Thursday, October 23, 2008

D.C. residents frustrated with the failure of city police to curb packs of teens beating and robbing Southeast residents have turned to the volunteer crime-stoppers D.C. Guardian Angels.

“It’s a situation that has frankly spiraled out of control,” said Commissioner Neil Glick of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B, which represents the southeastern area of Capitol Hill.

Mr. Glick said he has received dozens of resident complaints in the past few weeks about violence near the Potomac Avenue Metro station, specifically about groups of three to five teens robbing and assaulting people. He said his office has received more than 50 complaints in the past 18 months.

“Our neighborhood has seriously declined and become a less desirable place to live given the threats of criminal-minded juveniles,” said Amy Caspari, a Capitol Hill resident whose husband, Matthew, was the victim of an Aug. 12 midday attack by a knife-wielding juvenile on the corner of 17th and C streets Southeast.

Said Mr. Caspari: “It’s very frustrating trying to raise two kids when you have this kind of stuff going on.”

As a result, Mr. Glick has asked for help from the D.C. chapter of Guardian Angels, a volunteer group of unarmed residents who patrol streets and make citizen arrests, if necessary.

“This area has been a magnet for robberies, so we want to have as many eyes and ears out there as we can,” said chapter leader John Ayala.

Mr. Ayala said the group’s efforts will include patrols every Tuesday night, including around the Metro station and surrounding neighborhoods.

He hopes residents will volunteer a few hours every night to patrol until January, when the number of robberies typically begins to decrease.

Mr. Glick said the Metropolitan Police Department has presented no solid plans to combat crime near the station.

“A lot of people are coming to us at the end of their rope,” he said. “There needs to be a zero-tolerance policy regarding these crimes.”

David K. Kamperin, a commander for the police department’s District 1, said violent crime in the area is down 29 percent within the past month compared with last year, including arrests for three robberies near the Metro station.

The department also reports 59 robberies in District 1 in September — a 5 percent increase compared with September 2007.

In the past year, violent crimes within 1,500 feet of the station have increased by 14 percent.

Commander Kamperin said much of the anxiety over crime may have been caused by a few recent incidents.

On Oct. 6, just after midnight, a woman was attacked in her home on the 500 block of 14th Street Southeast by an intruder who stabbed her 17 times and tried to sexually assault her, according to police. The woman suffered two collapsed lungs and kidney damage but is expected to survive.

Commander Kamperin said police officials toured the area earlier this week with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, but confirmed that the department has no plans to significantly change its policing based in part of the reported overall decrease in crime.

Mr. Ayala said the Guardian Angels decided to get involved after the October stabbing.

“We want to make sure people can feel safe, whether they’re traveling home from work or whatever it may be,” he said.

Mr. Ayala also some of the area’s biggest danger zones include 14th and C streets Southeast, the 1300 block of C Street Southeast, and the 300 block of Kentucky Avenue Southeast.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said attacks also are occurring in other parts of the city. And she announced earlier this month that more police will be on patrol in the popular Northwest restaurant-nightclub neighborhood of Adams Morgan.

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