- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 22, 2006

A summer crime wave has settled over Washington, D.C. Police reports say robberies have gone up 14 percent and armed assaults 18 percent.

Washington has become so accustomed to crime, an etiquette has evolved between muggers and victims. I learned about this recently, while walking with my friend and his wife from a D.C. pub to their home six blocks from Capitol Hill.

“When you get mugged, there are certain rules you must follow,” said my friend’s wife, walking at a fast gait. “When I get mugged?” I said, trying to keep up with her.

“She’s right,” said my friend. “Muggers are polite when you follow their instructions, but they get surly when you’re rude.”

“How can you be rude to a mugger?”

“Ignoring the mugger is considered rude,” said my friend. “This will give him license to strike you with a blunt object.”

“Huh?” I said.

“Making eye contact is also considered rude,” said my friend’s wife. “During the mugging transaction, it is only appropriate to look at the mugger’s feet.”

“I guess running would be out of the question?” I said.

“Running is very bad,” said my friend. “This might affect the mugger’s self-esteem, which is already suffering because he’s probably out of work. This gives him little recourse but to strike you with a blunt object.”

“Then please tell me what to do when we get mugged.”

“You should always make an offering,” said my friend’s wife. “The mugger must be given an item that has perceived value.”

“Like jewelry or a watch?” I said.

“You don’t wear jewelry or a watch in this city,” said my friend’s wife, laughing. “You give up your wallet.”

“But I need my wallet. It contains my license and credit cards.”

“You don’t hand over your real wallet,” said my friend, looking at his wife like I was an idiot. “You give the mugger your dummy wallet. You carry your real wallet in your sock.”

“I keep my license and credit cards in my undies,” said my friend’s wife.

“What if the mugger asks to look in my sock?” I said.

“Muggers never do that,” she continued. “They’re very busy here. They’re eager to complete the mugging transaction, so they can move on to the next.”

“Can’t I carry mace or a gun?” I said.

“Concealed guns aren’t legal here,” said my friend, laughing. “And if a mugger catches you reaching for mace, that gives him license to …”

“Strike me with a blunt object,” I said. “Can’t we call for a policeman?”

“Ha.” said my friend’s wife. “In some areas, the police are more afraid of the criminals than we are. They know what these lawbreakers are capable of doing.”

“But I thought that beat cops and community crime-prevention programs were reducing crime in cities everywhere,” I said. “That is true,” said my friend’s wife.

“And with a economy humming along, aren’t people too busy working to mug other people?”

“You’d think so,” said my friend.

“And aren’t crime statistics way down throughout the country, even in Washington, D.C.?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” said my friend.

“Then what are we so worried about?”

“Crime may be down in recent years, but there are still 5 times as many robberies in D.C. now as there were in 1960.” “There are?” I said. “Our neighborhood crime reports confirm it,” said my friend. “People get mugged right within blocks of our neighborhood on a daily basis.”

As we approached their home, my friend’s wife sprinted to the door. While she unlocked it, my friend scanned the bushes looking for suspicious movement. We rushed inside and slammed the door shut.

“We made it.” said my friend’s wife.

“That was a close one.” said my friend.

“You two sure know a lot about navigating crime in Washington,” I said. “How long have you lived here?”

“We moved in last Friday,” said my friend.

TOM PURCELL

His weekly political humor column runs in newspapers and Web sites across America. Visit him at www.TomPurcell.com or contact him at [email protected]

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