- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2006

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said yesterday that an uncharacteristic series of robberies and attacks on the Mall in recent days must be met by police with a “show of force.”

“It’s very clear we’re dealing with very brazen, perhaps even practiced criminals. When dealing with people who have discovered a new spot, it seems to me that what you need to have first and foremost is a show of force,” she said.

Mrs. Norton’s comments came after an hourlong meeting with U.S. Park Police Chief Dwight E. Pettiford in her office in the Rayburn House Office Building.

Chief Pettiford told the District’s nonvoting congressional representative that he would reallocate resources in order to beef up police presence on the Mall, where three armed robberies and assaults occurred Thursday night and early Sunday.

However, the chief also said police have no leads in their investigation.

“These people are cold and calculating, and they are taking great precautions to keep themselves concealed,” Chief Pettiford said.

Chief Pettiford, whose Park Police force has jurisdiction on the Mall, said police yesterday were planning to reinterview a victim of Sunday’s attack, which occurred at about 12:10 a.m. when a man and a girl were held up at gunpoint near 12th Street.

The earlier attacks occurred late Thursday. One of those attacks also occurred near 12th Street — close to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The other attack was near Ninth Street, near the National Archives.

In both of those cases, police said at least three robbers held up a male and a female.

Chief Pettiford would not elaborate on the attackers’ methods, but he said the criminals separated the couples. In one case, one of the women was kicked in the head and back. In another case, the female victim was sexually assaulted.

Police said the attackers, who are black, wore thigh-length black T-shirts with dark blue or black jeans and black boots. One of the three men described to police in Sunday’s incident was wearing a black ski mask and was armed with a silver semiautomatic handgun.

Chief Pettiford said that there are similarities in the attacks on the Mall and that Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey will have his investigators analyze the crime data for similarities to other recent robberies in the District.

“There’s a lot of strong similarities in the comparison of the incidents, and that’s what we’re analyzing now and comparing it with other agencies to see if they have any similar crimes to help us develop a profile of these suspects,” Chief Pettiford said.

Metropolitan Police have reported a dramatic increase in the number of robberies, especially in the 1st Police District, which encompasses 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.

Mrs. Norton, a Democrat who described the Mall as a “completely safe place,” was critical of the decision not to substantially heighten police presence on the Mall after the first two attacks.

“There was a scooter assigned along with the regular patrol. It seems to me there should have been a greater force,” she said.

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