A reader, Nikhil, sent in an account of a recent robbery on the Red Line. I thought I would post this, it's a good example of a brazen rush-hour snatch, and highlights the difficulties of catching the suspects.
On Nov 10th, 2009 , I was returning from my office in DC by the WMATA metro train. For the past two years , I have been using the same route (Red Line) to commute to office.In a follow-up email, Nikhil wrote:
When I reached Friendship Heights , I sent out a message to my wife that I reached the station, so she can come and pick me up at Twinbrook station. This was at 5:32 PM.
The train was crowded, as expected, as these were peak hours of commute. I was sitting close to the door with my haversack between my legs. I was playing a game on my iPhone. There were about three guys standing near the door.
At about 5:40 PM, the train pulled up at Medical Center station and the doors opened. Suddenly , in a swift action, one of the guys standing , snatched the haversack and ran out. Another guy grabbed the iPhone from my hand, which I tried to hold on to. He managed to break it free out of my hand and fled too. As an instant reaction, I ran after them out the train. On the platform, I yelled "Hey, that's my bag." That's all I remember.
I probably fell down after that. I had a concussion and don't remember much. My jaw is broken in two places. The doctors have wired it shut and I am on liquid diet
Somehow I am not as angry at the robbers, as I am at the system. How can the security let this just happen, in the peak hours of commute? Even if it did happen, how come the criminals are not found?
Today I went to the metro detectives. We saw the videos of what happened. Apparently when I ran after the robbers, one of them punched and pushed me to the side. Anyways the cameras are worthless at Medical Center. If such a robbery happens again, there is no way of finding the robbers.Sadly, this happens all too often on Metro. The crowds during rush hour provide excellent opportunities for a getaway, and with current staffing there's no way to have a police presence at every station. Nikhil wonders how the system could be made safer, and this is a good question. As it stands now, people who commit robberies on Metro are almost guaranteed an easy getaway. Metro has been deploying undercover 'bait' units to try and catch these crimes in progress, but it's unlikely that will serve as much of a deterrent.
All I can say is if you are the victim of a robbery on Metro, be sure to report it, even if it is a hassle and even if it's unlikely the suspect will be caught. Accurate crime statistics are necessary to secure more funding for transit police. Sadly, there's no easy fix to stopping crime on the Metro, no easier a fix than stopping robberies on the street. Hopefully we'll see more cooperative efforts between transit police and MPD or surrounding jurisdictions with criminals utilizing Metro for crimes or for getaways.