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Police: Robbers Targeting Pedestrians with iPhones

by Borderstan.com January 26, 2010 at 7:47 am 2,381 21 Comments

This is one of the more depressing Crimes of Notes posts that I have done in some time, especially in terms of robberies and stolen autos. The only silver lining in the crimes noted below is that only two were gun crimes.

The recent number of robberies has been noted by Police Service Area (PSA) 208, and we got the following message last night, which was targeted to the Dupont-Logan area:

Of late there have been an increase of street robberies around the DC Metro area, PSA 208 nor the Second District is immune from these. There is not a specific suspect lookout but there is a very specific target, the iPhone. To help combat this problem we are asking the users of all phones and PDAs to use good street sense and be completely aware of their surroundings.

In other words, people, it is a bad idea to chatter away on your cell phone (especially an iPhone, it seems)… totally unaware of your surroundings… particularly at night… and especially when you are by yourself on a quiet street. However, a number of these crimes occurred in relatively busy areas, including 15th and P NW last evening at 7:06 p.m. (more details below the fold).

Following are crimes of note–robberies, assaults, burglaries and stolen autos–that occurred between January 16 and January 25. There was also a hit and run of a pedestrian early on Sunday morning at 14th and U NW.

Hit and Run

  • January 24, 3:30 a.m., “a pedestrian [woman] was struck at 14th and U Streets, NW, by a hit and run vehicle. The vehicle is described as a 2005 Toyota Camry, 4 doors, silver, with an unknown tag. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Metropolitan Police Department on 202-727-9099.” Note: dcist has more on this incident.


A number of the following robberies occurred in fairly busy areas and not on quiet side streets–including 15th and P NW around 7 p.m. last night. In addition, ski masks are apparently back in style among robbers; this is the first time I remember seeing ski masks in some of these reports.

  • January 16, Robbery with Gun, 1400 block of Rhode Island Avenue NW.
  • January 16, Robbery: Carjacking with Gun, 1200 block of N Street NW.
  • January 19, 7:05 p.m. Robbery, 900 block of R Street NW.
  • January 21, 12:15 p.m., Robbery, 12th and W Streets NW. Note: one suspect wearing ski mask.
  • January 22, 12:33 p.m., Robbery, 1700 block of 17th Street NW-Sidewalk.
  • January 22, 6 p.m., Robbery, 1700 block of U Street NW-Sidewalk.
  • January 22, 7:33 p.m., Robbery-Snatch, 1500 block of Florida Avenue NW. “2 B/M’s, 16 to 20 years of age.”
  • January 24, approximately 12:40 a.m., Robbery/Snatch, 1700 block of U Street N.W. “The complainant was walking westbound on U Street, N.W., when three unknown subjects approached the complainant from behind and snatch her purse. The suspects fled eastbound on U Street, N.W. The three suspects were described as black males; 18 – 21 years old; 5’10” to 6’2″ in height; no further information provided.”
  • January 24, 9:38 p.m., Robbery, 1800 block of Riggs Place NW. Note: 2 to 3 males, one wearing a ski mask.
  • January 24, 5:23 p.m., Robbery with Force and Violence, 1500 block of Connecticut Avenue NW.
  • January 25, 7:06 p.m., Robbery with Force and Violence, 15th and P Streets NW. “Suspects last seen running up 15th Street; 2 B/M, 15 to 16 years of age; S1 wearing green jacket with hood.” If you have information, call 911 with Event number I20100043550.


  • January 23, 12:15 a.m., Assault on a Police Officer, 1600 block of R Street NW. “While attempting to escort a combative customer from a nightclub in the listed area, the customer assaulted several employees and a uniformed police officer. He was arrested on the scene and charged with APO and Simple Assault.”
  • January 24, 2:11 a.m., Assault with Deadly Weapon, 1400 block of U Street NW-Tavern/Night Club.


Three of the following four burglaries occurred in the same area, the two on 15th Street and the one on R Street.

  • January 20, 2 a.m., Burglary, 1200 block of U Street NW-Tavern / Night Club.
  • January 22, between 12:49 and 6 a.m., Burglary, 1600 block of 15th Street NW-Residence.
  • January 22, between 2:30 and 6:31 a.m., Burglary, 1600 block of 15th Street NW-Residence.
  • January 24, between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., Burglary, 1400 block of R Street NW-Residence.

Stolen Auto

The number of stolen autos on or near Vermont Avenue south of U Street stands out.

  • January 16, Stolen Auto, 17th and R Streets NW.
  • January 17, Stolen Auto, Q Street and Vermont Avenue NW.
  • January 17, Stolen Auto, 12th Street and Vermont Avenue NW.
  • January 17, Stolen Auto, 1100 block of Vermont Avenue NW.
  • January 18, Stolen Auto, 1400 block of R Street NW.
  • January 19, Stolen Auto, R Street and Vermont Avenue NW.
  • January 22, between 11:30 p.m. and 3 a.m., Stolen Auto, 1500 block of U Street NW.
  • January 23, 4:30 p.m., Stolen Auto, 2000 block of 16th Street NW.
  • January 24, between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., Stolen Auto, 16th and Corcoran Streets NW.
  • January 24, 6 p.m., Stolen Auto, 1600 block of Vermont Avenue NW.

  • Jeanne Downing

    How upsetting – so many crimes in one month. Maybe this is unfair, but where is the police protection? How should one live in this area without being robbed or burgled?

    • Actually, these crimes occurred over an 8-day period. Hence, my comment about this being a depressing report.

  • Courtney

    Er, I was actually reading this update on my iPhone wandering to the busstop. I appreciate the warning. I often walk my pup and babble into my phone…I would be an ideal victim. Thank you for this update! I sincerely appreciate it.

  • DC Deac

    Eight days…that is really depressing. Where are the police??

  • MD

    I have almost given up on the situation getting better. I can only imagine how many more crimes will be committed when it is summer and the weather is nicer. I thought the colder weather would keep the criminals in doors, but apparently not.

  • Getting 911 to improve its response…wish there was an app for that.

  • It doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Although more police is needed it is also important to remember not to become easy targets ourselves.

  • Missy

    Iteresting that of the 27 crimes listed above ALL but 5 of them happened on Friday or a Weekend.
    I supposed this could be explained in that more people are on the streets on the weekends OR it could be that the Perps have regular jobs (or “school”), so they can only commit crimes on weekends.
    Regardless someone please tell me that there are more cops out on weekends that on weekdays!

  • I thought that DC police promised more policemen on bikes or foot, but I seldom see any. Still mostly driving around in their cars, or parked near the 7-11 across the street from where I live, when more of a street presence would help deter these kinds of assaults and muggings.

  • Chen

    Maybe we should uggest to iPhone to develop an anti-robbery app to discourage these kinds of activities in the future.

  • Lara

    There has been a rash of phone snatching at GW recently too, mostly by the Foggy Bottom metro station.

  • Jessica

    I’m with sydc.
    Where are the foot/bike patrols?
    I’m firmly on the side of police, but it’s hard to continue to be when they’re only ever driving (not slowly enough to patrol) or on their cell phones outside of 7-11.
    The best way to increase safety is such patrols, so if the police dept says they’re going to do it but can’t follow through, then what do we expect?

  • SD

    My boyfriend, me, and our friend were robbed at gun point on Saturday night in Mt. Pleasant at 18th St. and Kenyon at 9:45pm.

    The guys didn’t even bother wearing face masks, but they both had guns. One of them hit my boyfriend with the gun in his face. The other guy pointed the gun at my head.

    They ran off after stealing my purse, and their wallets. They had a get away car in the alley where residents parked, so Im sure there was a thrid guy involved driving. I never saw the car, but we tracked the attempted stolen credit card usage from 18, to 13th st. to central, and finally to Suitland Maryland.

    It’s not fun having a gun put to your face on the way to a house party, especially when you’re in a “safe group” of three people-plus two guys, walking at 9:45pm.

    These people don’t care about anything,and neither do the cops. They never asked me for a detailed description or to do a sketch, i haven’t even been assigned a detective yet to help solve the case. To make it worse, in order to reobtain my stolen license and get a temporary license i needed a police report, which the police havent even bothered typing up yet four days later.So all i’ve got is a small piece of note paper hand written with the local district’s main office number.

    Just try to be safe is all i can say, i thought we were, but i was gravely mistaken.

  • local

    I wouldn’t hold out too much hope of the police solving the situation. A lot of these criminals could care less if police are around. They aren’t committing crimes out of necessity but to prove how gangsta they are. If you look like a typical local college student or gentrifier, they’ll probably target you and your iphone. Take a cab.

