Residents Tell Chief They Fear Rising Crime

“It doesn’t matter that there was just one attempted assault, allegedly with a knife, in Georgetown’s Waterfront Park last month. And that there have been reports of two alleged rapes or exposures on two popular streets of Georgetown: Potomac and 37th Street,” said Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans at a packed meeting of the Citizens Association of Georgetown Dec. 7. “The perception among residents now seems to be that they do not feel as safe as they used to to walk around at night.”

That concern was palpable at CAG’s annual public safety meeting, always held around the holiday season, according to Executive Director Betty Cooley. More than 200 residents turned out, mainly to hear from and question the new interim Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham and MPD 2nd District Commander Melvin Gresham. The chief spoke for over an hour in the Georgetown Presbyterian Church meeting room.

“Crime, especially thefts and burglaries, are actually down by almost half according to our statistics,” said Chief Newsham. “That’s due to improved enforcement and improved awareness and diligence by residents.”

But sexual assaults have increased in Georgetown — from five to 10 this year. “That’s significant,” said Evans.

The police leaders assured the residents that more patrols were being assigned for the holiday period and officers would be more visible. Bike patrols were being considered. “Similarly, treatment of rape victims has also greatly improved,” Newsham said. “Their charges are taken seriously. They are treated with respect. They call the shots.”

Still, there were some questions about a couple of highly publicized rapes in homes around Halloween. One that received major news coverage in the Washington Post reportedly occurred the Friday before Halloween at the Dodge Mansion at 2819 P St. NW, owned by Bill Dean, chief executive of M.C. Dean, one of the country’s largest electrical contractors. Dean has come to be known as the “modern day Gatsby” for his large and sometimes rowdy parties.

“What is the status of the investigation?” some asked. “Might there be a serial rapist in these increased incidents?”

“No arrests have been made,” Newsham said. “But while the cases are still open, they are completely different. In the P Street case, all parties involved are known, and all are cooperating with the investigation. In other cases, the parties are not known.”

Both the chief and commander encouraged residents to follow CAG suggestions for making the residential streets safer: “Take advantage of the city grant program to buy and have surveillance cameras installed at your front and back entrances. Use motion-sensitive lights in the back yard and keep your front light on all night. Above all, when you see something suspicious, say something. Do not hesitate to call 911 and report it.”

“Don’t walk around with headphones,” Evans added. “Be aware of your surroundings and, of course, lock your car and home doors.”

“And of course, have a happy holiday,” they all concluded. Refreshments, supplied by Potomac Wine and Spirits and Sprinkles, had a uphill battle getting attendees in a festive spirit at the meeting, which continued for more than two hours.

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