Monday, November 7, 2011

Beware of Pickpockets!

From Sarah:
This is a story of suck and unsuck.

On Nov. 1, I was pick pocketed at the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro station.

I left my office in Penn Quarter just after 7 p.m. and walked to the Verizon Center entrance (7th and F Streets NW). As I walked down to the platform for the Green and Yellow lines on the lower level, I noted with dismay that the escalator down to the lower platform was broken (typical) and, thus, had been turned into stairs.

Usually this doesn’t bother me (at least not when I’m going down) but I had just ran my first marathon two days ago, and stairs and I are not getting along too well in either direction right now. I grasped the handrail and started to hobble down.

As I was nearing the bottom, I felt someone bump into me from behind. For some reason, this push struck me as something out of the ordinary—not your average rush hour nudge. Gut instinct told me something was wrong.

Within a span of milliseconds, I turned to see who had bumped into me and realized that a small bag I keep within my bigger purse which housed my wallet, keys (car/house/office) and various other miscellany had disappeared.

Without thinking, I turned and confronted the woman who had bumped into me, asking, “Did you take my bag?” I couldn’t hear if she responded because I had my headphones in, but mid-question, I noticed my small, orange bag peeking out from under her coat, behind a handful of large shopping bags.

Without thinking, I reached out, grabbed my bag, and yelled more than one accusatory profanity.

The woman started walking away from me on the Green/Yellow platform, quickly weaving from one side to the other, obviously trying to lose me. I instinctively followed her, and heard someone yell to call 911.

In a state of shock, I dialed 9-1-1 on my phone. I told the operator I was in a Metro station and was rerouted to D.C.’s Metro Transit Police line.

In the few seconds, I was waiting to be connected and still following the pick pocket around the platform, a transit police officer arrived. Apparently, someone at the top of the escalator saw what was happening and notified a police officer standing nearby.

The Transit Police officer quickly identified and apprehended the thief. I was taken upstairs for questioning, photographs and a recorded statement.

Incredibly, once the suspect was under arrest, police discovered thousands of dollars worth of stolen merchandise in her possession; they believe she is/was a professional thief.

Amazingly, I was okay, no one was hurt, and I had my stuff.

While talking to the police, they told me that I was a very rare case. Generally, pick pockets target tourists and/or the elderly; I am neither of these things. I am a 26-year-old, physically fit and active female who has lived and worked in the D.C. area for years and rides Metro very frequently.

In addition, it is very rare for a victim of a pick pocket to catch their assailant. Usually, victims don’t realize they have been robbed for a few hours, and statistics show that thieves will generally use a stolen credit or debit card to fill a SmarTrip card or at a business very close to the Metro station within ten minutes.

In hindsight, what I did was very risky. Adrenaline was coursing, so I don’t know if I could have consciously made a decision to do something different, but I was incredibly lucky things turned out as well as they did. The pick pocket could have been carrying a weapon, been violent, or worse. In doing what I did, I endangered myself and everyone else on the platform. Again, I was very, very fortunate the situation turned out so well.

I urge you, fellow Metro riders, to please be aware of your surroundings. Keep your valuables close and out of sight. Keep your bags and briefcases closed and close to your body. I tweeted about my experience and received a number of responses from people who said they had been pick pocketed, had their cell phones snatched right out of their hands, or had seen muggings at area stations.

Locals are not immune to transit crimes; it could happen to anyone.

I want to thank the Metro Transit Police for their speed and professionalism. I am grateful for the kindness of strangers who watched to make sure I was okay, called the police, and waited around to check on me after the suspect was apprehended.

We have an amazing, supportive community here in D.C., which I often forget about in my daily headphone-wearing Metro daze.

Incredibly, despite delays, high fares, and general annoyances, Metro doesn’t always suck. Please—be alert and be safe. It can happen to anyone at anytime.
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Finally, the media picks up that radio problems plague Metro (Examiner)
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