More than 200 persons turned out at what appeared to be the largest meeting of the Georgetown Citizens Association in years last night to propose solutions to what they perceive as a rise in crime in their sedate and prosperous neighborhood.
"Something has to be done, and we're ready to go out and fight ourselves," said Katharine Sullivan in an interview after the meeting, which came in the wake of a slaying and robbery on Prospect Street last month that heightened community concern about street crime.
D.C. Deputy Police Chief Roland Perry, whose command includes Georgetown, told the crowd that armed robberies and burglaries had actually decreased in the past year, but citizens interviewed said their experiences made it difficult for them to credit the police figures.
"It's hard for me to believe those statistics," Whayne Haffler told a reporter. "We believe that crimes have gone up . . . we've had countless friends who have been mugged."
Donald Shannon, president of the citizens association, said that "what shook me was the eyewitness accounts of [the Prospect Street] murder.
"When I heard that one, I got the feeling that this is a shooting gallery . . . The fact that we can show a decrease in statistics doesn't make people feel any better about crime here."
Shannon said last night's standing-room-only meeting at Christ Church on O Street NW was unique in that it was devoted entirely to the question of crime, and that that issue appeared the reason for the huge turnout.
"I'm here because it's necessary to show support to get things corrected," Georgetown resident Ray Mellett told a reporter. "The murder two weeks ago was a block away from me and it's scary."
"We've never had a meeting like this," said Ann Satterthwaite, a vice-president of the citizens group. " . . . There is a real heightened concern about street crime."
Although police statistics presented at the meeting indicated an increase only in shoplifting and thefts from businesses, Satterthwaite said that "the perception of an increase in neighborhood crime is something that's building."
The meeting culminated last night in the adoption of a variety of resolutions aimed at curbing crime, including calls for increased foot and scooter patrols by police, a rise in the legal drinking age to 21, a moratorium on the issuance of new liquor licenses, better street lighting and a new police substation to serve Georgetown and Foggy Bottom.
Even before the meeting began, a police official who accompanied Deputy Chief Perry described the outpouring of concern as "the same old story.
"You have some crimes against victims that you know and that hits home, because people nearby are getting hurt," said Lt. Alan Herbert of the 2nd District. Herbert echoed Perry in saying that the number of robberies and burglaries in Georgetown had declined in the past year.
Still, the personal experiences of those at the meeting struck home more accurately than the cold recitation of police statistics.
"I was mugged once and I had a break-in a couple of weeks ago," said Katharine Sullivan. "On my block," said Ann Satterthwaite, "I have a neighbor who was mugged, there was an attempted rape and a purse snatching."
Association president Shannon said his house was burglarized twice.
Olivietto Capello said she lived "only a half a block away" from where last month's murder occurred and near the site of a murder that occurred in May. "It's heartbreaking," she said.