Greater Greater Washington

Rock-throwers meet indifferent Metro employee

Groups of rowdy kids are getting in fights and throwing rocks in Hill East, on their way from school to the Potomac Avenue Metro.


The rock. Image from WUSA9.

They've thrown rocks at resident Tim Krepp while he was holding a child, and recently, hit him in the head with a rock as he filmed the incident on his phone. MPD has been working hard to try to stop the problem. The school principal and DCPS officials came to Krepp's house to talk to him and try to identify the students responsible.

Unfortunately, he's had much less cooperation from Metro. According to his account, he chased the latest group of kids to the Metro station, where a (non-police) employee was standing at the top of the escalators. That employee refused to call the police, saying, "You've got a cell phone, call them yourself," and, "Some people just think the world revolves around him." Metro has still not responded to Krepp's complaint.

We're some of the strongest advocates and cheerleaders for Metro. Our region wouldn't be what it is without our high-quality transit system. But it's tough to continue to defend Metro and advocate for more funding when the organization refuses safety inspectors access to tracks, keeps everyone in the dark about SmarTrip changes, discusses important issues in secret, doesn't follow up about serious crime and customer service complaints, and more. We want to support Metro, but need to be able to argue with a straight face that Metro deserves the public's support.

WUSA9 and ABC7 both ran video segments on the rock-throwing incident. Congress Heights On the Rise notes their annoying habit of referring to all places by quadrant. They say that the incident happened in "Southeast," conflating it with River East's reputation for roughness instead of saying "Capitol Hill." Later in the segment, WUSA9 notes that the kids are walking from their school "in Northeast." It'd be interesting to see if they still say "Southeast" if something happens closer to Eastern Market, or "Northwest" when talking about an incident in Eckington Bloomingdale.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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Want to know how to get results at Metro?

Fire people when they fail to meet minimum standards of operation and conduct.

Do this enough times and all Metro employees will get the message that the old way of doing things is no longer acceptable.

And boot Jim Graham from the Metro Board. It is idiotic to have as Board Chairperson someone who readily admits to rarely ever riding on a Metro bus or train, and who seems to love the cameras more than actually conducting oversight.

And since we're handing out pink slips, fire the geniuses who blatantly lied about safety inspectors being given access to train tracks.

by Fritz on Nov 12, 2009 2:49 pm • linkreport

I'm actually suprised that the Metro employee told him to call the cops himself. Usually, they just roll their eyes, sigh, and go back to ignoring you. Give that man a promotion.

by monkeyrotica on Nov 12, 2009 3:15 pm • linkreport

I got pelted an afternoon few weeks ago in NW by a bunch of rowdy kids between Dupont and 22&N basically because I was a white guy by himself and was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's happening all over.

by Victim on Nov 12, 2009 3:35 pm • linkreport

Board Chairperson...[is] someone who readily admits to rarely ever riding on a Metro bus or train, and who seems to love the cameras more than actually conducting oversight.
And booting the Graham-stander and replacing him with another pol on the board is going to fix that? It seems to me on of the driving factors in Metro dysfunction is the board is populated with politicians interested in many themselves look good, rather than transit professionals who might actually know something. The MD-DC-VA divide also makes for board dysfunction too, doubly so since these pols are only answerable to the voters in their respective jurisdictions.

by Paul on Nov 12, 2009 3:35 pm • linkreport

Eckington = Northeast

by Noah on Nov 12, 2009 3:50 pm • linkreport

like every other transit agency in this country, Metro has a natural monolopy - you think MTA workers in NY are particularly nice?

this is the reality of riding public transport - its workers have as much incentive to provide good customer service as the KGB

by David on Nov 12, 2009 3:53 pm • linkreport

There are a lot of things Metro can do better, but isn't this particular post a bit harsh?

This isn't exactly Clinton getting busted for lying about an intern when the whole thing started with a real estate investigation, but I'll make this point: the more the media pile on, the more reactive to, and focused on, media coverage that Metro leadership is forced to become. Also, the more opportunity that aggrieved people have to get their issues heard, without a strong fact-check filter. And the less attention that Metro managers can pay to core issues that may, hopefully not, generate cause for more situations later.

