The Washington Syndicate

Montgomery County Police with M4s patrol Silver Spring metro

Posted in Uncategorized by jmullerwashingtonsyndicate on May 4, 2011

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Graffiti at Brookland Metro Keeps Memory of Sean Taylor Alive

Posted in Uncategorized by jmullerwashingtonsyndicate on March 15, 2011

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A few days after the Redskins’ Sean Taylor was killed in Miami, Florida, a spray-painted memorial mural, written in the team’s colors, appeared on the northbound wall of the Brookland Metro station where it remains today, untouched. The mural, painted in burgundy, gold, and white, is seen by tens of thousands of Red Line riders going in and out of the city every day.

Taylor, 24, was in his fourth year with the Redskins. In the twelfth week of the 2007 season he had 5 interceptions — third in the league, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. His reputation as one of the hardest hitting players in the league and his all-out style of play had endeared him to fans.

News of his death during a home invasion on November 27, 2007 quickly spread across the region, leaving his teammates and fans in a state of disbelief and grief. While the Redskins organization honored Taylor’s memory on the field, an established DC graffiti artist took to the red line in a public display of deference. 

“The Red Line has been a hot spot since the mid-80’s, but became the spot in the early 90’s,” according to Roger Gastman, a Bethesda native and author of Free Agents: A History of DC Graffiti and the forthcoming The History of American Graffiti. “If you wanted to be someone in the DC graffiti scene, you had to hit the Red Line.”

“The Brookland station, you can walk right up to it. It is a very good location, if you can pull it off,” says Gastman.

“The best writers interact with their environment,” asserts Gastman, citing graffiti as the fastest growing art movement of the past forty years.

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Beginning his graffiti career with the tag of “CERT” in 1992 at the age of 14, the well-known writer of the Sean Taylor mural declined an interview request for this article.

“The Red Line was CERT’s backyard. He basically lived there and owned it. CERT could disappear, but, to this day he holds enough respect that his spots will remain untouched for years to come,” reads CERT’s profile in Free Agents that describes his graffiti as “hardcore and illegal” and “always in highly visible spots.”

“Graffiti to me is my childhood, my teen years. That’s what I was about 100 percent. But I’m still representing. Don’t count me out. Don’t forget me. I can come back at any moment and in a month I’ll take king of the Red Line again,” contends CERT in the 2001 book.

“Whatever his reasons for slowing down, CERT is a true D.C. king. It’s time for him to sit back and let the mark he left on the city soak in. And like he said, don’t count him out. With a closet full of paint and heart that’s true to the game, CERT will be back,” Gastman foretold in the conclusion of CERT’s profile.

The mural has remained untouched since its appearance more than 3 years ago.  Gastman says there is a code among writers that is being followed. 

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“Brookland station can be considered a museum for DC graffiti, because of the pieces that have endured over the years,” says Saaret Yoseph, a graduate student at Georgetown University. “Brookland is unique in that the art is eye level. The graffiti is looking right at you as you wait for your train.”

Yoseph is directing, “The Red Line D.C Project,” a documentary exploring the “communal experience” of graffiti on the Red Line as a public art space. It will be released later this year.  

Rider Reactions

“What struck me about that one was here was a memorial to someone we actually knew–or knew of. So much graffiti is inscrutable. Who are the people named there? What’s the purpose of it? But this was one we could grasp immediately,” said John Kelly, a writer for The Washington Post and Red Line rider since 1983. “And then a few years later, just across the platform was another one that fell into that category: some memorial paint for Michael Jackson.”

On a recent morning at the Brookland Station, riders’ reactions to the graffiti suggested a sense of pride in the station’s distinction as the home of the Sean Taylor mural.

“If they cleaned it up we would be really hurt behind that one,” said Milford Obendorf, a Brookland resident waiting with his wife on the northbound train to Silver Spring.

“It’s been here since he passed away. People come here to look at it,” said Marquette Obendorf.

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“It’s real creative,” said LaWanda Swain, a custodian with Metro for 6 years. “He played here so they have respect for him.”

