The chief of the Metropolitan Police Department attempted to soothe Capitol Hill residents' fears over a spike in crime in the neighborhood at a community meeting tonight, detailing the measures police are taking to address the problem.
The meeting was sparked by the brutal assault of Thomas Maslin, a well-known Capitol Hill resident who was beaten into a coma and found on the porch of a home in Eastern Market last week, just a few doors down from the residence of a U.S. Senator.
"When a crime like what happened to Maslin happens in a neighborhood, it really, really makes people very, very afraid," MPD Chief Cathy Lanier told a packed crowd at the Hill Center.
Lanier said the MPD meets three times a week to discuss where patrols are most needed and said the police department is using all of the resources it can to prevent violent robberies, which have increased sharply over the same period a year ago.
She added that most robberies that occur are snatches of smart phones and electronics such as iPhones and iPads, and she said she is looking forward to October, when a rule goes into effect that mandates all cellphone providers install a feature to "brick" stolen phones, or render phones useless after they are stolen to prevent re-sale on the black market. Lanier lobbied Congress and the Federal Communications Commission earlier this year to mandate cellphone providers install bricking features.
In the meantime, Lanier said, the MPD is using undercover sting operations to locate the businesses that are purchasing stolen electronics, as well as running sting operations to bait thieves and arrest them.
"There is an unlimited supply of people engaging in this type of crime because of the sheer, simple quick turnaround," Lanier said of selling high-priced stolen electronics. "We're not where we need to be, but we are still fighting."
Councilmember Tommy Wells, who represents the Capitol Hill neighborhood, helped organize the meeting and told those in attendance that he understands their fears. He said he trusts that the city is doing everything it can to help keep the neighborhood safe.
He pointed to progress in the investigation of Maslin's beating - video that shows a car full of people who used Maslin's ID at a gas station - as evidence that the MPD is working hard to ensure the neighborhood's safety.
"We appreciate your leadership, we have a lot of confidence in you and your team, and we don't think we can do any better [than what the MPD is doing]," Wells said of the MPD's efforts, drawing applause from the audience.
MPD Commander Daniel Hickson, who oversees the 1st police district, which encompasses the Capitol Hill neighborhood, told neighbors that the MPD's heightened efforts to stop violent robberies are working, and he pleaded for neighbors to aid the department by calling in tips of suspicious activity, no matter how seemingly insignificant.
"This plan is working, and we're going to keep after it," Hickson said. "We just keep adjusting and improvising and I have to give credit to officers ... for what they do every day and the way they respond to try and help us."