Metropolitan police attempt to stunt robbery spike

The Metropolitan Police Department is ramping up tactics to shrink the number of robberies of electronics, which have accounted for nearly half the District’s robberies so far this year.

About 40 percent of the 476 robberies in 2012 involved snatching cell phones, iPods or tablets, according to MPD data. D.C. saw 4,146 total robberies last year, a slightly higher total than the 4,028 in 2010.

Allison Elfring

The unit began offering rewards up to $10,000 in late January for those who turn in robbery suspects or others who are illegally selling electronics, MPD spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said.

MPD Chief Cathy Lanier held a press conference Feb. 10 with Mayor Vincent Gray warning against electronics-targeted robberies. Gray touched on the issue in his State of the District address last week, saying MPD is working with the federal government and cell phone carriers to “render stolen devices useless” in response to a spike in robberies this year compared to the same time frame last year.

“Now we want to get the message out about how you can help give us information about who is committing robberies where electronic devices have been taken or who is illegally selling electronic devices,” Crump said. “Police want to make turning someone in for these crimes more profitable for folks that give them information than it is for those committing the robberies.”

As of Feb. 7, Crump said the department has arrested 141 suspects for robberies and is encouraging individuals to text message tips. The texting program, which saw 292 tips when it began in 2008, received 1,225 messages in 2011.

Three robberies hit the Foggy Bottom Campus this year as of Feb. 10, the University Police Department crime log shows.

UPD Chief Kevin Hay commended MPD’s new strategies.

“Once word gets out that arrests are being made as a result of reward generated tips, robbery numbers will decrease,” Hay said.

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