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Lanier: Police working to catch armed robbers

Friday - 2/24/2012, 7:17am  ET

Cathy Lanier (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier says D.C. is working with neighboring police departments. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - There's been a significant spike in armed robberies in D.C. since October 2011, but police now say they are making a dent in the problem.

In the Second District alone, there have been 46 armed robberies since Jan. 1, 2012, up from 28 during the same time last year.

Citywide, there have been 235 arrests for robbery so far in 2012. In the Second District, there have been 13 arrests, including three juveniles.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier says she now has nearly 300 officers dedicating their time to reducing robberies all over the city. They've been using all sorts of different techniques to catch the bad guys.

"Very shortly here we're going to announce the results of all that, and I think people will see just the amount of exhaustive resources we've put into this. And it's working," Lanier says.

She says an announcement will come in as soon as 10 days.

Assistant Police Chief Alfred Durham says it's tough to catch some of these people.

"These bandits are coming up and just hitting folks from behind, and that's one of the reasons why we can't make the arrests because they never saw what hit them. Next thing you know they're robbed, and a lot of the folks are getting knocked out and have to go to the hospital," says Durham.

In most of these cases, police are looking for between one and three black males, sometimes with their faces partially covered with masks. Sometimes the robbers use a car.

Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes says in recent days, officers have identified some possible suspects tied to recent armed robberies in the Second District.

At a community meeting at Alice Deal Middle School Thursday night, several residents had a common safety concern.

"Military Road is severely, poorly lit," says one woman.

A second woman stood up to say she was assaulted and robbed recently, and she is pregnant.

"I cannot tell you how terrifying that experience was for me," she says, adding that several main roads in the area are not well lit at night.

"I don't understand why it's not being done. How come we don't have lights in those areas?" she asked.,

In response, Deputy Mayor Paul Quander says if he can get the addresses of places where residents think a lack of light at night is giving robbers a place to hide, he can send crews out to check the status of the lighting.

Lanier says officers recently make some important arrests.

"Folks that we believe were canvassing to do robberies. One of which had a gun in his bag and it turned out to be a BB gun."

In another case, police stopped three people in a car with masks and guns.

Lanier says her department continues to work closely with other neighboring police departments to fight the problem.

"We were working with Montgomery County in D.C. this whole week, together in the same cars in the same operation doing stuff together. They have the same problem on their side that we have on our side," Lanier says.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)