It sounds like police policy regarding Twitter crime alerts has not caught up with how District residents are using the information.” Patrizio agreed.
One resident reiterated last night that residents use the alerts to heighten awareness of precautions which need to be taken to ensure personal safety for themselves, friends, and family. (At the bottom of this post there is a list of resources to learn more about local crime.)
As previously reported on CHC, police failed to alert the neighborhood to the first attack on May 15. The first attack was followed by the second similar attack four seven days later. MPD has apologized for the error, and Commander Brown of the First District has taken responsibility.
At PSA 107 last night, Inspector Patrizio said that “steps had been taken to insure that the information goes out.” This was initially interpreted by those attending the meeting to mean that cases involving threats to the public safety would be tweeted and/or emailed out. Parizio cited changes which have been instituted to insure that “prior to officers leaving a tour of duty, any crime in the PSA has been addressed. Tweets go out – the listserv is always in place.”
As follow-up questions from the audience attempted to emphasize the importance of the tweets/emails to situational awareness, Patrizio was pressed for clarification. Subsequent questioning revealed that at present there has been no change in Twitter policy. Currently, decisions about what to tweet are made at the Inspector level. The policy is under review, and any changes will have to come from Chief Lanier. Timing of the policy of review is uncertain, and Patrizio said he would have to check. It seems clear that this is a critical and District-wide issue and one which may deserve the attention of the City Councils’ Public Safety Committee.
Additional information from last night’s meeting is as follows:
- There is nothing new on a suspect regarding the slash/robberies and MPD is still working the same leads. Patrizio said that his conversations with detectives working the case indicated that the wounds suffered by the two female victims of the robberies likely occurred because a sharp object was held closely to their neck – apparently, very closely – as opposed to the assailant deciding at a specific moment to slash his victims.
- Despite additional police presence on Capitol Hill, one resident reported coming home to Eastern Market 10:00 pm last Saturday night with no visible police presence in the area, despite the fact that MPD has a fixed, uniform post in the area. Commissioner Oldenberg, who attended last night’s meeting, responded to the resident’s concern by saying that she walks home from the Metro “too quickly” to notice whether the police are present or not. The resident then offered that, after noticing no police, she ran home in the street to avoid making herself a target.
- There has been a rash of thefts from cars, often involving electronics. Residents can help protect themselves by recording the serial number of their devices and emailing it to themselves. Enabling tracking devices on iPhones can help police track suspects in cases of snatch and run cell phone thefts. Patrizio said police will absolutely track from the scene if the capability is enabled. Another resident remarked that the rash of computers or other electronic thefts from cars may not be as high as the official tally, and may instead be a function of people with “high deductibles” on their car insurance. Without question, the “thefts from auto” category has seen the largest spike, while all other crimes either match seasonal norms or are below them.
- The drug market involving synthetic marijuana on the Eastern Market Metro Plaza Park on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue between 8th and 9th Streets, SE, which contains the “guerilla playground,” is difficult to control because K-2 (synthetic marijuana) is not illegal. Patrizio said he would request assistance from US Park Police, under whose jurisdiction he understood the park to fall. One resident urged that more aggressive police tactics be used in the area, regardless of jurisdiction.
- Patrizio said that it is not a police tactic for numerous – sometimes as many as five or six – bike cops to ride patrol together. More likely, he said, they were on their way to a common point where they would disperse.
Patrizio emphasized the importance of calling 911 to report suspicious activity and urged residents to call him the First District Watch Commander or Patrizio himself directly if they believed that police were deficient in responsiveness or in providing police services, including reluctance to file reports. He said, “We’re very responsive.” Those numbers are as follows:
1D Watch Commander 202 437-7632
Inspector Mario Patrizio 202 345-0392 cell – email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lieutenant Eddie Fowler 202 425-2826 cell
MPD District 1 Website http://mpdc.dc.gov/page/welcome-first-district
MPD listserv http://mpdc.dc.gov/node/211702
MPD Twitter alerts https://twitter.com/dcalerts
MPD crime map http://crimemap.dc.gov/
The Hill Rag publishes a daily Crime Blotter which is useful in helping residents track crime on Capitol Hill: http://www.capitalcommunitynews.com/content/purse-snatching-900-block-pennsylvania-avenue-se