Liveliest D.C. Neighborhoods Also Jumping With Robberies

The increase in the number of juvenile robbery suspects worries Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey.
The increase in the number of juvenile robbery suspects worries Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey. (By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)
By Allison Klein and Dan Keating
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 13, 2006

Some of Washington's most vibrant neighborhoods, destinations for suburbanites, barhoppers and urban professionals, share a lesser-known distinction: They have the highest concentrations of holdups in the city.

Criminals are striking in areas that boast of dynamic nightlife, newly minted condominiums and restaurant grand openings.

The Washington Post analyzed years of police statistics, focusing sharply on crimes this year, and found the biggest share of robberies happening at night and on sidewalks in neighborhoods north of downtown, including Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, Columbia Heights and the U Street corridor.

Across the city, an average of 11 robberies take place each day, the analysis shows. But on Friday and Saturday nights, the city can register as many as five an hour.

Guns are involved in at least one-third of the cases. About the same percentage end with victims being beaten or slammed to the ground -- even knocked unconscious, in some cases. The other robberies can be just as chilling, involving such weapons as knives as well as sudden grabs of purses, backpacks and money.

The statistical analysis encompassed thousands of cases, including about 2,900 this year alone. The Post also examined hundreds of robbery reports and interviewed victims, police, residents and community activists.

Police said that at least 14 homicides this year stemmed from robberies, including the slaying of a British activist in Georgetown. The number of robberies jumped last year and was rising again this summer when D.C. police stepped up patrols and began putting surveillance cameras in neighborhoods. It has tapered off since the city spent about $10 million on overtime for extra police coverage. But overtime funds are running dry, raising concerns that more trouble is ahead.

Robberies have spiked in recent years in the Washington region and many other parts of the country, as the number of juvenile offenders and the availability of guns grows, police officials said. Robberies also are becoming the crime of choice for some former drug dealers, who have switched to stickups after police crackdowns on narcotics trafficking, the officials said.

Police in Alexandria and Fairfax and Montgomery counties also are dealing with more robbery cases. In Prince George's County, the total rose sharply last year but has dipped this year.

There are more robberies per capita in the District than in New York, Los Angeles and other large cities. And robbers are traveling farther from home to strike, according to police officials. During the first six months of the year, about 40 percent of juveniles arrested in robberies and other crimes in neighborhoods just north of downtown did not live there, police said.

The city's robbery core is in the 3rd Police District, which includes the neighborhoods of Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, Dupont Circle and Logan Circle. It is the city's smallest, densest police district and accounts for almost 30 percent of robberies.

"It's always been a major problem," said D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), whose constituents complain daily about the crimes. "But it wasn't anywhere near as serious as it is today."

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