D.C. Police Agitate For Flood Of E-Mails

By Theola Labbé-DeBose and Robert E. Pierre
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, November 22, 2008

D.C. police, frustrated that a teenage robbery suspect they have arrested kept getting released, took to cyberspace yesterday in an unusual effort to lobby judges and city officials to keep him off the streets.

Exasperated by the third arrest of the same suspect in a string of 21 robberies, a D.C. police official sent an electronic bulletin to residents of Columbia Heights pleading for them to flood Peter Nickles, the city's top attorney, with calls and e-mails demanding that the suspect not be released.

As of last night, he hadn't been.

Under the subject line "ALERT ALERT ALERT ALERT ALERT," Inspector Edward Delgado said the teenager allegedly had been sneaking up behind victims, knocking them to the ground and swiping whatever he could: money, cellphones, iPods.

The teen was picked up again yesterday. His name is being withheld because of juvenile privacy laws that restrict city officials from discussing their case files. He had been arrested and released twice before, police said, after a judge ruled him mentally incompetent to stand trial. It was not immediately clear whether there was any alternative to releasing him.

The basis for the reported decision to release him after the finding could not be learned last night. A court official said authorities could not locate a case yesterday matching the description.

"Flood the email system today because time is critical in this matter," Delgado implored the subscribers to the 3rd District Substation e-mail group. "Let them not release this criminal yet again into the community."

Of the robberies the teen is accused of committing, Delgado wrote, "I am concerned that if this person is released again he may commit more robberies or worse harm one of you. I find this lack of accountability by the juvenile justice system to be a travesty and a disservice to the community."

The effort appears to have worked.

Nickles got more messages than he cared to count and said the orchestrated letter-writing campaign was inappropriate.

"I don't mind getting 20 e-mails about a particular problem that reflects the unique perspective of people in the community, but I don't approve of an organized campaign to send me 50 e-mails," he said.

"I haven't touched them," he added. "I told my secretary to put them in a pile."

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