Citizens’ Safety Meeting: Solutions & Complaints
By September 25, 2023 0 973•
“Neighbors want to feel safe walking home,” said Mark Martinkov, summing up the theme of the public meeting, held by the Public Safety Committee of the Citizens Association of Georgetown at Christ Church on Sept. 20.
CAG President Tara Sakraida Parker and Executive Director Brittany Sawyer greeted the lively crowd in the parish hall and introduced Martinkov and his Public Safety Committee co-chair Kate Hasty as well as Metropolitan Police Department Officers Viola Brock and Christian Deruvo.
Hasty began by explaining CAG’s public safety strategy: “It’s data driven analysis…” The pillars of Georgetown public safety are community engagement, overt security measures and civic awareness. Such an approach includes block captains, cameras, lighting, informing the neighborhood and more, she said.
Martinkov showed off the Birdie alarm that attaches to key chains and can give off a shrill alarm along with a strobe light. Each attendee was offered one as a gift.
Officer Brock cited a long list of MPD safety tips and advice on situational awareness: Lighting is very important. Use ATMs during the day. Don’t pat your wallet. Lock doors at all times. Watch for hop-ins at gas stations. Install a smart key fuel cutoff for the car. Remember to observe accomplice vehicles that will often follow the stolen vehicle.
At this point of the talk, Brock was asked if all this information was on the MPD website, which it is. She then moved on to show a video to the crowd on how to respond during an active shooter event — the FBI video is disturbing.
After a deep breath, attendees described to Brock and Deruvo incidents of what they consider a lack of timely response by the police.
During the frenetic — and so far unsuccessful — hunt for the alleged murderer who escaped from GWU hospital on Sept. 6, one neighbor on Dumbarton Street thought the police needed to check on a spot next to Mt. Zion Church where a few people sometimes camp out. No one stopped by, she said.
A woman whose purse — with important cards and personal documents inside — was stolen in a downtown restaurant recounted the hassle, anxiety and helpless feelings she experienced. She contacted Ward 2 Council member Brooke Pinto to ask for help in getting a better MPD response. Police met with her at her home the next day.
Another woman described vocal threats by a homeless person at 31st & K Streets. She was followed by the individual and said the 911 dispatcher merely asked for a description of the person — and she wanted the cops to show up.
A condominium resident talked about recent incidents of a trespasser who was found sleeping in the building on at least two recent occasions. It was stated it took an hour for MPD to respond to a 911 call. When asked for a barring order the officers told residents they would have to print one in order for MPD to process the order, since MPD no longer carries them in their cars.
Deruvo, who also patrols on a bicycle, said the police react to the dispatchers who are not part of the MPD. Brock added that the number of police is down 1,000 from the year 2020 — and advised everyone to know the contact information of their watch commander.
Amid the complaints, a business owner on the west end of K Street under Key Bridge, said the policing of his area of Water Street has much improved.
After the discussion, residents and police spoke informally a little longer — and Martinkov demonstrated the very loud Birdie alarm outside in the church courtyard.
To contact or serve on the CAG safety team, email Kate@cagtown.org or Mark@cagtown.org.