“It spices things up. If they cleaned it up then you’d be staring at a wall for 15 minutes,” said Mike Young, 20, a cell phone sales rep downtown. “People remember Sean Taylor because he shouldn’t have died. He hit the hardest like when he cracked yungin’ in the Pro Bowl.”

Numerous videos on YouTube have compiled Taylor’s highlights as a Redskin, including a tackle of punter Brian Moorman in the Pro Bowl that lifted Moorman off his feet to a point where he was parallel to the field.

However, some riders expressed frustration with the station’s illegal art.

“It grows and grows until they clean it up,” said Joe, an older man in a white dress shirt, a Brookland resident for more than two decades. “The kids that do it are talented, but they can put their talents to better use.”

As a regular rider of the red line for more than a decade, I can remember the walls at Brookland being cleaned, “buffed” in the language of graffiti, about five years ago.

“The graffiti is on CSX property, not Metro property. Typically, when we become aware of graffiti, our goal is to remove it within 24 hours,” said Angela Gates, a Media Relations officer with Metro.

CSX did not respond to email and phone call requests for comment.

“There have been no graffiti-related arrests or citations in the last year at Brookland-CUA,” said Gates who emphasized that the property is outside of Metro’s jurisdiction.

With no apparent plans to clean the walls and a lack of enforcement around graffiti, the Sean Taylor mural will continue to be a distinctive cultural landmark for the Brookland Metro station.

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Bum sleeping on the Metro, taking up both seats

Posted in Uncategorized by jmullerwashingtonsyndicate on March 13, 2011


On the Green Line the other morning at Ft. Totten.

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“Free Purp SW”

Posted in Uncategorized by jmullerwashingtonsyndicate on February 9, 2011

Washington Syndicate

This has been on the green line platform at Gallery Place for at least a week now, if not longer.

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XMAS Caroling on the Green Line

Posted in Uncategorized by jmullerwashingtonsyndicate on December 23, 2010

The Syndicate has been taking the metro since I was in diapers. We have seen many things over the years; smoking weed, robberies, sexual acts, fights, people getting saved, you name it The Syndicate has seen it all. Except Christmas Caroling. This is a new one, and we were lucky enough to catch it today on the Green Line.

He is singing the seasonal classic, “Silent Night” with the below lyrics in question.

Silent night, holy night!
Son of God love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth.
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth.

Unsuck DC Metro has video of the man who panhandles within transfer stations leading a full car in a stuporous rendition of “Jingle Bells” which then turns into “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and then back to something else here.  More from the same character here.

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Wash Examiner Nate Beeler’s “Revised Metro Route”

Posted in Uncategorized by jmullerwashingtonsyndicate on August 11, 2010

Notice how it’s the Red Line?

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Photo of the Day “Riding Metro in the dark”

Posted in Uncategorized by jmullerwashingtonsyndicate on June 26, 2010

One a blue line train last week that went “lounge” for about 2 or 3 stops. This has happened before while riding metro rail. It will most likely continue to happen as fares go up tomorrow.

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Will Metro re-name “Gallery Place/Chinatown” to “Gallery Place/Chinatown/MLK Library”?

Posted in Uncategorized by jmullerwashingtonsyndicate on June 8, 2010

Wash Syndicate's 2nd Gen. iPhone

This past Saturday The Syndicate attended the discussion at Metro’s HQ with famed designer Massimo Vignelli. The event has received print and web press as well as discussion on H-DC.

However, all discussion has ignored what jumped out to The Syndicate. One of the more interesting elements of the conversation was that when Metro first opened its doors the longest Metro station name had 19 characters. This was intentional and with forethought. At some point (within the past couple of years presumably) this limited character standard was willfully abandoned i.e — “New York Ave–Florida Ave–Gallaudet U” (30?), “Rhode Island Ave–Brentwood“(23?), and “U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo” (44?) as prime examples.

The wikipedia entry for “Woodley Park–Zoo/Adams Morgan” provides some background into the re-naming phenomenon. 

