Capital Mall Robberies Break Unwritten Code

A recent spate of muggings on the National Capital Mall has spurned public outcry and a page 1 story in today’s WaPo.

The green expanse of the Mall evokes many emotions, but wariness has never been one of them. Over the years, the lack of crime has created an aura of safety that allows joggers and tourists, children and couples to drop their guard and stroll in the day and even at night. That changed in recent days, when a band of robbers used the elm tree shadows to surprise and attack six tourists walking along Washington’s grassy sanctuary under the spell of the stars. It was as if an unspoken agreement had been broken between the underworld and the nation’s icons.

“There’s no question that the Mall has been off-limits to thugs, and it’s no surprise that they found it,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). “But it should only be for a split second.” Norton, a race walker who strides across the Mall when the sun goes down, was angry that the U.S. Park Police did not double up patrols on the Mall after what happened Thursday. Twice that night, bandits brandishing a semiautomatic handgun robbed a man and a woman, assaulted the woman and fled. A similar attack happened early Sunday. “You might give them a pass on Thursday night,” Norton said of police. “But it was inexcusable to have a third attack on a holiday weekend.”

Of course, turning the Mall into an armed police camp doesn’t exactly promote the sense of sanctuary, either. Still, Norton is likely right in that the muggings may well all be the same gang.

The Park Police clearly have nothing better to do, as they are out in full force every time our Congressional Softball League team is playing, standing guard against the possibility that someone might consume a beer in public.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Julian says:

    Ironic since Norton made such a stink about the White House barriers and heightened security after 9/11.

  2. Bithead says:

    I haven’t been to DC in a number of years, (Perhaps 8) but every time in the last 30 years I’ve gone there, I have been warned to some point to stay out of the monument areas at night, unless I’ve managed to budget holdup money.

    So perhaps somebody can explain to me why this rises to the surface just now….

  3. James Joyner says:

    I’ve certainly been in the Mall area at night without any sense of danger. There are neighborhoods in DC–even those near the type of venues I’d otherwise go to–that are a little sketchier.

  4. DC Loser says:

    DC is a whole lot different than 8 years ago. Since the days of Marion Barry and Sharon Pratt Kelly, things have calmed down under Mayor Williams. After 9/11 there certainly was no shortage of police personnel near the White House and other government buildings near the Mall. Also, the DC Police have a competent chief under Ramsey.

  5. Lets face it. DC is a quagmire. We have lost the war for decency and should pull out. The Iraqi civilian death rate is 27/100,000. The DC civilian death rate is 45/100,000. Obviously if things are more than 50% worse in DC, we have to admit it was a mistake and withdraw. Who wants to be the last to die for a failed city?

  6. DC Loser says:

    YAJ, I thought that WAS the GOP platform for DC?

  7. Patrick McGuire says:

    How can such a crime happen when handguns are banned in DC?

  8. Ugh says:

    Lets face it. DC is a quagmire. We have lost the war for decency and should pull out. The Iraqi civilian death rate is 27/100,000. The DC civilian death rate is 45/100,000.

    Let’s see, if the civilian deathrate is 45/100,000 per year, that means that it takes over 2,000 years for 100,000 civilians to die in DC.

    If we want to quote the article a little more honestly than YAJ does, apparently this is the “violent” civilian death rate for civilians in DC. Unfortunately, the figures cited by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), in the Newsmax article linked by WAF only include violent deaths from war in Iraq, and not other deaths (not to mention non-civilian deaths). Or at least says well known left-wing moonbat James Taranto in his best of the web column here.

    So I ask WAJ, are you a moron or do you just play one on the web?

  9. Steven Plunk says:

    Is D.C. so special we can expect criminals to have “unspoken agreements” about where crime can take place? Is the congresswoman so special she thinks a couple of crimes warrant the doubling of police? Is this another example of how people inside the beltway think?

    Without advancing the idea of being a moron I think the issue many have made concerning the death rates centers on the fact that a great number of places in the world are violent and dangerous. Some of those places are in the U.S.. The media plays up the violent deaths in Iraq and feeds anti-war fervor. Putting the danger in perspective can be useful to disciplined minds. Statistics such as these can also be crap in the wrong hands.

  10. Former US Park Police chief Theresa Chambers, fired for complaining about budget cuts and predicting that this would happen, has been in “I told you so” mode all day.

  11. Dodd says:

    I love how the Post went out of its way to specify that it was a “semiautomatic handgun” – as if that’s in any way unusual. Maybe the reporter really is that clueless?

  12. James Joyner says:


    Yeah, I noted that as well. It’d be pretty hard to find a single shot pistol these days.

  13. Ugh,

    I assume you are writing to gain my attention since I don’t recognize a WAJ, but then you couldn’t be enough of a moron to make that mistake could you. Just a hint, when you decide to make a personal attack, don’t start by shooting yourself in the foot.

    Now on to the discussion. You are right that I took the MSM account at its face value and didn’t research it further. The article stated it was comparing civilian violent casualties, but you know those pesky MSM reporters and editors. Truth is not always their strong suit.

    But the essence of the post remains at issue. Given the disparity between the 27 and 45 deaths per 100,000, it is possible that Iraq is still safer than DC. So while I will acknowledge I presented an MSM article without checking it further (something I am likely to do again), you haven’t disproved the idea that Iraq isn’t as dangerous than several US cities headed by liberal governments. And the fact that it is even remotely reasonable to have the discussion on the comparison (i.e. that the violence in Iraq is not an order of magnitude higher than the violence in a place that voted 80% for Kerry) may prompt you to question what you have heard about Iraq from the MSM. This questioning of the MSM may in turn open up all sorts of intellectual horizons for you. Good luck.