Reports of thefts surge by more than half on Pennsylvania Avenue block

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A former professor of oncology is suing GW Hospital and the Medical Faculty Associates for alleged wrongful termination. Hatchet file photo

A section of D.C.’s most famous street has seen an steep increase in crime since 2012.

Reports of crime along Pennsylvania Avenue between 21st and 22nd streets have risen almost 70 percent over the past two years, according to Metropolitan Police Department data. Most of the reports were for thefts, which experts say is likely because criminals keep returning to the same location after having success.

Thefts on the block, which includes the Medical Faculty Associates building and GW’s new campus apparel store, Buff and Blue on Penn, have increased 57 percent in the last year. The area also saw an uptick in violent crimes, like robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon, from four to nine incidents.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar directed questions about the increase to MPD, but added that the University Police Department “continually assesses crime trends and makes adjustments to our security and patrol operations.”

“Our preference is to not talk about our specific security tactics – if we were to do so, it would give people who wish to commit a crime too much information,” she said in an email.

In August, an MFA employee was arrested for destruction after he reportedly pushed a refrigerator into a vehicle. In the same month, the University sent out a campus-wide alert when a female student reported that two men took “a few dollars” from her while she was standing at a bus stop across the street from the MFA building.

Forensic expert and police consultant Ron Martinelli said criminals often attempt thefts “at the same place and the same time because they find that they’re successful. They won’t stop doing it until they’re arrested.”

Martinelli, who has led several undercover police operations, said there are several tactics for reducing property crime, such as increasing foot patrols and setting up sting operations.

“We also impact with education. We hand out brochures, we hold meetings for students and teach them how not to become victims,” he said.

A larger number of violent crimes have also been reported on the Pennsylvania Avenue block in recent years. In September, a female nurse in the MFA building reported that a male patient forcibly fondled her, and a suspect was arrested in 2011 for assaulting someone with a piece of glass at T.G.I. Friday’s.

That same year, a female employee at the MFA building reported that a man had threatened her with a gun.

Many owners of local business on the street, like ProEuro Hair Designs and Vibram Shoe Repair, said they hadn’t noticed an increase in crime.

Brandon Campbell contributed reporting.

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