“Service began on December 5, 1981 with the extension of the Red Line to Van Ness–UDC.[1] Originally known as simply “Zoological Park”, in 1979 its name was changed to “Woodley Park–Zoo” because neighbors believed that the name was misleading, as the Smithsonian National Zoological Park (commonly known as the National Zoo) is located .5-mile (0.80 km) from the station.[2] The Adams Morgan neighborhood lies at the other end of the nearby Duke Ellington Bridge, and “Adams Morgan” was added to the station name in 1999 to reflect this.[3]

With this said, when, if ever, is WMATA going to appropriately re-name “Gallery Place/Chinatown” on the Red and Green lines “Gallery Place/Chinatown/MLK Library“? They should have been done this. The Syndicate has been talking about this name change since base train fare was $1.10 and before a coalition of raggedy/non-raggedy white guilt bleeding hearts somehow managed to make streetcars a fiscal reality in the city. [Ed Note — Just ride the X2 bus, you bums.]
We already have stations recognizing the Smithsonian and the National Archives. Why not MLK Library? We could also re-name the existing “Capitol South” station on the Orange/Blue Line into “Capitol South/Library of Congress”?
As an international precedent — in Paris, the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand has its own station name on the Paris Métro.

As Fenty, Gray, and possibly Leo Alexander (?) all bang away at each other as we approach September’s Democratic primary/de facto Mayoral election, The Syndicate wonders which candidate will take a true stance on an issue that is near and dear to many city denizens, giving the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library at 901 G Street NW its own metro station name!

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You know what time it is; Robberies on Metro continue to increase

Posted in Uncategorized by jmullerwashingtonsyndicate on April 20, 2010

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This is not news to The Syndicate as last summer I heard stories of youngsters robbing and mobbing for iPods, iPhones, and other hand-held electronic devices. With all due respect, The Examiner was the first print news outlet last fall to break down Metro’s crime stats clearly showing a spike in robberies correlating with an increase in portable personal technology over the past five calendar years. The Examiner has continued its close coverage with The Post‘s coverage noticeably lagging behind. The city’s paper of record was at one time on top of the Metro beat, but they aren’t anymore. John Kelly can’t carry the entire paper on his back.   

The best break down to date of Metro’s robbery crime trend and the history of crime on Metro is undoubtedly John Muller’s aka The Syndicate’s November 25, 2009 Washington Times article, “Metro Gets Safety Boost“.   

Below is the full text.   

Words of warning: Beware of pickpockets and snatch-and-grabs. Thieves ride public transit, too — and cell phones, iPods and the like are some of their favorite targets.   

Metro opened its doors on March 27, 1976, with five stations on the Red Line, from Rhode Island Avenue Northeast to Farragut North, covering just 4.6 miles. None of Metro’s 51,260 pioneering riders that March day was yet in possession of an iPhone or iPod. Now encompassing five lines, 86 stations and 106.3 miles, with the Silver Line under development, Metro is experiencing an uptick in robberies because of the proliferation of cell phones, iPods of all sizes, and designer coats and handbags. (The initial phase of the Silver Line, linking Tysons Corner and Reston to the existing Falls Church stations, is slated to open in 2013. The second phase, to continue west to Dulles International Airport and Ashburn in Loudoun County, does not have a construction date yet.)   

In May, Metro Transit Police activated a Robbery Suppression Squad. The plainclothes unit has made more than 60 arrests. On a recent Wednesday, five young adults were arrested at Gallery Place/Chinatown when an iPhone was used in a decoy operation, according to Deputy Chief Jeff P. Delinski.   

“What we’ve seen is a dramatic increase in robberies, particularly in trains and on platforms. These have not been carried out with force or weapons, but instead have been perpetrated by pickpockets in snatch-and-grabs,” Chief Delinski said.   

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Gallery Place/Chinatown, with its active night life, sports venue and proximity to restaurants, movies and shopping, has become “D.C.’s Times Square,” the deputy chief says. Metro has responded by deploying a dozen officers Friday and Saturday nights, complemented by the presence of Metropolitan Police.   

Between 7 and 8 p.m., three uniformed transit officers are visible patrolling the east side of Seventh Street Northwest, where the 70 bus arrives, and the south side of H Street, where many buses – including the 80 and X2 – arrive. Metropolitan Police are visible in cars and on foot as well.   

