Break-in bandit out on the loose!

The Capitol Hill neighborhood is in the midst of a good ol’-fashioned, broad-daylight crime spree. The Washington Times reported Feb. 16 that since mid-December there had been 36 break-ins. Since there is no guarantee that anyone on the Hill will notice a story in that particular newspaper, somebody wrote up a neon-green CRIME ALERT flyer and dropped it through neighborhood mail slots Feb. 19.

The Capitol Hill neighborhood is in the midst of a good ol’-fashioned, broad-daylight crime spree. The Washington Times reported Feb. 16 that since mid-December there had been 36 break-ins. Since there is no guarantee that anyone on the Hill will notice a story in that particular newspaper, somebody wrote up a neon-green CRIME ALERT flyer and dropped it through neighborhood mail slots Feb. 19.

Police believe that a single man in his 30s is responsible for the spree. He knocks on townhouse doors during business hours, and if nobody’s home he simply busts through the lock with something like a crowbar.

There is a rich tradition of burglary on the Hill. From November 2002 to July 2003, a group of guys in their teens and 20s — who had lived in the Lincoln Park area before gentrification swept their families along — committed a series of over 60 burglaries before the criminal justice system busted them up. 

Generally, burglars are looking for jewelry and electronics — stuff that’s easy to pawn. Since locking your doors can’t really protect these items from a burglar, the neon green flyer recommends, among other things, that residents consider purchasing a motion detector that barks like a dog. Woof!

[The print version of this article was accompanied by a graphic showing First District burglaries in the last 30 days from: http://crimemap.dc.gov/presentation/map.asp?map_action=INIT&CrimeType=Burglary]


 
Nature mocks stupid day of cheap sentiment

For many people, no doubt, the Valentine’s Day ice storm brought a welcome break from the daily drudge. Certainly no schoolchildren complained about the day off. And surely some people took the opportunity to cuddle up with a lover, all warm and snuggly by the fireplace. Makes me all squishy just thinking about it!

But unlike my tender heart, the snow became hard as a rock, and all hell broke loose: Icy branches in the suburbs downed power lines; side roads and even a few major roads remained impassable on Thursday; many buses got stuck in slush, wrecking schedules (and the buses that weren’t stuck were demonstrating their newfound knack for killing people, racking up the first two of the week’s three fatalities). 

Mayor Adrian Fenty, inviting jokes about snow jobs, made sure to let reporters know about his impromptu visit to a homeless shelter, and to have his picture taken in front of a salt dome on Wednesday. But the Thursday papers gave the Fenty administration a tough review for its first foray into emergency management. The Washington Post pointed out contradictions between City Administrator Dan Tangherlini’s and transportation chief Emeka Moneme’s accounts of when the government switched from salting to plowing. “What a mess!” screamed the Examiner. Fenty acknowledged that the District government could’ve handled the situation better.

In the neighborhood, most side streets remained covered in icy snow through late last week, but plows and salt trucks rolled through that night.

Don’t waste all your complaining on the government. Some neighbors could’ve handled it better, too. As the D.C. government website explains, “District law requires property owners to clear snow and ice from sidewalks, handicap ramps and steps abutting their property within the first 8 daylight hours after snow, sleet or ice stop falling.”

Tsk, tsk, Hill residents. Plenty of you clearly did not obey this law. Rock-hard ice lumps on the sidewalks, combined with piles of ice by roadsides, have made walking treacherous and biking prohibitively difficult. The D.C. Code says that if you don’t clear your snow, the mayor will do it himself. And then you’ll have to pay for it, and a $25 fine, too. But even if you don’t get caught, how can you live with the soul-crushing, fever-inducing guilt of breaking the law and making fellow human beings risk their lives passing by your door? Tsk, tsk, tsk.


 
Legislation would reunite families split by court ruling

Last week the D.C. Court of Appeals decided against re-hearing a custody case in which its earlier decision has had catastrophic consequences for legitimate child custodians across the city. The appeals court had ruled that a trial judge should not have awarded custody to a non-parent in the underlying case; the decision has resulted in legitimate caregivers — notably grandparents — not having standing to file for custody.

Ward 6 D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells recently introduced legislation to correct the problem by making it easier for folks like grandparents to have standing. The legislation’s supporters — most people involved, pretty much — say the appeals court’s denial to re-hear the underlying case makes the legislative fix all the more important.

A Feb. 8 hearing on Wells’s legislation featured a parade of caregivers who’d had problems completing the necessary and basic parental tasks requiring legal custody: Gaylene Silver couldn’t get doctors to take a look at her niece, who had a stomach problem; Balinda Cunningham couldn’t enroll her granddaughter in school; and several others testified that the custody orders they’d obtained before the appeals decision were essential to the well-being of children for whom they care.

Over 8,000 D.C. grandparents are the primary caregivers of young children. Last year the D.C. Council enacted legislation to create a financial subsidy for this lot. The program requires grandparents to obtain a court order granting custody; obviously, the appeals decision jeopardized the program.

With all the talk lately about our bad public schools, and about how the root problem of dysfunctional D.C. families is more than changes in school administration can fix, it’s a little surprising this issue doesn’t get more attention.