Sunday, August 26, 2007

Local Hero

We knew he was a rock star in the blogger world, but didn't know he was a super sleuth as well. Check out the front page in today's WaPo, for the article about our neighbor Martin Moulton and how he recovered his stolen bike.

This is a cautionary tale about an all-too-frequent crime in our neighborhood: bicycle theft. It's not life-threatening and there are lots worse things that go on around here, but it's one of those things that adversely affects the quality of life in Shaw. (And a reason that I haven't upgraded my piece-of-sh*t 70s-era Chinese bike.)

Sounds like Martin's happy ending was the result of a combination of luck, persistence, and getting help from one of the best cops in the city: Mike Smith. Most people aren't so fortunate. I thought it was ironic that the article states that "police say most bike thefts go unsolved because many victims do not report the crimes or have unregistered bikes." With all due respect, I doubt that the police usually make much of an effort to solve these crimes even if they are reported. (As seems to be the case for "theft from auto", the most frequently reported crime in this and neighboring PSAs.) This may have something to do with why bike thefts are not reported. Nicholas McKenna's story, also reported in the Post story is a case in point.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Muggings at Shaw/Howard Metro Stop

Some of you may have seen the following on the Shaw Neighborhood listserve (originally from the Bloomingdale listserve), but I think it bears repeating:

From a U Street NW resident, received late Thursday evening, August 9,


I want to share my experience which makes me a full member of

Tonight Thursday, August 9, 2007, I was mugged. As I came out of the Metro Station Shaw-Howard Univ. Green Line, I was intercepted by a guy who jumped across Rhode Island Av. from the Dwelllings building, and pulled out a 10 to 15 inches silver knife and said "give me all you fucking money or I kill you right here" I was walking home on Rhode Island Av., in front of the Catholic Charities Center for the Homeless, in a well lit area, and with a knife on my chest so I gave him all my money, then he made me empty my pockets and demanded only the cash; then, he said "go." As I got on to the corner of 6 St. and Rhode Island, and turned left I was shocked and froze to hear the same phrase, and I turned to look on the corner of my eye I saw that he was mugging to another guy in the very same spot were he intercepted me. What is even worse as I reached the next corner on 5 street and S St. I saw a white girl crying, being comforted by some people -she was sitting on the ground- and said "I was mugged." She was in shocked I told her that I was walking away from the same thing, because I was just mugged myself too. I do not know whether she reported the incident or not. I do not know if the guy behind me will report it or not, but the certain thing is that I did report my case.

More to this awful experience.

As I walked home. I called 911 and I was asked by the operator very kindly "can you hold, please?" Well, I was in shocked and I did not hold and a few more steps further away, I called 311, and the male operator, pretended not to understand me, asked to describe the man, all in such as way like "I hope that you get bored and not report this." I forced him to take the description and gave him my number although he was not willing to take all the info and I was asked all his questions in a really ineffective way as if in bad mood and I was disturbing him or delaying him to leave at the end of his shift. One hour later no phone call back from the police back in my house, I called 911 again and finally I was able to report the crime. For nothing, but at least to make sure that this goes to the record. I wonder how many people give up and never report when mugged. If the people who call 911 or 311 and receive the treatment I got I have the hunch that many people just give up. I wonder if I were not such a persistent person give up and do not take the time to write a detail email like to to share the concern and give a word to those who live around here. I wonder how many neighbors of Bloomingdale are victims of this and never get to report crimes.

All is clear to me, the area is far more dangerous than it was or has been. I have lived here for 7 years and since I do not have a car and walk around and use public transportation I can assure you that the neighborhood is far more dangerous than it was or has been when most houses were empty and there were less people in the area. Now robbers know that there is money here and this is far better place to come and mugged people. The police does not show up. Note aside, after walking 20 minutes, which usually takes me only 10, I did not see one single police car at all. Keep that in mind when you walk from the metro.

Make sure that your life is more important than walking around Rhode Island.

Comment: This is only the latest example of the flagrant failure of the 911/311 system to work properly. If anyone has been reading the MPD3 listserve, it is full of other instances that are way too numerous to be just flukes. It's hard to tell just how serious a crime has to be to get a response from the system, but it seems fairly clear at this point that armed robbery doesn't make the cut. This is something that citizens should be truly outraged about, and I think it's time for a grass-roots campaign to get some action from the mayor, police chief, and council on this.

