Police admit they ‘dropped the ball’ on Capitol Hill attacks

The first attack happened Thursday, May 15, in the area of 9th and C Streets SE. (Courtesy Metropolitan Police Department)

WASHINGTON — Three women have been robbed at knifepoint while walking at night in the Capitol Hill area recently, and two were cut.

On Wednesday night, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells and representatives of the D.C. police provided worried residents with an update on the crimes at a community meeting.

First District D.C. Police Commander Jeff Brown admitted the police department “dropped the ball” by not quickly getting the word out to the public about the first attack. He says a combination of technical problems and human error prevented the info from going out via Twitter, a daily crime report and a police listserv.

“We’re taking steps to make sure that this does not happen again,” Brown said.

He added that the department is reviewing its policies regarding the way it distributes crime information on Twitter and through other electronic means.

The first attack happened Thursday, May 15, in the area of 9th and C Streets SE. Then two women were grabbed and robbed on Wednesday, May 21 — one incident happened in the 200 block of 8th Street SE; the other, in the 400 block of M Street NE.

All three attacks happened after 9 p.m.

“We have two that we know are connected, and a third one that we are linking just based on the M.O. and the lookouts of all three individuals. All three incidents are similar,” Brown told the crowd at the Hill Center in Southeast.

Police are still looking for a person of interest caught on surveillance camera using one or more victims’ credit cards.

The person of interest is described as a black man; 30 to 40 years old; between 5 feet, 7 inches and 5 feet, 9 inches; with a stocky or athletic build. He’s either bald or has short hair. He’s seen on video driving a Chrysler 300.

Brown says in the wake of the attacks, police are taking several steps to increase safety around Capitol Hill.

“You should be seeing an increase in patrols. I know my bike officers are out there really heavily.”

In addition, extra temporary lighting has been brought in.

Wells says he’s trying to get permanent lighting added.

“The area that I’ve been trying to get money for is Pennsylvania Avenue,” Wells says.

A member of the audience asked Brown about crime trends in the area.

“Throughout the entire First District, robberies are back on the rise and the theft from autos, which are the car break-ins, are also on the rise,” he answered.

Brown was also asked by a resident for advice on what to do to stay safe while out walking at night.

He advised residents to be aware of your surroundings, don’t be distracted, and don’t carry too many things with you.

“Try not to carry multiple bags. What you’re doing is bringing attention to yourself. You’re making yourself a target.”

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