14 June 2013

A run-in with kids outside of Frager's while biking home

By necessity, this is just going to be a narrative without embellishment. I just wanted to share this story because I mentioned it on Twitter, and many people responded out of concern for me and out of anger at the situation.


First, let me say that I'm okay. 100% fine. There's not a scratch on my head.

I was taking the Green Line home from work. We arrived at the Anacostia station, and the train doors were held open for over ten minutes. I decided to leave the station and find another way home.

I hopped on a Capital Bikeshare bike at the station and headed north, across the 11th Street bridge. When I got to the corner of 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE, I had to wait for a red light. Four kids were standing on the corner, next to the fence that has been put up around the charred remains of Frager's Hardware Store. There were three girls and one boy, all around the same age (12 or so).

One of the girls approached me and asked for five dollars. I told her I didn't have any cash on me. She looked at the bike and said, "You need money to pay for that, right?"

I told her, "Yes, I use a credit card."

She said, "Credit cards have money on them, give me some!"

The light turned green at that point, and I said, "Sorry, no, I have to go."

As I started across Pennsylvania Avenue, she lunged at me, pushed on my backpack, and yelled, "Give me money! Give me money!" a couple times, while the other kids laughed. The events of Tuesday on the MBT came to mind, and I turned around to make sure the other kids weren't coming after me. I scolded them and asked if they heard about the MBT assault.

The boy in the group started yelling, "Fuck you! Fuck you! Get the fuck out of my neighborhood!" At this point, I realized I could hurry up and bike away, but I wasn't in the mood to let these kids think they could get away with threatening someone on a bicycle, so I yelled out, "These kids are trying to assault me."

I moved my bicycle to the southwest corner of the intersection (in front of the dry cleaners) and called 911.

A gentleman came out of the dry cleaners and told me that the kids had been causing problems in the past, throwing rocks at the store's windows.

Two officers arrived after about 3 or 4 minutes. I told them what happened, and in which direction the kids went after our encounter. A quick check on the radio and the first officer was able to confirm that a third officer had some kids a block down the street. The second officer went to bring them back.

While she was gone, I spoke with the first officer. She told me that kids in the area were apt to do things like this, and that the children doing this get younger every year. The second officer returned a couple minutes later with a woman in her cruiser. This turned out to be the mother of the girl who had shoved me. The first officer insisted that the young girl be brought back as well, so a couple more awkward minutes passed while the first officer, the girl's mother, and I stood around waiting for the other officer to bring back the girl.

When they returned, the first officer asked the girl to state what had happened. She basically gave the full story, but claimed that she had just touched the bike, and not pushed me. The officers wanted her to apologize to me, which she did, but clearly not in a sincere manner.

The police told the girl she could be charged with both aggravated panhandling and simple assault. The girl's mother quietly told her not to be stupid and to apologize.

The officers stepped aside for a moment, leaving me with the girl and her mother. We stood there awkwardly as a light rain began to fall. The officers then called me over to where they were discussing things, and asked if I wanted to press charges. They were willing to lock the girl up, and told me that there would be a few hours of paperwork, but it was up to me how to proceed.

I told the officers I wanted the girl to learn a lesson, but I wanted to do what they thought was best. They called her over, and had her stand right in front of me. The officers told the girl that I had the power to ruin her life then and there, to give her a criminal record. They told me to tell her what I thought about the whole situation.

I told the girl that I thought what she did was stupid, and there was no reason for her to have done anything more than say hello to me on the street.

The officers jumped in and told her to look me in the eye, stand up straight, stop mumbling, and pay attention. The girl's mother, standing nearby, implored her daughter to listen. The police asked her if she had goals, wanted to go to college, and wanted to get away from the bad influences around her. They reminded her that her attitude and actions were going to damn her to a life of dead-ends.

Finally, I told the girl my name, and offered my hand to shake. She did, and apologized again (personally, it still didn't feel 100% sincere, but I remember how much of a sullen brat I could be at 12 years old myself).

Her mother said she'd be going home and would be on a short leash. I obviously don't know what happened once they got home, but I hope we got some sort of message into the girl's head.

As I got back on the Bikeshare bike to head towards home (yeah, I racked up some fees for having the bike out more than 30 minutes!), I thanked the officers and they apologized for my ruined evening. I told them it was absolutely not their place to apologize, and thanked them for doing a great job.

The officers remarked that, while the girl avoided a criminal record, they had her name and would put her on a "juvenile watch list." If she gets caught causing trouble again, there will be no mercy.

Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.


  1. I really wish they wouldn't put her name on a juvenile watch list. Kids will be kids, but it's good her mother was involved and the police, this person, and her did everything to try and let her know how severe the situation could have been for her. A criminal record for that could have been devastating.

  2. As the husband of a middle school teacher, I hear about this sort of thing from time to time. As a parent, I wonder if it happens because adults aren't setting boundaries of acceptable behavior for kids -- so they act out without being stopped by limits.

    You drew a line and set some limits. Maybe it'll help. I hope it does and am glad you're ok.

  3. Thank you for taking the actions that you did. The kids need to learn that there are consequences for bad behavior, and that all of life's decisions play a role in where a person ends up.

    If the kid is known to be a troublemaker, I have no qualms with her being put on a watch list. Hopefully, she'll realize the gravity of the situation (though at her age, I doubt she will have an immediate sense of how serious a situation she is in). But this isn't rocket science: parents need to be involved in their kids' lives. The neighborhood needs to help out. If the kids are going to assault people - be they fellow young folk, adults, seniors, whoever - they need to know that the consequences are real, not just idle words.

    Criminal records *can* be devastating, but without consequences for actions, without a real lesson to be learned, there isn't much of a point for rules. Knowing right from wrong isn't a difficult concept, though social networking, conditioning, and peer pressure can cloud one's view - especially the view of a young person who is just learning to spread her wings.

  4. Very well handled. So many of these children are "abandoned" to the street to do as they will. Your providing a voice of reason will hopefully give he a nudge in the right direction.

  5. Thank you for handling this the way you did. And a big thank you to the police for also handling it as a teachable moment and taking the incident seriously. Around my block I've witnessed several incidences of young kids (13/14 ish) breaking into cars as they walk along the street and by the time get the police there they'll long gone. The braziness to break into a car I imagine starts with more minor behavior like street harassing like you experienced. I hope you gave this youngster a pause moment and perhaps she won't be the instigator next time for potentially worse behavior that impacts others.

  6. Glad you aren't hurt.

    You did everything you could. Glad the mother got involved and witnessed all of it. Good job.

  7. thanks for doing the right thing..calling the police...waiting for the police... sitting thru the awkward times... and ultimately accepting an apology...
    the truth is kids round here dont get a lot of second chances and i like to think she will take advantage of the one you afforded her...

  8. I was attacked twice by youths in this area. The second time the police caught the kid a few months after the event and called me to ask if I wanted to press charges. If I could be assured the kid would go through something like the DC Youth Court or another diversion program, that would be one thing, but damning a kid to a life as a criminal in exchange for a couple broken teeth is not something I can do.


You can be curmudgeonly too, but let's try to be civil and constructive here, ok?