Violent Crime the Focus of Special Hill East Meeting
Neighbors Turn Out to Discuss Crime Wave with Police Command
by Larry Janezich
Despite last night’s downpour, more than 50 Hill East residents showed up at St. Coletta’s for a community crime meeting with MPD 1st District Commander Jeff Brown and PSA 108’s Lt. James Dykes.
Also in attendance were most ANC6B Commissioners, and representatives of Mayor Bowser and Councilmember Allen.
The large turnout was motivated by concern over the recent spike in violent crime plaguing Hill East, from 9th to 19th Streets, SE, including Lincoln Park. Generally, the focus of the meeting was a hot spot at 17th and Independence Avenue, and the rash of sneak assaults on pedestrians, sometimes with no intent to rob the victim.
Residents say much of the activity at 17th and Independence centers around a “nuisance residence,” which neighbors allege is a drug house and a magnet for rowdy teenagers. Nearby, at 18th and Bay, there was a recent shooting of a teenager which police say involved another teenager from outside the community. Police investigation has been hampered by the victim’s refusal cooperate regarding the identity of his assailant. The police disavowed knowledge of any gang activity in the area.
The same general area was the scene of two violent muggings recently. The wife of one of the victims of a mid-day mugging became emotional as she told police she was trying to make sense of the crime; another resident recounted how he was recently mugged at 8:00a.m. Residents shared numerous stories and conveyed their growing anxiety and frustration over the rash of attacks.
Commander Brown told the victim’s wife she shouldn’t try to make sense of it because “there is no rhyme or reason” behind the crimes. “There is no gang initiation” he said, citing a series of 7 different robberies and 9 assaults and adding that perpetrators set out specifically with the “intention of robbing or punching people with no reason behind it.”
Residents near 17th and Independence noted that, regardless of affiliation, they have seen the same “roving band of teenagers” around 17th and Independence that “we see all the time.”
Regarding the muggings and assaults – which Brown described and “hit and run” – Brown said that two different groups were responsible – one is comprised of juveniles, and the other an “older crowd in their mid-20s to early 30s.”
Asked what the strategy is for addressing the issues, Dykes said that part of the plan is targeted enforcement – “putting more officers in the area to focus on these guys.” He said, “I believe it will cause this to stop.”
With respect to the nuisance residence, Brown said that if there is no criminal activity, there is not much police can do. Dykes said, “We do what we can within the letter of the law, and admitted, after neighbors expressed disgust over police failing to search nearby bushes for illicit drugs stashed as soon as law enforcement appears, “we could be doing a little more. We’ll do a little more.” A longer term solution to the problem, Brown said, was demonstrating criminal activity at the residence and building a case to take to the Attorney General’s Office. He said that this is a long process. ANC6B Commissioner Denise Krepp, “What does the case look like now?” Brown replied that the police don’t have any kind of case at present.
Neighbors also expressed their frustration that, after being encouraged to call 911, police in uniform knock on their door to discuss their report – in full view of other neighbors, including suspected wrongdoers. Dykes said, “That shouldn’t happen,” and promised to discuss this kind of unintentional endangerment as his next roll call meeting.
An on-line petition urging the Mayor and Chief Lanier to devote more resources to fighting “this dramatic wave of crime” and concluding “we don’t want to be forced to leave the neighborhood and the city as a consequence” and signed by 319 residents was presented to a representative of the Mayor who attended the meeting.
ANC6B Commissioner Brian Flahaven who chairs the ANC’s Constituent Services and Community Outreach Task Force told those attending that the Task Force would discuss what the ANC can do regarding ways the ANC can weigh in with the city. The next meeting of the Task Force will be on Thursday, June 11, at 7:00pm in Hill Center.
The community crime meeting was requested and organized by ANC6B10 Commissioner Denise Krepp.