U.S. Park Police officers shifted their hours and their patrol duties to swarm the Mall in Washington, D.C., declaring the nation’s back yard “safe for everyone, day and night,” despite a recent string of robberies, reports the Washington Post. “The Mall is safe,” U.S. Park Police Chief Dwight Pettiford said. “It is safe, but just like anywhere we go in the world, we have to take our own precautions.” Pettiford promised to maintain the staffing levels until a sense of safety has returned. “The criminal element looks for opportunities to commit crimes,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is diminish those opportunities.”
Some sources said the entire length of the Mall was covered by only six officers Tuesday night, when two masked robbers preyed on six tourists, holding them at gunpoint, taking their cash, and roughly groping one of them. Recent crimes are the very scenarios that former Park Police chief Teresa Chambers warned of when she spoke in 2003 about the lack of resources for her department. She lost her job for her candor. “Teresa Chambers complained years ago, and I’m afraid she was right,” said D.C. congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. “This police force is underfunded.” Norton noted a contrast between the evening, when she sees no more than a couple of officers, to a day at work in the U.S. Capitol. “We are over-policed here in the Capitol. Everywhere I look, there’s an officer,” Norton said.