- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 3, 2006

Investigators into the recent late-night attacks on the Mall declined to say yesterday whether the assaults are linked to a teen arrested in connection with two armed robberies in Southwest.

Channing Phillips, spokesman for the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office, identified the teen yesterday as Joseph R. Grey and said he was arrested in connection with two late-May robberies on Third Street in Southwest.

The teen was to appear in court yesterday afternoon, where he was to be charged as an adult, Mr. Phillips said.

Reports surfaced late Friday that items stolen in the Mall robberies were found during a search of the suspect’s home, but Mr. Phillips said he didn’t know where the information originated.

Sgt. Joseph Gentile, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department, said he could not confirm the reports or a connection to the Mall attacks because the suspect’s case is ongoing.

“We haven’t made any arrests” in the Mall robberies, Sgt. Gentile said.

The three assaults on the Mall occurred May 25 and May 28, near Ninth and 12th streets. In each incident, police said, at least three robbers held up a male and a female.

Earlier this week, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city’s nonvoting congressional representative, said the U.S. Park Police has failed to sufficiently monitor the Mall in the evening and that dim and broken streetlights could have contributed to recent crimes.

She said Chief Dwight E. Pettiford vowed to increase patrols and that police have said they would also improve lighting in the area.

“The insufficient police visibility on the Mall has been noted by thugs, and they will also take note of more cops in the area,” Mrs. Norton said.

Terry Lynch, the executive director for the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, said poorly lit areas on and around the Mall contribute to crime.

On May 27, Mr. Lynch reported about 125 malfunctioning streetlights in the downtown area to the District’s Department of Transportation.

The city police department has reported a significant increase in the number of robberies this year, especially in the 1st Police District, which includes the Mall and much of downtown.

Through April, there were 209 robberies in the area, compared with 148 through April 2005. The 3rd District, in Upper Northwest, has had 286 robberies, but the increase in the 1st District is the largest of any of the city’s seven police districts.

City police said they don’t have statistics that show malfunctioning streetlights as factors in crimes.

Working lights “would help in deterring crime, but it doesn’t guarantee that a crime won’t happen,” said Kevin P. Morison, spokesman for city police Chief Charles H. Ramsey. “Robberies also happen in well-lit areas.”

Erik Linden, a spokesman for the city’s transportation department, said about 75 of the broken lights reported by Mr. Lynch have been repaired.

The agency estimates that about 2,000, or 3.25 percent, of the city’s 61,266 streetlights are malfunctioning at any time.

The agency’s standard is to repair streetlights within three business days after they are reported.

Mr. Linden said the contractor, MC Dean Inc., is in charge of fixing malfunctioning lights once the agency reports them to the company, but the onus is on the agency to ensure the repairs take place.

“Ultimately the responsibility is ours,” he said. “But we aren’t always aware of [outages], so we encourage citizens to call the mayor’s Call Center to report any lights that need repair.”


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