Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Any Other Victims of Violent Panhandlers?

Metro seems to be turning a blind eye to this problem. Back in April, a similar incident was reported.

From Erika:
I'm writing because I wanted to bring to your attention an awful event that occurred recently on the DC Metro involving my roommate. She is a graduate student at Catholic University and frequents the Red Line to get to and from campus. Last Thursday afternoon, while taking her routine trip to school, she was publicly attacked by a young man posing as a panhandler after she refused to give him money. I won't get into specifics, but suffice it to say that thankfully, my roommate was not badly hurt, but instead left with a headache and a small cut on her face after being struck twice. Following the assault, she said that her attacker sat across from her on the train, making threats (specifically, that "she was lucky that other people were around") until another patron escorted him from the car as the train approached the Fort Totten station.

My roommate has since notified the Metro authorities (at her home station of Silver Spring after no security was present at her destination station). She also notified a Montgomery County officer upon returning home, but has not received much support on the matter; instead, the officer said that he couldn't do anything about the situation because my roommate didn't need immediate medical attention. We realize that this may be because the event occurred beyond his jurisdiction. She did receive some information from a station manager in Silver Spring who said that this gang of aggressive panhandlers has been active for a year and a half. He mentioned that he has received reports of them spitting on and threatening patrons who do not give them "donations" (mostly targeting single travelers, regardless of gender/race). Despite these reports, the transit police have neglected to do anything about this. To our knowledge, the attack on my roommate is the first reported case of this group committing physical assault on a person refusing to provide money.

With little attempt made to do anything about deterring this sort of behavior, I think it's important to, at the very least, increase awareness among members of the greater DC community about this group's propensity to be violent. Specifically, Metro riders should be wary of African-American males in their early-20s who approach them carrying folders (presumably containing information about a charity that they support).

They wear street clothes and will often congregate near the Silver Spring station. One of these individuals approached my roommate by slamming his folder down on the book that she was reading at the time. I'm not sure that all members of the group are comparably aggressive.

I am taking serious issue with the lack of effort put forth by the authorities to put a stop to this. As mentioned earlier, several harassed people have come forward to the Silver Spring station manager, alone, and nothing has been done to alleviate these people's concerns evidenced by the panhandler gang's continued harassment of innocent travelers. That said, I would greatly appreciate any support that you are willing to provide to change this. Increasing awareness is an obvious first step.

Other items:
Cheaper SmarTrip cards? (Examiner)
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