GW removed the benches from outside the 7-Eleven near Mitchell Hall this summer, eliminating a popular space for homeless people to congregate.
In an area where harassment complaints about the homeless people on the benches are common, two officers in the University Police Department said removing the benches have been effective in preventing the issue. There have been five crimes reported to UPD near the 7-Eleven in Mitchell Hall this semester, including panhandling, unlawful entry and disorderly conduct.
There were six cases of panhandling, unlawful entry and disorderly conduct in the same time frame last fall. There were eight total incidents reported at that location last academic year, according to the University’s crime log.
One UPD officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media, said officials had been getting a lot of complaints about the homeless people there and made a “strategic decision” to remove the benches to alleviate the problem.
“If there are benches there, there are homeless people there,” the officer said.
Another UPD officer said he has noticed a decline in complaints related to the homeless people near the business since the benches were removed.
University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said in an email that GW “updated” the area around Mitchell Hall this past summer, but declined to say whether or not the harassment issues there contributed to the University’s decision to remove the benches.
“The University regularly completes beautification projects around campus,” he said.
There have been three cases of harassment in the 7-Eleven and Mitchell Hall reported to UPD since March. Some incidents at that area involve individuals who had been previously barred from campus that are found lingering there.
Earlier this year, officers from the Metropolitan Police Department arrested a man after he threatened UPD officers who tried to detain him. He had been sitting on the benches and harassing patrons of the store. Last year, UPD officers arrested a man who was yelling, throwing things at customers and threatening officers in the store. Two years ago, MPD officers arrested a man who had been barred from campus three times for harassing patrons outside the 7-Eleven.