- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2002

Don't tell Chandler Cowden, 73, that D.C. police are winning the war on crime: Last month, he was held up in the middle of the day on the front porch of his Brookland home.
Brookland residents and others who live in the neighborhoods of the 5th District say things are getting scary and the statistics back them up.
Crime was up 23 percent in the 5th District last month compared to March 2001, while crime citywide declined 1.2 percent, according to the Metropolitan Police Department's Web site. Through March, crime was up this year 11.6 percent in the 5th District but 0.2 percent citywide.
Tuesday night, an overflow crowd of about 250 packed the cafeteria of St. Anthony's Catholic Church on Monroe Street NE to hear 5th District Cmdr. Jennifer Greene and D.C. Council member Vincent Orange address the spike in crime.
Cmdr. Greene attributed much of the neighborhood's rise in crime to aggressive policing that had "displaced" criminals from other locations.
"They're looking for new areas to apply their trade," she said.
Mr. Orange said although he would like to see more officers on the street, the surge in crime was more complicated than that.
"There are other things than police presence that contribute to crime," said Mr. Orange, Ward 5 Democrat.
He said the 5th District had been assigned 28 new officers, 13 of whom were already on duty.
But many neighborhood residents seemed unsatisfied with the explanations. Just minutes before the meeting began, a nearby CVS store was robbed.
Mr. Cowden, a Brookland resident since 1958, described how he was robbed after arriving home from a nearby Metro station at 3:30 p.m. March 22.
He was setting his key into the lock of his front door when a young man approached him and asked directions to Rhode Island Avenue.
The man, whose hand was covered, claimed to have a gun and threatened to shoot him.
"I had about 40 bucks in my pocket, and I gave him that. Then he wanted my keys," Mr. Cowden said. "I can't even say why I did it, but I just walked around him and down the porch."
The robber fled, and Mr. Cowden reported the incident to police.
Ursula King was robbed in a similar fashion.
A Brookland resident since 1985, Mrs. King had withdrawn $100 from an automated teller machine on Easter Sunday and was walking home when she noticed a man was following her.
"He said, 'Give me your money or I'll shoot.'" When Mrs. King turned around, she said, she saw he had one hand inside his pocket, concealing what could have been a gun.
Before running to her house, she threw the money onto the sidewalk and saw the man turn south on 12th Street.
Within minutes, a police cruiser stopped up the street.
Mrs. King ran to the car and urged the officer to follow the man who had robbed her. She was surprised when he said, "We're not here to chase anyone; we're here to make a report,'" she recalled.
She said that she had to correct him twice on crucial details of the report and that the copy she received still contained mistakes.
"He didn't want to go after the guy," said Mrs. King, 59. "He thought it was more important that I calm down and give him details."
Cmdr. Greene said the officer acted "appropriately."
"Even though he could have taken off looking for [the assailant], it's better for the officer to relay the information so there's more than one person looking for him," she said.
Brookland has been especially hard hit by crime.
Through Tuesday, Brookland's three police service areas (PSAs) PSAs 501, 502 and 503 had recorded 44 of the 5th District's 166 robberies and five of its 15 homicides, including two last week.
Darcy Flynn, Brookland's advisory neighborhood commissioner, said he suspects well-known pockets of drug activity in the neighborhood have led to the increase in homicides and robberies. He said staffing of the neighborhood PSAs might be a factor.
At a D.C. police meeting on April 17 for PSA 503, Mr. Flynn said, a police lieutenant told community members the PSA was short-staffed, with only two officers most days and none on Wednesdays.
Mr. Flynn said the lieutenant encouraged residents to talk about quality-of-life issues rather than the larger problems of drugs and violence.
"He was telling us to trim hedges and report abandoned cars and not talk about homicides and robberies," Mr. Flynn said.
During that meeting, residents heard a popping sound that they later discovered was a gunshot in a homicide in the 800 block of Monroe Street NE.

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