An uptick in robberies targeting the Georgetown neighborhood, including four involving an armed weapon since the beginning of 2014, has local residents concerned.
Since January 2014, there have been eight robberies in the Georgetown neighborhood, four more than occurred during the same time period last year. While two of these robberies targeted businesses, including robberies at Domino’s Pizza at 3255 Prospect St. and TD Bank at 1611 Wisconsin Ave., the majority have targeted individuals on the street.
Metropolitan Police Department Captain Jeffrey Herold said there is no way to know whether these robberies are related.
“The only evidence for these crimes being related is that they occurred in the same geographical area and within a short time,” Herold said, while emphasizing that physical descriptions of suspects are not sufficient to establish a connection between the cases. “As far as descriptions go, they are shaky at best. Could they be related? Yes. Are they? We don’t have the information to know.”
At an Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting Monday evening at Georgetown Visitation School, MPD Lieutenant John Hedgecock addressed residents’ concerns over the increase in robberies.
“It’s not just Georgetown. The city as a whole has seen an increase in street robberies for at least the last few years,” Hedgecock said. “We couldn’t forecast this happening. We’ve done a lot in response. I can’t get into specific strategies because I don’t discuss them publicly, but you certainly will see an enhanced presence and surveillance will be going up.”
Georgetown resident and MSFS student Andrew Gibbs (GRD ’15) took issue with the District’s firearm regulations, which he claims inhibit residents’ ability to protect themselves.
“Given the prevalence of firearms in these crimes, I think we are once again seeing the folly of D.C.’s restrictive gun laws. Average citizens such as myself cannot protect themselves. Meanwhile, criminal elements are clearly flaunting the law. I feel that having the option to conceal carry, because the criminals clearly already are, would provide a deterrent, and would diminish the number of crimes in our neighborhood, even if a handgun was never used in self-defense,” Gibbs said.
Ed Solomon, chair of the ANC’s Public Safety Committee, said that the ANC is working in conjunction with the university and MPD to ensure that the neighborhood remains as safe as possible.
“We rely on the statistics that MPD gives us and respond accordingly as far as re-evaluating our resources.” Solomon said. One tool used to fight crime in the neighborhood is “reimbursable details,” where the ANC pays MPD officers to patrol in the neighborhood when they are off-duty, usually late at night and on weekends.
ANC2E Commissioner Craig Cassey (COL ’15) did not find 2014’s spike in crime to be out of the ordinary.
“It does not seem out of the ordinary to have this number of crimes occurring. Typically, crime rates increase as we move into the spring and summer months so an increase from January and February to now is common and to an extent should be expected,” Cassey wrote in an email.
John Wiebenson, deputy executive director of the Georgetown Business Improvement District, concurred with Cassey.
“I think it is always sometimes patterned seasonally, as you know, you get nicer weather, people are leaving their windows open, they may be more prone to burglaries of houses, so there’s always sort of upticks and changes from everything from weather to sort of the general lay of the land,” Wiebenson said.
Additionally, Solomon said that the ANC has formed a working relationship with the university to fight crime.
“The community has formed a partnership with the university and we’re working together as a team to address not only the robberies but safety in general,” Solomon said. “I would say we have formed a very positive bond with the university and also with the public safety department. We’re very transparent and we reach out to each other.”
Yet neighborhood resident Michael Gerber said that he remains wary of his surroundings, despite his confidence in local law enforcement.
“I would say that at night I would think twice about walking too far from my house. I feel relatively confident that GUPD and MPD are doing their jobs, but they can’t be everywhere all the time,” Gerber said.
Georgetown University Chief of Police Jay Gruber also said that while MPD is the primary authority for investigating off-campus robberies, GUPD is doing all they can to assist.
“GUPD Officers are in the neighborhoods around the university going back and forth to university properties,” Gruber said. “The officers stay current with information provided by the MPD and remain alert to suspicious persons and activities.”
Gruber and Herold both emphasized the importance of awareness when ensuring personal safety.
“Georgetown is a relatively safe neighborhood and will remain that way, but we are in the middle of a city and there are unfortunately some people who will take advantage of easy victims.” Herold said.