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Two Women Who Refused to be Crime Victims

April 29, 2002
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Two Women Who Refused to be Crime Victims

by Bob Levey, The Washington Post

Two crimes to report this morning, both with happy endings. Both stories star women who refused to let street criminals get away with it.

Story One took place March 27, at the bustling downtown intersection of 14th and F streets NW.

Marijke Smith had just sat down to have lunch at the Corner Bakery in the National Press Building. She was about to tuck into some of CB's famous potato chips when she felt "a slight bump."

Marijke had left her purse under her winter coat, and she had squished both coat and purse into a small space behind her. The first thing she noticed was a man who "started walking very quickly away."

Marijke checked. Her wallet was gone.

She bolted from her chair and her chips "without even thinking." By now, the robber was sprinting across F Street. Marijke shouted at him to stop. And she gave chase.

Within seconds, "a nice man" asked whether she needed help. Marijke explained as best she could, while continuing to sprint after the robber. The man joined her and began gaining. By now, a D.C. police officer on a motorcycle was chasing, too.

The robber apparently realized that things weren't going his way. He dropped Marijke's wallet -- contents intact -- into a nearby garbage can. He kept running.

Marijke recovered her wallet and everything inside it. Meanwhile, Nice Man and Motorcycle Officer continued the chase. They lost the robber in the Metro Center subway station.

Even so, Marijke wants to thank her fellow chasers. "I'm glad that there are still good Samaritans here that will help out a fellow human being," she said. "You can bet that I would do the same."

Interestingly, when another police officer took a statement from her, Marijke received "a nice lecture" about "not chasing robbers for a wallet."

I understand why officers always say this. They don't want to see a cheapie snatching case become an assault or a murder.

But during the lunch hour, at a busy downtown corner, what are the chances that Mr. Bad Guy is going to turn violent? They aren't zero, but they aren't much.

If it were my wallet, I'd have chased the $#@&%, too. If criminals know we won't chase them -- especially if the victim is female -- then they have an enormous edge.

Story Two took place about midnight April 5. Caron Whitaker of Northeast Washington had just gotten off the Metro at Union Station. She was walking to her home, which is about seven blocks from the station.

"As I was crossing the street, I saw a man in front of me signal to a friend to get on the other side," Caron writes. "I knew I was going to be attacked."

What would you do? Especially if you were alone?

I might start shouting at the bad guys to get away from me. I might start running back toward Union Station -- still fairly busy at that hour, particularly on a Friday night.

I might try something bizarre -- like running right at them while baying at the moon. They might decide that I was possessed of evil spirits and leave me alone.

Or I might drop 10 bucks on the ground and run for my life.

But I doubt that I'd do what Caron did. She decided to stand her ground and battle it out.

When one of the thieves grabbed her from behind, "I started screaming, pulled one of his hands off my face, bit, scratched the other hand and stomped on his foot, screaming throughout," Caron said.

He let go. Both men stood near Caron, apparently dazed. "They made no effort to grab me again, but they didn't leave, either," she reported.

A cab pulled up. Caron yelled for the driver to call the police. A tower of courage, the cabby drove away.

Then a woman stopped her car and yelled that she had called police. She invited Caron into her car. As Caron took the woman up on her offer, she realized that several neighbors had emerged from their Capitol Hill houses to see what the commotion was all about.

Caron is obviously happy that she still has her wallet and her life. But she's especially delighted that passersby and neighbors stepped up when stepping was needed.

"Most muggers seek easy prey," Caron said. She is proud not to have fallen into that category.

Even so, she says the incident was very frightening. "I am now scared to walk home at night" from the Metro, Caron said. That's exactly what a city resident shouldn't have to feel.

Again, police officers would say Caron was foolish. I say giving in to criminals is more foolish.

I'm not going to tell you that Caron's bravery nudged these two gentlemen into a different line of work. But she certainly sent them a message -- and herself another.

Please note that in both these stories, the victims did not have a great deal of time to think or plan. They could only react. But they did so in a way that said, "I have a right not to be a victim."

It's easy to sit at a keyboard and declare that every victim should do the same. I know better than to think most people would. Fear is a great leveler, and a greater paralyzer. Most victims would meekly submit.

But when two women refuse to duck big trouble, I salute them. They may lack brawn, but they don't lack moxie.

Mayer Smith says talk is cheap "because the supply is so much greater than the demand."

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