Friday, November 7, 2008

Commuter Sentences: To Catch a Thief

As I was exiting Union Station, I saw a teenager running really, really fast. It was one of those occasions when your brain has to catch up with what was happening. I thought "Boy he's running fast!" and then "Looks like he's running because he stole something." By the time I thought "Someone should stop him," he had run through the doors to the food court on the lower level and a man behind me was screaming "Stop! Police! He stole my iphone!" The man was running around like a crazy person screaming police. [As a side note, a Metro employee--who I don't believe was working at the time--responded "He sure did." Well, thanks, lady, that's helpful.]

Okay, this is disturbing on so many levels. This guy was not in a dark alley or even a semi-deserted street. Nor was he pressed in a train with so many people that anyone could reach into his pocket and take it unbeknownst to him. This was a busy metro station at UNION STATION which is a block from the Capitol. Crime happens here a lot. What's disturbing is that the guy was SCREAMING "Police!" and it took at least 10 min (or so it seemed) for them to show up and that was, I believe, because someone called them. (This oddly did not occur to me as something to do.)  At that point, a car with lights shows up and talks to him.

The Metro police are rarely where they need to be. And now, they're going to start random searching of bags for suspicious materials. Why not start with being present and catching people who have just robbed someone with about 50 people in view? This reminds me of a time (post 9-11) that I told Amtrak police about a backpack left under a chair in a waiting area and was treated somewhat condescendingly...I mean, seriously!!!! This is turning into a total rant, but in further news, I have noticed grafitti more and more on trains and busses. Whatever happened to dealing with stuff like this to prevent bigger crimes--a la the recently maligned Broken Window Theory? C'mon Metro! Between delays, fare hikes, and fear of crime, people will find alternatives when they can...


  1. I saw the same thing happen in Pittsburgh one time. A week later I was chased (but not caught) by a mugger on the same block.
    Part of the urban experience, IMHO. I doubt that they cared about some guys iphone, but snooping in people's bags, now THERE is a reason for them to exist.
    Please tell me that the DC metro isn't filling up with trash and graffiti. I lived there in the 1980's when it was new and it was wonderful. So clean. Always liked it because it didn't resemble the NYC subway - which was like a huge indoor toilet for the most part.

  2. Metro is feeling crunched: foreign banks are about to declare them in technical default on loans they're actually making the payments on, thanks to AIG's credit downgrade. I think they're conserving cash by cutting back on maintenance and such.

  3. I tend to agree with the "broken window theory". I've seen it in action at my apartment complex. No major crime for 3 yrs, but then this past year there were a few people loitering, then came car vadalization, home break-ins and just last week an assault - all in a very short time frame.


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