Police, Residents Discuss Ways to be Safe from Muggers
To be safe from the muggers, lose the ear gear, police said.
“I’m not happy to see you.”
“I’m not happy that you’re here. I’m not happy that you’re scared,” said Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner to large crowd of Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Northwest Washington, DC, residents at a public safety meeting held last Thursday at the Wisconsin Place Community Recreation Center.
Recent muggings and car thefts in Bethesda and Friendship Heights have left residents on-edge—too scared, in some instances, to walk home from the Friendship Heights Metro station in the evening.
One Bethesda woman, a long-time public transit user, said she’s taken to driving to her workplace in Dupont Circle so that she doesn’t have to walk alone outside at night.
“Every single night we have cops out here looking for these guys and looking to prevent these crimes,” said Montgomery County Police Capt. David Falcinelli, commander of the county police’s second district.
“I’ve got marked cars here during robbery hours and that is their sole job,” Falcinelli added.
“Regardless of how busy we get in the [second] district, you’re going to have [cars here].”
A typical mugging occurring in the second police districts of Montgomery County and Washington, DC, involves a group of black males, usually armed or “with the threat of a weapon—which is the same thing as being armed”—mugging someone who is walking alone and away from the Metro between 6 and 10 p.m.
The typical victim has earbuds plugged into his or her ears or is talking on a cell phone, explained Commander Michael Reese of the second police district of Washington, DC.
When muggers spot their next victim, they pass by the person, then turn around and tap the person on the shoulder and put a gun in the person’s face, Reese added.
One thing to do to be safe is to be aware of one’s surroundings at all times—and that means putting away the cell phones and the earbuds.
In a quick drive around the neighborhood on Thursday night, Reese noticed that “every single pedestrian I saw walking on the street had cell phones or earbuds.”
Reese even followed one woman in an unmarked police car for a short distance, but the woman didn’t even notice, thanks to her ear gear.
If you are mugged, “give up the property” that the muggers demand—it’s safer, Falcinelli and Reese agreed.
Local businesses are helping to deter crime in the Friendship Heights area through nighttime patrols and call boxes.
Unarmed security patrols cover GEICO parking lots and the open-air spaces at The Shops at Wisconsin Place, said Terry Perkins, head of corporate real estate at GEICO, and David DuBeau, director of security for The Shops at Wisconsin Place.
This spring, GEICO is installing two high-resolution cameras on the eastern end of the GEICO building that will be sophisticated enough to read license plates on Western Avenue and Friendship Boulevard, if they’re as powerful as they are advertised to be, Perkins said.
“So, if something does happen, hopefully they can capture a license plate or face,” Perkins added.
At The Shops at Wisconsin Place, blue-light call boxes are equipped with cameras, DeBeau explained, so that if someone picks up the phone at one of the call boxes, the operator at the other end can see immediately what is happening in the vicinity of the call box.
And, while the police stationed in police cars along the “Rodeo Drive” strip (near the Clyde’s of Chevy Chase restaurant) are hired by the companies that they are protecting, “our secondary policy dictates that if a crime occurs,” those police officers will “take [their] secondary cap[s] off and do primary service,” assisting in the capture of criminals elsewhere in the neighborhood, Falcinelli said.
“I actually think that’s a plus because otherwise you’d have a gap” in police presence and coverage, Falcinelli added.
Residents also discussed the need for more lighting in residential neighborhoods and at bus stops to increase safety for pedestrians.