One other point: this environment of talking so casually harshly about Metro also makes it harder for Metro's Board and management to have open conversations about important policy issues, and increases the attraction of debating matters in private. The debate about the older railcars and putting them in the center of the trains post June crash illustrates this. Six months ago, any reluctance Metro might have had to put these cars in the center of trains was overwhelmed by public concerns about safety. Six months later the story is that Metro made an arbitrary decision just to palliate public concerns. Was Metro "responsive to public concerns" or "cravenly pandering"? That depends more on your mindset and on the expected response of your audience than on strict fact.

by Anonymous on Nov 12, 2009 3:59 pm • linkreport

I was in my car stopped at Missouri and Georgia avenue NW and some kid started throwing rocks at the car. He took off running when I got out and started calling the cops. He was alone, but it seemed he was just hanging out and pelting cars with small rocks.

by Lukas on Nov 12, 2009 4:01 pm • linkreport

Little brats are a plague o'er the land. Last week in Southwest (the only neighborhood that can be accurately summarized by its quadrant, since the quadrant is undersized and so little of it is residential), I was walking by Jefferson Junior High on my way to work and a kid on the playground threw his carton of milk over the fence at me.

(Fortunately, the kid had a weak arm and his throw landed badly short. It occurs to me that milk carton flinging, unlike rock throwing, is self-limiting. By throwing away something guaranteed to build healthy bones and muscles, the kid has trapped himself in a vicious cycle where he is too weak to throw milk cartons accurately, requiring him to throw more milk cartons in order to have a chance to hit anybody, which means he actually drinks less and less milk and thus becomes weaker and weaker. Eventually, he won't even be able to lift a milk carton. I think they made ads based on this premise back in the 1980s.)

by cminus on Nov 12, 2009 4:09 pm • linkreport

So a man has rocks thrown at him when far from Metro, then runs to a Metro station, and expects a Metro employee to fix the problem? I hardly see this as something wrong with Metro, why didn't the man call 911 himself? I'm sure this wouldn't have been a news story if this guy had walked in a store, and the store owner refused to call 911 on his behalf.

by Joshua Davis on Nov 12, 2009 4:26 pm • linkreport

Regarding Anonymous comment above:

As the guy the story was about, I don't find David's post harsh at all. The Police and DCPS both have negative media problems as a whole, but neither agency hunkers down and avoids commenting. I see you point, and that is a possible scenario that the WMATA could do, but it is not an acceptable one.

If the principal of Eliot-Hine can find the time to personally come over to my house with his schools MPD officer to develop a plan to deal with this situation, why can't Metro answer an e-mail?

by TimK on Nov 12, 2009 4:28 pm • linkreport

Ideally, Metro would fire these people. They see someone assaulted, and cannot even be bothered to call police, let alone help themselves. Of course they won't be fired:
the Metro bus driver who ran over a pedestrian crossing with the light wasn't fired until the media went bonkers, and the Union is still fighting it.

by SJE on Nov 12, 2009 4:31 pm • linkreport

Joshua Davis,

It wasn't far, it was about forty feet, and the kids, who had just committed aggrivated assault, ran right by him as I chased them.

The reason I hadn't called 9-11 yet is that this was about thirty seconds after it happened.

These kids know full well that Metro is "safe" for them. They can do whatever they want, but if they make it inside the Metro station, they're home free. I'm trying to get Metro to understand they're part of a neighborhood, and not just a stand alone service.

And yes, if it was a shop keeper that responded this way, I'd be as pissed with him. And he would have even less of a requirement to act in the public good.

by TimK on Nov 12, 2009 4:34 pm • linkreport

Anonymous: I'm sorry you feel this is harsh toward Metro. I hesitated to say what I did, and maybe it's more a reaction to the revelations about the safety oversight board.

