Foggy Bottom to have first neighborhood watch training

Foggy Bottom will have its first robbery prevention and neighborhood watch training next week.

Samantha Nolan, D.C.’s city-wide neighborhood watch trainer within the Metropolitan Police Department, will come to Foggy Bottom Wednesday for the neighborhood’s first training. She said she will teach neighbors how to prevent crimes like thefts and burglaries, and give tips on how to respond to officials if they are a victim of these crimes.

Nolan, who has lived in D.C. her whole life, volunteers to hold the meetings across all the police districts in D.C. She has instructed residents to change their habits to avoid “crimes of opportunity” for the past 16 years. The trainings would remind residents not to leave valuables in their cars or where passing thieves could see them. Nolan said she will also remind residents to cancel their mail or newspaper deliveries while they go on vacation to avoid drawing attention to an empty house.

Property crimes, including burglaries and thefts, accounted for about 82 percent of the total crimes in D.C. last calendar year, according to MPD crime statistics.

“We’re hoping to eliminate the crimes of opportunity so the police can use their time solving the other 20 percent of the crime that is more serious and not as preventable,” Nolan said.

She added that she has a separate crime prevention program specifically for students living on college campuses in D.C. and has already held a meeting at Georgetown University. She said crimes like thefts are a problem in all neighborhoods of the city, so the crime prevention meetings are roughly the same no matter the area.

“It’s a different process but the message is the same – to teach your neighbors about crimes of opportunity so it decreases their likelihood of becoming a crime victim,” she said.

Nolan said Foggy Bottom was one of the only neighborhoods in D.C.’s Second District that did not have a neighborhood watch, until she got a call from Foggy Bottom Association President Marina Streznewski, who suggested having the meetings.

Streznewski said she asked Nolan to come in after crime prevention trainings were mentioned during a homelessness task force meeting. Streznewski helped to organize the task force this fall.

She said neighbors complained about being harassed by homeless people and thought it would help for residents to learn some skills to handle crime.

“People don’t know how to respond when something bad happens,” Streznewski said. “You get harassed, you call the police.”

She added that she has noticed an uptick of car robberies in Foggy Bottom recently, especially over the holiday season. She said neighbors reported having their packages stolen from their doorstep or found that burglars entered their house when they left their doors unlocked.

There has been a more than 40 percent increase in car thefts over the last 60 days in the area compared to the same time frame a year ago, according to MPD data.

“Police can’t be everywhere,” Streznewski said. “You have to have the sense to activate the police.”

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