Transit police have arrest powers within 150 feet of a Metrobus stop.   

“Young kids, usually in groups, do the robbing. Or people try to be slick and bump up against you,” says Taylor Williams, 16, a junior at Flowers High School in Prince George’s County. She has seen people’s iPods, iPhones and wallets taken on the train and bus.   

“The Metro has designed itself to be one of the safest systems in the country. There are high ceilings and few places to hide. I feel safe on the train,” says Paul Lockaby, 25, a software engineer in Fairfax who has been taking the Orange Line into the city for four years.   

Others say they feel safe, too, though they have seen violence firsthand.   

“I saw a boy get jumped right there,” says Celeste Freeman, a sophomore at Howard University, pointing to the Seventh and H Street exit of Gallery Place/Chinatown. “Late one weekend, after midnight, these five boys robbed this other boy and threw him down the escalator.”   

“I feel safe. But if you don’t want your phone taken, don’t keep it out. When you play around, texting or gaming, people are going to take advantage,” says Ms. Freeman, a native of Wisconsin who primarily takes the Red and Green Lines.   

“Metro Transit Police are a very unique police organization. It is the only trijurisdictional agency in the country. They have arrest powers in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Wherever the Metro goes, bus and rail, is their jurisdiction,” says professor Richard Sutton, adjunct faculty in George Washington University’s police science program.   

“Officers in my classes were interested in how to better coordinate with other police agencies in the area. They were highly motivated and very curious,” says Mr. Sutton, a retired Department of Justice senior policy adviser who rode one of the first Yellow Line trains out of the Huntington station on Dec. 17, 1983, the first extension of the system beyond the Capital Beltway.   

On June 4, 1976, President Ford signed a bill passed by Congress authorizing the Metro Transit Police Department, according to Metro’s Web site.   

Today, 450 sworn police officers, 106 special police and 24 civilian security personnel serve 3.5 million people within a 1,500-square-mile area.   

As Metro has evolved, so has its crime. Initial speculation that crime would be rampant on the rails did not materialize because of the visibility of transit police. In Metrorail’s first year, running weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. with no weekend or holiday service, there were 27 arrests, the majority for disorderly conduct.   

However, as Metro has expanded, so has its crime. In 1979, concerned residents advocated for around-the-clock transit police presence at the Minnesota Avenue station. In the 1980s, Metro cracked down on its own employees as well as bandits who stole money from fare machines. Vehicle theft increased as stations with parking lots were added to the system.   

Also, like any urban police, officers are targets of gunmen.   

In Metro’s more than 33 years, two officers have given their lives in the line of duty. In 1993, 11-year veteran Officer Harry Davis Jr. was killed after pulling over a stolen car in the parking lot of Landover station. In June 2001, Officer Marlon Morales, with less than a year on the job, was shot at the 13th Street exit of the U Street station. He died of his wounds days later.   

“The same criminals who are up in the streets, we deal with in the subway,” says Gary A. Padgett, a retired Metro Transit Police detective who worked Morales’ homicide case.   

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“When Officer Morales stopped Walter Johnson, who evaded his fare, he did so not knowing Johnson was carrying a gun he had used to shoot someone in Philadelphia only days earlier. I truly believe Johnson was in the area looking to get even,” says Mr. Padgett.   

A routine background check by Morales would have revealed that Johnson was wanted for not reporting to his parole officer in Philadelphia. In July 2004, a D.C. Superior Court judge sentenced Johnson to life in prison.   

In December 2007, Metro police dedicated a new substation at 5315 First Place NE, near the Fort Totten station, in Morales’ honor. The District 1 headquarters coordinates transit police patrolling Metro’s northern stations.   

For fiscal 2009, 222.9 million rode Metrorail and 133.8 million rode Metrobus. According to crime statistics for January through September, the probability of being a victim of a Metro Part I Crime – aggravated assault, burglary, homicide, larceny, motor vehicle theft, rape or robbery – was 3.99 per million Metro riders.   

