Williams Renews Pledge To Rein In Car Thefts
D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey commissioned a study last year that showed that some car thieves keep cycling through the system. The review covered about 1,600 juveniles arrested in a three-year period that ended in 2003. It found that more than 670 of the youths had at least one prior arrest for car theft. About 300 youths had two or more prior car theft arrests.
The action plan outlined by the mayor last night has several elements: a more concerted and coordinated effort by police and prosecutors; changes in the law to strengthen deterrents; improving recreation facilities; installing street barriers and other traffic-slowing devices; increasing support to troubled families; and requiring more parental involvement and responsibility.
The mayor had planned to reveal his initiative even before yesterday's crash. That chain of events began about 3 a.m. after teenagers attempted to steal a car at a gas station in Seat Pleasant, police said. The car was owned by an off-duty D.C. police officer, who saw the youths speed off in another vehicle -- a white Lincoln Town Car that turned out to be stolen. The officer used his radio to broadcast a lookout for the youths.
D.C. police said they spotted the stolen car and began pursuing it at 61st and East Capitol streets. The teenagers wound up crashing into the picture window of a home in the 4200 block of Nash Street NE, police said. The homeowner got up from her bedroom and saw the youths running through the house.
The woman would not comment. But she agreed to relay her account of what happened through a friend. The friend quoted her as saying that she suggested to the youths that they go into her basement. They did, leading to a standoff with police that dragged on for about five hours.
Five 16-year-olds and a 14-year-old were arrested, police said. Police said they found a gun in the smashed-up Lincoln.
The woman's living room was a shambles: The crash wrecked a piano, antiques, china and other furnishings, the friend said.
The woman's neighbors said that juvenile car thieves are a frequent menace on the streets, where many elderly people live and homes have been in the family for generations.
In recent weeks, the residents said, young people driving stolen cars have struck utility poles, trees and chain-link fences along Anacostia and Kenilworth avenues.
"They're stealing the cars from other neighborhoods and using Anacostia and Kenilworth as a speedway," said Willie Bowman, 53, who lives on nearby Meade Street NE. "I sit out on my porch and I see them -- zoom, zoom."
The nights start quietly, Bowman said, but before long, the cars begin screeching and the police helicopters start hovering in hopes of tracking the young car thieves.
"Any time after 11 or 12 [at night] is when you hear the speeding cars coming through and the helicopters overhead trying to chase them," Bowman said.
Staff writers Theola Labbé, Allan Lengel and Del Quentin Wilber and staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Community activist Johnnie Scott Rice, right, confronts Mayor Anthony A. Williams because residents were not given a chance to speak at a gathering in Southeast.
(Rich Lipski -- The Washington Post)
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