Maybe Josh is right and Tim is wrong, but I am not sure. Either way, there's a bigger pattern of Metro seeming to clam up when there's a problem. People criticized the SmartBenefits decision and the reaction was to shut down, not talk about it at the Board meeting, and wait to talk until there's a full answer. Every day I get stories of people frustrated that something went wrong and, more importantly, they don't feel like Metro is being empathetic.

Yes, it's tough right now at Metro and there have been huge budget cuts. But there's also a reality that lots of people feel this way, and are hesitant if not hostile to the idea of ramping up public support. Metro needs to find a way to start reversing this cycle, and being more reactive, more silent isn't going to do that.

Maybe Catoe can get all the employees together and say, it's time to turn over a new leaf, everyone in the organization has to make customer service a priority, and we are going to take action against people who perpetuate the bad image Metro has right now. Things won't change overnight and some employees will still screw up, and Metro can't just fire them willy nilly, but if we can get a story every day out there about how Metro has taken charge of making sure some rider's frustration got addressed, then maybe we can start turning this trend in the opposite direction.

It won't be easy, or quick, and people will keep complaining about Metro a lot, but we have to figure out somewhere to start, and the answer isn't for all the reporters and bloggers to just be nice to Metro all of a sudden and everything will get rosy.

I've been really nice and I don't post far more more complaints than I do post, but I'm really having a hard time with this.

by David Alpert on Nov 12, 2009 4:35 pm • linkreport

one always wonders where those Metro police are hiding whenever the juveniles get out of their pens in the afternoons and run wild terrorizing the hapless citizenry of DC. Of course- it is not politically correct to characterize this problem- as it usually means targeting minority or disadvantaged kids. However- why this is some kind of excuse or given as an apology for going completely crazy - and I have seen some really abysmal behaviors by some of these unsupervised teens over the years- it is beyond the maxims of any healthy socity to tolerate this kind of nonsense.Simply put- some of the worst aspects of living in DC boil down to the out-of-control kids getting out of school and randomly and pointlessly attacking anyone who happens to be within easy reach or striking distance. The DC police and Metro police in particular need to be held accountable for this- and the parents of these misbegotten future terrorists need to be charged with something in order to make the standards of decent society stick.

I will never forget the scene I saw a few years back when a small group of these " youth "
[ which is a PC code word for "thugs"]
ran down the Metro station platform at Union Station , in plain sight, grabbed and groped adult women for the entire length of the platform as horrified onlookers stood in shock and awe. It was worse than any scene out of the movie Clockwork Orange.Not one cop or Metro employee did anything at all to stop or even to identify or pursue these little bastards.

This problem needs to be discussed rationally - and all aspects of it need to be aired and not hidden.

by w on Nov 12, 2009 5:24 pm • linkreport

I went up to him and said “I’ve just been hit in the head with a rock, can you call the cops?” His response: “You want another one?” Somehow, I managed to walk away before my head literally exploded.

I'd be more concerned about the additional threat made by the Metro employee than his refusal to cooperate. That is so far over the line I wouldn't know where to begin.

There are good station managers in the system who wouldn't tolerate this -- this kind of behavior is yet another blackeye for the whole system

by B on Nov 12, 2009 5:27 pm • linkreport

@Joshua Davis

As soon as they entered the Metro station, the Metro employee was obligated to respond to MPD Transit division regarding the suspects (and that's all he was obligated to do). For the employee to be indifferent, dismissive, and ultimately threatening is entirely unacceptable.

by B on Nov 12, 2009 5:33 pm • linkreport

I saw some news the other day that mentioned somewhere along Georgia (I think in Brightwood) as "NW" for people who were wondering if the media would still call a slightly sketchy area of NW, NW. I think that the media doesn't think that anyone ever goes into DC. It seems pretty catered for the burbs, which kind of pisses me off. People who live in suburbs around a city should get to know their city. It's the only reason their homes and jobs exist.

by Cameron on Nov 12, 2009 5:38 pm • linkreport

I'm a little worried about the kids. At some point, some angry adults are going to buy some ski masks, get some sticks, and go all Rio de Janeiro on these little guys.

by oboe on Nov 12, 2009 5:40 pm • linkreport

B, quite so, and I would like to point out to all that Stadium-Armory is quite lucky in that we have some unusually friendly station managers. The individual that threatened me was not a station manager. I'm pretty pissed at myself for not getting his name, but happy I didn't follow through on my initial impulse to take a swing at him.