Through September of this year, Metro Transit Police have received 44,024 calls for service, made 1,490 arrests, issued 4,996 criminal or civil citations and written 3,821 fare-evasion citations.   

In a proactive effort to ease the long-simmering tension between working professionals headed home and waves of youths who ride Metro, the system initiated heightened patrols during after-school hours on Aug. 24 to coincide with the opening of the 2009-10 school year. Continuing from previous academic years, a daily conference call between transit police officials and D.C. Public Schools administrators has increased coordination and outreach efforts to improve student civility on Metro.   

In March 2007, as a result of student focus groups, Metro and the school system launched a public awareness campaign, “Respect: Give it. Get it” to encourage more respectful behavior. The most recent joint effort of the school system, Metropolitan Police and Metro Transit Police provides additional attention to 12 stations in the District and Prince’s George’s County.   

Though the total number of Part 1 crimes so far is higher than last year – 1,363 between January and September compared with 1,285 for all of 2008 – riders hope the decline in some crimes is a trend that will continue.   

Larceny is down from a high of 639 last year to 562, and motor-vehicle thefts are down to 123 from a high of 144 in 2008.   

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Feds & DCPS closed; DC Gov says report to work 1 hour later

Posted in Uncategorized by jmullerwashingtonsyndicate on February 8, 2010

Record snowfall has closed all above ground Metro stations. Photo Washington Syndicate


7:25AM _ The Syndicate has been watching NBC4 this morning since 5am. The streets within the beltway in DC and Maryland are treacherous with an earlier accident being reported at Georgia and Connecticut Avenue in Aspen Hill we can see the treachery out there.     

The Syndicate urges everyone to take it easy and don’t go around doing something stupid like trying to get Route 50 westbound.     

Mayor Fenty announced yesterday at 4:30pm that DCPS would open two hours late, but around 8:30pm the decision was reversed. The Syndicate knows of no charter or speciality school open today. All area school systems including area colleges are closed with many already announcing closure for Tuesday according to DCist.     

With an estimated 5 – 10 inches expected for Tuesday/ Wednesday it could be well into mid or late February that suburban areas are cleared.     

Metro continues to only run underground stations with trains running every 30 minutes. Limited bus service on only the mainest of main thoroughfares are running and service is limited. Also from the ist.     

Although the Syndicate does embrace and applaud Mayor Fenty’s esprit de corps the decision to open DC gov’t (an hour later) is misdirected and places the safety of American worker Bee inspired municipal workers, such as librarians at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, at risk. We appreciate the city’s rebellious spirit, but it is not business as usual. Take the day off and be safe.     

From the Examiner, “Along with the sheer volume of snow — more than 32 inches at Washington Dulles International Airport — the storm deposited wet, heavy underlayers that packed down into hard, icy strata that defied road crews’ best efforts. Winds then caused the top layers to drift, covering some already cleared areas. The little that melted was expected to refreeze overnight.     

The ice and drifting snow also afflict Metro, which on Sunday kept its buses and disability access vehicles off the roads and its aboveground Metrorail stations closed for a second day. It was not clear Sunday afternoon when regular service could resume, even on the rail system.     

“It’s slow-going, just like the roads,” Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato said. “It’s going to be a long recovery period for everybody.”     

Also from the Wash Examiner:     

“Snowmagedon vs. history      

The weekend storm hit near-record snowfalls, with as much as 40 inches falling in Colesville, Md., just north of the Capital Beltway. Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport clocked in its highest two-day snowfall ever, but only the second-highest was recorded at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport    

And overall the storm was only the fourth-highest two-day snowfall in Washington since 1871, according to the National Weather Service, in part because Reagan National Airport is now used as the official measurement spot.     

1. Knickerbocker storm, Jan. 17 and 18, 1922: 26.0 inches     

2. Feb. 12 and 13, 1899: 19.0 inches     

3. Feb. 18 and 19. 1979: 18.7 inches     

4. Snowmagedon, Feb. 5 and 6, 2010: 17.8 inches recorded at Reagan National Airport”     

 The North American blizzard of 2010 from Wikipedia


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