- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Metropolitan Police Department officials are investigating a sharp increase in robberies in Mount Pleasant over the past month.Officials said the assailant wielded a knife and robbed at least 10 persons mostly along Mount Pleasant Street in the Northwest community, which typically experiences few violent crimes.”That’s extremely significant for that area,” said Inspector Patrick Burke, who runs the 3rd Police District’s substation.Inspector Burke said the cases involved “a few Hispanic males robbing other Hispanic males.” The robberies were carried out in a similar fashion, leading police to think that only one or two persons were involved.In each case, a man approached the victim on foot at night, brandished a knife and took property from the victim.Police hope the arrest of a man whom authorities said was caught in the act of robbery will close at least some of the cases.Inspector Burke was not aware of anyone who had been seriously harmed in the robberies.The robberies have been committed mostly between 16th and Mount Pleasant streets, and between Columbia and Park roads Northwest.Mount Pleasant, in Police Service Area 301, usually has a low crime rate, Inspector Burke said.”It’s not a high number like other PSAs,” he said. “I think it’s a great area. I used to live there. They’ve got a good mix of people.”The city police department also is concerned that violent crimes involving Hispanics are grossly underreported. The department has long had a problem helping Hispanics because of the language barrier and because some are afraid to talk with officers because of their immigration status.”It’s a constant struggle to open up communication lines with the Latino population and the police department, but it’s definitely what we’re doing,” said Sgt. Carlos Mejia of the police department’s Latino Liaison Unit, started in 2002 to deal with such issues. “There’s still a lot of crime that is not being reported.”Aside from the robberies, the overall crime rate has fallen in Mount Pleasant, police said. Preliminary department statistics show overall crime has decreased 44 percent — from 41 incidents to 23 in PSA 301 in the past 30 days compared with the same period last year.Police do not think the robbery and sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl in the 1700 block of Irving Street Northwest earlier this month was related to the Mount Pleasant Street robberies. On March 12, a man entered a house through the back door, robbed two residents, then sexually assaulted the girl, police said.Another normally quiet section of the District where robberies have increased is Capitol Hill and the downtown.Police blame more than 100 robberies there this year on packs of teenagers who hijacked vans, drove them to the wealthy neighborhoods and attacked pedestrians, usually at night.Authorities think as many as four groups have targeted the 1st Police District, which includes Capitol Hill and much of the downtown.

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