A more important point I should clarify. It's become increasingly obvious that it most likely was not Eliot-Hine Jr. High school kids. Their principal, Mr. Jackson, has been working closely with me throughout the day to identify the kids and finding out what school they do belong to, which I'll not name so as to avoid making the same mistake twice. My apologies to him, and the students of Eliot-Hine. Impressively, instead of telling me to go stuff myself after we found out where the kids did come from, Principal Jackson continued to work with me in solving the problem, telling me "hey, we're part of the community."

by TimK on Nov 12, 2009 5:56 pm • linkreport

There's so much black on white racism in this city that no one ever wants to talk about.

by SG on Nov 12, 2009 6:10 pm • linkreport

SG,

You're not wrong, but in this case they also threw rocks at my black neighbors.

by TimK on Nov 12, 2009 6:18 pm • linkreport

I tend to agree, in a broad, general sense, with Joshua Davis, and the anonymous poster. I am someone who lives in the area, walks home from that metro stop, and has been attacked by bored kids more than once on my way home. I have never had the misfortune to have this happen with a child in my arms, so I certainly understand that Mr. Krepp is experiencing a well warranted angst about the situation that I might not be.

However, I wouldn't expect anyone who wasn't in a security position to help me out. I would sure as hell ask for help if I needed it, but I wouldn't expect it - that is to say, I wouldn't blame a guy who just wanted to do his job and go home at the end of the day if his job was not to provide security for anyone.

by Lucre on Nov 12, 2009 10:16 pm • linkreport

No one asked this guy to provide security. He was just asked to make a simple phone call. Metro needs a culture change and as long as Catoe and the board continue to make excuses instead of accepting responsibility for the problem, things aren't likely to improve.

by MikeM on Nov 12, 2009 10:32 pm • linkreport

@SG

+1. But heaven forbid anyone talk about it.

by anonymous on Nov 13, 2009 8:52 am • linkreport

these kids have never been shown much respect. why would they respect anyone else? kids just treat others the same way they have been treated. We're lucky they aren't burning all the cars like they do in France.

by Lee Watkins on Nov 13, 2009 9:03 am • linkreport

It's legal to own a handgun now. A group of degenerates starts throwing rocks at you and you are afraid you'll get hurt, shoot the little bastards.

by Native American JD in DC on Nov 13, 2009 9:42 am • linkreport

Metro employee attitude: It seems that when Mayor Tony Williams tightened up standards for many DC government agencies, some of the Barry-era deadwood burrowed into independent agencies like WMATA and WASA, or at least their old attitudes did. It's time for Metro to clean house -- with a shovel, not just a broom!

by DC Metro Rider on Nov 13, 2009 10:03 am • linkreport

We're lucky they aren't burning all the cars like they do in France.

And the little racist thugs are lucky they aren't being strung up like they do in Iran.

by abolhasan banisadr on Nov 13, 2009 10:16 am • linkreport

My car was parked in NW near Adams Morgam recently. I discovered the windshield was broken in by what look like a brick (red residue). Some people who lived in the building where my car was parked told me rowdy kids were throwing rocks at cars a night before???

by kay on Nov 13, 2009 11:26 am • linkreport

Oboe wrote: "I'm a little worried about the kids. At some point, some angry adults are going to buy some ski masks, get some sticks, and go all Rio de Janeiro on these little guys."

