front page - search - community 

Brookland copes with murders

Crowd seeks police substation, solutions to crimes

(Published April 21, 2003)


Staff Writer

Concerned residents flocked in unusually large numbers to a community police meeting in Brookland April 16, a little more than a week after a robbery left three employees dead in a popular restaurant there.

Extra chairs were needed to accommodate the rare crowd that turned out for the monthly Patrol Service Area (PSA) 503 meeting at Luke C. Moore Academy at 10th and Monroe streets NE. Residents, police and members of the media congregated in a stuffy classroom in the school, about a block away from Colonel Brooks’ Tavern, where the three employees were shot to death April 6.

"We’re still actively investigating the case," Metropolitan Police Department Detective Mitch Credle said, adding that police are "following a lot of leads."

Police said they have no suspects in the killings, but distributed fliers offering an $11,000 reward for tips leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

Fifth Police District Commander Jennifer Greene oversaw the meeting -- a task normally delegated to Lt. Shakir Muslim -- and fielded most of the questions, some of which came from irked residents berating police for not doing more to curb neighborhood crime.

"A …kid can tell you where every open-air drug market is, but the police can’t," one resident complained.

"Statistics are not what we want to see. We want results," another resident said as Sgt. Brian Christian announced that overall crime in the Fifth District is down 14 percent from this time last year.

Irritated residents assailed police for not patrolling neighborhoods more efficiently, many supplementing their grievances with personal stories of drug dealers, open-air drug markets and murders near their homes.

Some demanded to know why Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Councilman Vincent Orange, D-Ward 5, were not at the meeting. Some residents and local business owners are upset because Williams, Orange and Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey -- along with a representative from Catholic University and some prominent business leaders -- met privately April 10 for the first time after the Colonel Brooks’ murders and did not invite the rest of the community.

Greene declined comment on the private meeting but defended MPD’s efforts, while also acknowledging residents’ concerns, saying their attendance and input at the PSA meetings are valuable to police.

"I want you to know you have my ear," Greene told residents.

The commander reminded residents -- several of whom yelled over one another -- that PSA meetings should focus on "partnership for problem solving," a title the police department gives its efforts to promote interaction among officers, citizens and other relevant agencies.

"The police cannot be everywhere," Greene said.

Residents who want a Fifth District police substation -- where some of a district’s officers would be stationed 24 hours a day in addition to the main headquarters on Bladensburg Road -- at one point shouted "Substation, substation, substation!"

Greene affirmed that Ramsey "is committed to giving the Fifth District a substation."

For residents concerned that they don’t know when PSA meetings are held and that they knew about this one only because of the Colonel Brooks’ murders, Greene provided her phone number (202-727-4503) and Muslim’s e-mail address,

Some of the more optimistic residents lauded the PSA meetings and encouraged fellow residents to organize "orange hat patrols," groups of unarmed civilians that, often with help from police, trek through troubled neighborhoods attempting to ward off criminal activity.

Sandy Nelson came to the meeting to boost morale.

Nelson, 29, a new neighborhood resident, rose to her feet several times and gestured emphatically as she insisted residents band together to do what many say police are not.

"I’ll tell you something," Nelson said, "if you feel like the police aren’t doing enough, do everything you can do … let’s communicate, let’s give it to [police] and let’s work with them so that we can take care of this."

Nelson passed around a yellow legal pad on which she encouraged both optimistic and disgruntled residents to write their names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses so they could stay in touch. She instructed those interested in joining an orange hat patrol to put stars by their names.

"We’ll make this a project," she said. "This is my new neighborhood, you guys have lived here forever, we all work together on this. We are going to make a difference."

Among the longtime Brookland residents at the meeting was Rosemarie Elliot, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 50 years. Elliot said she’s witnessed the quality of life in her neighborhood ebb slowly over the decades and blames it on generational change.

"When my son comes home he says, ‘Mmm, mom, the old neighborhood isn’t what it used to be.’ I say, ‘No it’s not. Not at all,’" Elliot said. "A lot of the old people have died off."

But police have had nothing to do with her neighborhood’s unfortunate transition over the years, Elliot said.

"I’m not gonna blame all this on the police," she said. "I blame it on the people that live in the neighborhood. You don’t take control over your neighborhood, you sit back…well, you have to put yourself out sometimes."

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator