Crime Concerns Prompt New Attendees at PSA 107 Meeting
by Larry Janezich
Half a dozen concerned Capitol Hill residents showed up at PSA 107 last night to express their concern about the ongoing increase in crime in the city. “I’m here tonight because of the significant increase in robberies and muggings;” one resident told MPD Sgt. Strassman, “there’s something going on.” He continued, “These things have a momentum. What is small today will be larger tomorrow. At some point, we’re out of here. We chose to live here, but we could choose elsewhere.” Another said she was concerned about walking home from the meeting last night even though she lived only a few blocks away.
The attendees – an unusual number by ordinary, lackluster standards – expressed concern about hotspots in the community, including 8th and Pennsylvania Avenue, the Bank of America ATM on Barracks Row next to DC-3, and the part of Eastern Market Metro Plaza which comprises the park on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue between 8th and 9th Streets. In addition, residents cited several incidents involving the sound of gunshots in or near the Potomac Garden neighborhood and the fear brought to the community dirt bikes disobeying traffic laws on neighborhood streets.
Strassman sympathized with residents and responded as follows:
8th and Pennsylvania Avenue – Strassman said there are lots of issues here, including Community Connections which services mental health consumers who may be self-medicating. If residents see persons lying prone on the sidewalk and unresponsive, Strassman urged calling 911 – “The last thing we want to see is someone pass away from alcohol or drug intoxication.” He said that a foot beat officer was assigned to the 400 block of Barracks Row and was required to be within a block of that location, either above or below on 8th Street. That officer – who Strassman said was trained in crisis intervention to deal with substance abusers – is also responsible for the Metro Plaza park on the north side of Pennsylvania.
Eastern Market Metro Park – MPD is looking at more enforcement related activities but Strassman said he couldn’t say too much about that, other than he hopes MPD can start dealing with issues here and at 8th and Pennsylvania by targeting the source of the synthetic drug, K2.
Bank of America ATM – Strassman said he would reach out to the Bank of America to see if they could provide security for the location.
Potomac Gardens – Two officers are assigned to Potomac Gardens in addition to District Housing Authority Police. District bike patrol units are dispatched to police Potomac Gardens from the main station on an irregular basis in response to need. Strassman advised contacting Lt. Durbin of PSA 106 and Commander Brown of the First District to request additional police resources. He agreed with a suggestion from the audience that contacting Councilmember Allen and Mayor Bower’s office could be helpful. He noted that resources would likely be devoted to areas where crime is occurring.
Dirt bikes – Most are illegal and most of the offenses committed by riders are misdemeanor traffic violations. Strassman responded to a statement from an attendee who said that by not pursuing dirt bike riders, police sanction their activities. Strassman said police don’t chase for misdemeanors and that their primary responsibility is preservation of life and property – both of which are put at risk during pursuit. He said that police do pursue in cases of a felony – homicide, sexual offenses, and robberies. He said MPD was looking at alternate means of enforcement against dirt bikes, including seizure, offering rewards, and tracking refueling and storage locations.
Strassman noted that the First District is large – and has the highest number of calls for service among the police district. The reason for the increase in crime remains unexplainable. Crime, he said, always goes up in the summer, and the Metro stations are nexus points.
Only one ANC Commissioner attended the meeting, and she left shortly after it began. Strassman was unable to provide attendees with the up-to-date crime statistics because the MPD is in the midst of a transition to a new police report and filing system.
PSA 107 meets at 7:00pm the first Thursday of the month in Southeast Library, lower level.