Growing NW robberies, growing fears

Police and community leaders come together tonight to talk about the dangerous spree of robberies across Northwest Washington. ABC7's Jay Korff was there. He reports on the meeting and talks with some of the residents who attended.

As armed robberies spike across the District of Columbia in 2012, including many of them in what are regarded as relatively crime-free neighborhoods, fears continue to grow about the city's rising problem.

There have been nearly 600 robberies in D.C. so far this year, many of them in Upper Northwest, and many of the suspects have been armed with guns and knives.

It seems many of the targets of robbery are people who are distracted by their electronic devices that are taken from them often at gunpoint.

Robberies are up citywide, more than 650 so far this year. And the 49 here are less than some of others police districts, but way more than the 28 here last year - up 75 percent.

"Lots of people are used to an environment where robberies are pretty common and this area is not used to that,” says resident Samantha Nolan, an anti-crime activist.

So Ward 3 councilmember Mary Cheh called a community meeting:

"It has really rattled the community and my idea here is to get the police out in front of the community to explain what they’'e doing," Cheh says.

For hardest hit communities like John Bender's AU park, police are not doing enough:

"The difference between a robbery at gunpoint and a homicide is a few ounces of trigger pressure and anything could happen if one of these guys gets spooked and all of a sudden we're talking about somebody's been shot so yeah it's scary," Bender says.

Police data shows that at least 40 percent of the robberies and thefts involve a smartphone or electronic device.

Hoping to stop the next attack, the well-known Guardian Angels have even stepped up their vigilance this week near Logan Circle, the site of the two latest attacks. The volunteer group is also offering self-defense classes this weekend.

“These are crimes of opportunity, Guardian Angels Director John Ayala said. "When they see it and know they can get it, then they take it, so we're trying to make people aware."