Walking down the street, everyone is carrying a cell phone. People have their smart-phones out, looking down at the screens. People are holding their cell phones to their ear, focused on their conversation. Everyone is blatantly advertising that they have an expensive piece of equipment on their person – equipment that can sell for hundreds of dollars in the underground markets. It is not surprising, therefore, that the amount of robberies has increased in the past few years because the ubiquity of smart-phones makes every passerby a potential target.
Multiple Robberies in One Night
This ubiquity also provides the opportunity for groups of people to commit multiple robberies in one night, simply by targeting people they come across on the street. For example, one group of people committed five robberies in less than an hour on October 21, 2015 in the Capitol Hill and Navy Yard neighborhood. The dark beauty of the crime of stealing cell phones is that the victim is unable to instantaneously call the police to report the crime. This delay in reporting the crime may lead to the ability of repeat offenders to continue the spree.
During a meeting in October, Police Chief Cathy Lanier explained that criminal gang activity has shifted since 2010 from being organized around drug dealing to being organized around armed robberies. According to the Washington Post, there was an increase in robberies in 2015, particularly in the D.C. neighborhoods of Adams Morgan, Capitol Hill, Lincoln Park, Petworth, Takoma, and Columbia Heights. In the one-month period between January 20, 2016 and February 20, 2016, there were 59 different crime alerts for alleged robberies in the District.
Special Robbery Task Force put in Place
Robberies have become such a problem in the District that Mayor Muriel Bowser has created a special robbery task force to focus specifically on combating and preventing robberies in the effected D.C. neighborhoods. The task force is made up of different representatives from the Metropolitan Police Department, Metro Transit Police Department, Attorney General’s Office, and the United States Attorneys Office. The goal of the task force is to track neighborhood robbery patterns so that they can identify the problem areas and the individuals involved. Mayor Bowser seems to think that these robberies are being committed only by a small number of “repeat offenders” who target specific neighborhoods. The goal of the task force is to combine forces to quickly analyze and identify robbery spree patterns in real-time and stop them as they are occurring.
Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Cathy Lanier held a press conference in front of the Eastern Market metro station in early January 2016 to announce the creation of this robbery task force. In an ironic twist, an ABC7 News car was broken into while the news station was covering this press conference. The individuals broke the news van’s window and stole equipment from the van while the van was parked 100 feet away from where the press conference was being held.
Task Force May Prove Efficacy with Arrests and Convictions
A concern that citizens should have about the task force is, as with all government programs, there will be a strong desire to prove its efficacy with arrests and convictions. Whenever the biggest law enforcement organizations get involved, there is always a concern of over-inclusiveness and increased arrest rates solely for the sake of being able to state increased numbers. Increased funding, promotions, and accolades will be focused on how many “robbers” the task force is able to put behind bars. Chief Lanier has already bragged that the new task force has already taken “a bunch of crooks” off of the streets. So, it looks like we may need to brace ourselves for an influx of robbery prosecutions in the District. If you have been charged with a robbery or theft in DC, contact our offices right away! Don’t let this new task force’s desires prove themselves run over your rights!