And...? If you and pack of angry juvenile delinquents start pelting me with quarter pound rocks you're in the big leagues now, I really don't give a f if might look like Gary Coleman. They would learn a valuable life's lesson fast.

by Victim on Nov 13, 2009 11:56 am • linkreport

Being someone who was both born & raised in DC I can attest to the fact that there is a lot of black on white racism here- but it is not at all a uniform phenomenon. I also see a lot of ignorance of the city from whites & blacks who live in the suburbs. There is a definite class division among the blacks and the ghetto culture can be extremely vicious and unforgiving- especially to anyone who wishes to escape - and is branded as "acting white" or worse. These are complex societal and cultural problems that have been a long time developing and festering and it will take some time for them to work out- it will not happen overnight.

However- depsite the problems we see with the rowdy kids- there is much to hope for. This city has calmed down a lot since the 1970's- and all one needs to do is to go out on a Halloween night in DC and you will see a lot of parents - many ghetto parents from nearby projects - with their kids- that are some of the most polite people you will ever meet.Im not trying to be patronizing here- but you can see that they care about what thier kids do and how they behave.
We are also lucky in the DC that we have a large African immigrant population- and the kids in the ghetto can see that being a person of color can mean having a college degree and speaking 4-5 languages , etc..

So it is unfair to paint with a broad brush that covers everyone. Then again- this does not mean that we can sweep this problem under the rug and pretend that it is not there- it is. Too many of these kids are unsupervised and w/o anything to do- and the parents of some of these little crazies need to step up to the plate. There is only so much that a school system can do- the parents cannot have kids and expect others to raise them.

...And the DC Police and Metro Police need to be a whole lot more active in engaging this problem. They need to be VISIBLE during the times when schools let out, and they need to be following bands of kids and break them up- identify the real trouble makers and protect citizens and businesses. There is way too much apathy in the ranks of the Metro and DC Police. This is an outrage.

Also- people need to be a lot less forgiving and if they see this kind of anarchy- to step in- with others- when necessary. Kids need to know that adults are willing to intervene and cannot be bullied. Too many people -especially those who are new to the city and not at all accustomed to the reality of the big city- are intimidated and frightened. These are kids returning from school and they are not coming home from a firing range carry loaded weapons. There is far too much tolerance- and some of this - no doubt- is a result of the fear of being branded "racist" for trying to stop kids from getting out of hand. Then again- there are kids who are not necessarily bad kids- but are swept up in the bullying tactics and try to fit in by following the leader or loudmouth- so not all of the kids are terrible. they just need a little guidance- and help from the village around them.

Back in the 90's , during the height of crack epidemic in DC, many fearful people in neighborhoods established "orange hat patrols" to put eyes on the streets and idenitfy problems in the neighborhoods- busted streetlights, open /unsecured windows, etc.

Would it be impossible for some kind of orange hat patrol type of group to be set up- a group of voluneteers - to guard and keep an eye out when these kids are going to/returning from school? DC should also initiate more rigorous rules for Metro- possibly not allowing groups of kids to congregate or noise regulations. These kids are a real embarrassment to those of us who call DC home when we see tourists endure these ruffians - who are visiting from other countries where this behavior would warrant being thrown in jail or worse. We need to take steps- and I do not this happenning.

by w on Nov 13, 2009 12:02 pm • linkreport

The other big problem here is that far too many DC police are not residents of the city and do not particularly take any pride in keeping us safe and secure.

DC needs to do something about this problem- and it is a problem. The police nedd to be given some kinds of incentives to live here in DC- whatever that may be.

This is also true of the majority of DC city employees- they live in regions far away from DC and they do not really want to help because it is not in their own personal interests to help.

This is a no- brainer.

by w on Nov 13, 2009 12:10 pm • linkreport

Well said, W.

I should add that all of my neighbors, black and white, are disgusted at this ongoing problem. As easy as it would be to slip into viewing this as a "black on white" problem (and believe me, it went through my head), I prefer to focus on the numerous long-time neighbors who offered to help, the patrol officer who initially responded, the detective who followed up on it, the school principal who assisted me in finding out if his kids were involved, and the school resource officer from another school that came by to check base with me. If we have to sub-categorize people into "black Washingtonians", it would be a lot more fair to think of these folks as representative of where we live. Or we could look at it as a community problem and work together.