  • DHI

    Before moving to DC U Street, I had a license to carry concealed weapon (and the state that I came from required you to have multiple trainings before you get your license); and the criminals knew they had a 50/50 chance of robbing someone who carried a weapon that knows to draw and holds no mercy for criminals. In my old city we had very little crime for this was a huge deterrent. Criminals have no respect for DC because DC’s gun laws mean nothing for the criminals.

  • Steve

    What really bothers me is that the U Street/Logan area is a hotspot for armed robbery but nothing is being done by DC MPD. I’ve been robbed at gunpoint right on 14th and S St NW at 10 p.m. on a Friday night. I know many other victims in the area but the DC MPD is not receptive enough. For example

    -Some officers don’t want you to fill out a complete police report;
    -When you tell them to track your credit card after the robber stole it, the officer mentions that that is the detective’s job (i.e. don’t bother right now; we really don’t want to catch this guy so let the detective start working on the case a couple of days later);
    -There isn’t enough foot patrols in the area.

    Sad but true…this area needs more MPD support.

  • fed

    start shooting back.

  • JMason

    In response to Courtney, I think your description of yourself while out on the sidewalk may be the perfect description of what the criminals are looking for. Most of these criminals are do not live in your neighborhood. Hypothetically, let’s pretend your chosen ‘career’ was to rob people for a living–would you do so in your own neighborhood where lots of people know who you are, who your family is, and have no qualms about any retaliatory beat-downs? Ever heard of the phrase ‘don’t crap where you eat’?

    No. They want to find some white yuppies who moved to the city from Connecticut or Iowa or wherever a year or so ago with a la-de-da attitude towards their safety and a lack of common sense. Your MA or MBA will not protect you here.

    Keep in mind that some of the cops in this city once were the thugs doing the robbing years ago. There is a tendency among some cops to take an attitude that all you ‘new’ (read as white and dripping with a demure, but obvious superiority complex that comes with education and relative wealth) people deserve what you are getting a little bit. Don’t assume that you are going to get blanket protection from a police force who has many members who consider policing an opportunity for self-enrichment and a license to beat some ass now and then.

    My advice? Get a dog, preferably a big one. You don’t have to go out and get a rotweiler or a pit bull, but something that would not have any problem jumping up on someone (even if all they would do is just lick the perp’s face). My proof? Ever walk through the hood with a Labrador? Your dog might be a big ball of goofiness and sloppy wet kisses, but folks will often cross the street to avoid that dog. Growing up in an environment where most dogs you come across are being trained to fight to the death gives you a fear of just about any dog that doesn’t fit into Paris Hilton’s purse.

    Stop casually strolling down the street blabbing on your phone, anticipate potential risks, yank those white headphones out of your ears, and carry a decoy wallet. All it really needs is an extra driver’s license (your old one from your old state will do, but let me guess: you don’t really feel like being a real citizen of DC so you won’t get a license here–this is a conversation for another time), five dollars in $1 bills and an expired credit card or two will do.

    And for god sakes, make eye contact with people on the street, say hello now and then to people who don’t look or dress like you! Keep in mind that many muggers will pass you walking the opposite way on the street to make quick assessment if you are an easy mark or not.

    Keep in mind this has little to do with race. Most criminals out there are opportunists, and many of new people moving to DC are ignorant to how to keep safe on the street. For many of the 15 year olds doing the robbing, besides getting some quick cash and a new IPod, it is a game to them. They really don’t care if you are white, black, asian, etc. They just care that you are stupid when confronted and lack street-smarts.

    If you make yourself a harder target for the young thugs out there, many of them will disappear, or at least find another area with easier targets.

  • Jessica

    i beg to differ.
    the ‘don’t crap where you eat’ also means don’t rob your own. A black male teen will not rob a young black man in broad daylight in a popular neighborhood.

    They prey on white people because of the fear – however legit or illegit – we have that we’ll be next.

    It’s pathetic. I’m not racist. I don’t care who you are. But if your young people are robbing anyone after school, you need to get your ‘community’s’ house in order. Suddenly your kid has new sneakers and an ipod? Ask questions. Don’t solely blame the victims for moving (and bringing their money) to DC. Blame the parents who don’t care what their kids are doing or are doing it themselves. Is this the best they can do?

  • Joshua J Sprinkle

    The reason the police don’t do anything is because it’s the gay neighborhood. If it was Georgetown or Bethesda, where the white straight people live it is a whole different story.

  • Sarah

    As the girl that was robbed on the 1800 block of riggs let me just say that the police were really helpful, kind and very comforting, they did everything they could, so people should really treat them with more respect.


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