The other thing I wonder about is why there doesn't seem to have been any consistent effort by the Metro police to patrol the Shaw/Howard station, which has been the scene of numerous incidents in which Metro patrons have been victimized in recent months. Also, in case you missed it, there was another incident at the beginning of the month in which a neighbor was robbed and beaten in the elevator of the Mt. Vernon Square station. (I noticed the elevator was closed for several days recently, but is back in operation now. The glass in the elevator has been broken repeatedly over the last year--not sure just how, but I hope it wasn't with someone's head, because it's very thick tempered glass.) Maybe it's also time to direct some serious inquiries to the Metro Police about what they're doing to protect patrons in and around stations in this area.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Neighborhood Cleanup on Saturday

Don’t forget that there will be a volunteer neighborhood clean-up tomorrow, Saturday, August 11 starting at 9:00 a.m. This initiative is being sponsored by ANC Commissioner Chapple and neighborhood blogger Treebox Vodka.

Meet at the (still non-operating) Watha T. Daniels Library on Rhode Island Ave. Bring gloves, water, and willing hands. Trash bags, brooms, and maybe a one of those sticks with a nail on the end wouldn’t hurt either.

This is the first of what is hoped to be a monthly effort, and will concentrate on the 7th Street corridor. It looks like the weather will be reasonably comfortable, so come on out and join your neighbors to help make Shaw look a little better.

UPDATE: About 15-20 people turned up on this beautiful Saturday morning to pick up trash along 7th Street. Thanks to Jason, James, and Martin for having everything so well-organized, including gloves and those keen little trash-grabber things (gotta get me one of those). I'm not sure how many trash bags were filled (mine was pretty stuffed by the time I got to M Street), but the haul was pretty good. I only found one Velikoff vodka bottle (at the P Street bus stop). Some passers-by even went out of their way to put some trash in my bag as they walked by. A good effort that bears repeating.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Girl Named Madison

This post has nothing to do with Shaw, but I think it’s kind of interesting in a bizarre sort of way.

I happened to be poking around in the Social Security website (in anticipation of impending geezerhood), when I noticed they have a section that lists the most popular names given to babies in the US. I idly clicked on it and was surprised to see that the number 3 name for girls in 2006 was “Madison”.

Well, I have never known a girl child named Madison, and I started wondering how I could have missed such a phenomenon. I sort of knew that girls’ names are much more prone to change with fashion than boys’, which tend to stay pretty much the same (though the recent rise of “Jacob” and “Ethan” are perhaps exceptions). But even though girls’ names come and go in popularity, the rest of the Top 20 are all recognizable as traditional female names.

It turns out that “Madison” peaked in terms of national popularity when it hit #2 on the list in 2001 and 2002, (behind the all-conquering “Emily”). But it is tenaciously holding the #3 spot, and remains the #1 name for girls in every southern state from Louisiana to Delaware (except Florida) and has been for the last several years. (In DC, the top name is “Katherine”, BTW.) In 2002, “Madison” was the #1 girl’s name in 24 states.

But is this just a southern fad? Well, no. Actually, “Madison” didn’t even make the top 1000 list for the US until 1985, when it surfaced at #625. It gradually gained popularity through the nineties and finally cracked the Top 10 in 1997. But it first showed up as a truly popular name in Utah, of all places, when it suddenly appeared as the #2 girls’ name in that state in 1995. By the next year, it was #1 in Utah, Oklahoma, and Kansas, and then spread like wildfire throughout the West and Midwest., but didn’t really catch fire in the South until 2000. Since then, the Madison wave has receded in the square states, but seems to be well-entrenched in Dixie.

So where does the idea of naming a girl “Madison” come from? A bit of googling turned up the theory that it all started with the 1984 movie “Splash”, which featured a mermaid (played by Darryl Hannah, whose last name is also now super-popular among the pink layette set), who picked that name for herself off of a street sign. Well, okay, but then why would take 10 years for it to suddenly emerge in Utah as the new “Jennifer”? Was it a Mormon thing?

Who knows the answers to such mysteries, after all? But it could be worse; at least it wasn’t “Fillmore.”