Which is why I sent this to this particular forum. As serious and thoroughly as DCPS and MPD have taken it, I have yet to hear from Metro. Other agencies get it, that customer service is not a "if you have the time" kind of thing, but integral to their mission. To say nothing of public safety.

by TimK on Nov 13, 2009 12:27 pm • linkreport

We're some of the strongest advocates and cheerleaders for Metro. Our region wouldn't be what it is without our high-quality transit system.

You are, and I don't understand why.

I agree that our region needs high-quality transit. That does not mean that WMATA needs to operate it.

For example, suburban jurisdictions run their own bus networks. Virginia and Maryland operate commuter rail and bus services. DC has the Circulator bus (though as far as I can tell they have WMATA operate it.)

There is no need to support expansion of WMATA. For instance, it seems to be assumed that WMATA will operate the Dulles rail and the Purple Line. Why?

It is wonderful to support transit. There is no need to support the ineffective, dangerous organization that is WMATA.

by Omari on Nov 13, 2009 12:37 pm • linkreport

I will even go one step farther by saying that supporting WMATA does not support transit. This agency is flushing money down the toilet and killing its employees and customers. Transit needs support. This agency does not. Handing more money to this agency may improve transit, but this agency needs to be cleaned up in order to help transit. Alternatively, find other ways to improve transit that do not involve this reckless cesspool of an agency.

by Omari on Nov 13, 2009 12:44 pm • linkreport

I was raised before all this new age (don't punish or spank the children) BS became popular. I did something stupid, I got a stick across the "azz" or a slap across the face. And you know what...I didn't do it again.

Nearly two years ago I was biking past Eastern Market and I got a rock, slightly smaller that a golf ball to the side of the face from one of two 13 year olds on the sidewalk. I nearly fell off the bike and it opened a cut on my face that bled quite a bit. I could see the blood dripping onto my sleeve. The kids were laughing their little hoodlum faces off.

In my rage I jumped off the bike and caught the one throwing rocks, held him by a handful of hair on his head and gave him an open hand slap across the face that was probably sore for days, as I screamed at the little punk. Two people who had been walking by, and had witnessed what the kids were doing (but didn't stop them) started clapping.

I let him go off crying and squealing. I don't know if my little hands on punishment stopped him from ever doing it again, but I can promise you he thought twice about it before he did.

by nookie on Nov 13, 2009 1:12 pm • linkreport

TimK

Thanks for the complement.
This is a complex issue but one that can be solved.
A little understanding is in order.
Yes- there is a culture of indifference among the police and Metro, a culture of entitlement that some of these kids have inhereted from their parents and peers, and a lack of energy on the part of the schools to do anything to try to stem the problems. It is a bigger problem than most are willing to admit.many people are fearful of these kids and retribution; I have heard the all too common
"I'm gonna bring back my dad and my brother"
in response to any intervention.
The Charter Schools are also a problem- while this one school principal might be proactive- I have heard very bad things about the Charter school administrators- who seem to be very very poor neighbors- after all- they are in it for a buck and couldnt care less about the trash these kids - not to mention bottles they break & the stones they throw at people.A big part of this is the fact that a lot of these kids going to Charter schools do not live in the neighborhoods the schools are in.Just like the cops- they have no personal interest in bettering the community they have no part in.

All of this must be addressed. Im very much in favor of some kind of preferential incentives for DC employees to live in the city. Im also in favor of a special branch of police or a watch group to look out for these kids and keep them on the path to righteousness and adulthood and to keeping them productive and out of jails.

by w on Nov 13, 2009 1:17 pm • linkreport

nookie- in my book you did exactly the right thing.

However- I have heard horror stories of passersby not helping [ I have experienced this myself] and actually turning on the victim.

This is a societal disorder of the upper classes and the affluent- that somehow we must have a different set of standards for the violent underclass- treat them with respect and fear- but deliver discipline to our own kids and have high expectations.

This is sickness.

Sometimes we must fight back against the barbarians.
You did the right thing.
They need to know that there are consequences to this abberant behavior.

by w on Nov 13, 2009 1:22 pm • linkreport

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