By Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 13, 2007
The clean-shaven man in the tan jacket, orange T-shirt and blue jeans, who was roughly 30 years old, sauntered to the Chevy Chase Bank counter, handed the teller a note and robbed the place.
Although the man got away, police from the 2nd Police District were quickly on the scene. This robbery in the 1100 block of 17th Street NW on Sept. 4, a fairly common crime in the Washington area, was an important first test for officers who are now responsible for a new beat.
Each of the District's seven police districts is divided into smaller Patrol Service Areas, or PSAs. On Sept. 2, the 2nd District inherited the PSA in which the bank is located from the 3rd District.
The 3rd District is the city's busiest, handling 21 percent of citywide emergency calls. The district includes neighborhoods around Dupont Circle, the U Street corridor, Shaw, Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights. Police officials said the 3rd District's radio communications system was often overloaded, which slowed officers' ability to run license plate checks or handle other routine business.
The 2nd District, which includes Georgetown and Glover Park, faces significantly fewer crimes.
The transferred area, now known as PSA 208, runs from Dupont Circle south to Pennsylvania Ave., east to 15th Street and west to 23rd Street. It has experienced a variety of crimes such as daytime theft of computer equipment and purses from offices as well as theft from cars, street robberies and prostitution during the night.
Second District Cmdr. Andy Solberg said that switching the PSA to the 2nd District should improve police service for residents, without impeding police effectiveness elsewhere. The PSA came with 70 officers, six sergeants and two lieutenants, many of whom already worked in the area.
"Our responsibility is obviously going to get significantly more complex. I expect we'll see a little bit of everything," Solberg said.
Police officials discussed the shift at community meetings this summer. They drew pointed questions about the need for the move, but little harsh criticism from the public.
Samantha Nolan, chair of the Citizen's Advisory Council (CAC) for the 2nd District, said many residents expressed concern that adding a busy PSA to their police district's responsibilities could result in vice units and patrol officers being pulled away to incidents in the new zone.
"Some of the fears are that some of the officers from other PSAs will be called to respond to the new PSA 208. That's something we'll be looking at, who will be responding to those calls for service," Nolan said. "We want to give them a couple of months to look at this and see how it works."
She added that if response times or the crime rates increase, "we will be vocal and we will go to the chief."
Still, Nolan said she supports the move because if police are able to lower crime in adjacent neighborhoods then the overall crime picture should improve in other parts of Northwest.
Leona Agouridis, executive director of the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, said she approves of the move especially because officials kept continuity with much of the personnel who shifted to the 2nd District. Her members include businesses in and around Dupont Circle, which had established relationships with police officials in the past year.
The communication helped connect police with local retailers, restaurant and nightclub owners.
"We're happy from the perspective that there's not a learning curve," she said.
Businesses also were concerned that staffing levels would not decrease, an issue Agouridis said would be one to watch to gauge success of the move.
"I don't know if a final decision has been made on authorized staffing levels, and that's an important benchmark for us," Agouridis said.
Solberg said that the number of transferred officers and officials are sufficient to do the job.
"It's coming over intact, the boundaries, the personnel. They are giving us the resources we need," he said.