Call it irony, or call it bad karma, or simply call it lousy luck. But a WUSA9 crew is out thousands of dollars after it tried reporting last Friday on an offensively stupid new app that crowdsources information from users to determine which neighborhoods and streets are “sketchy” and presumably should be avoided.
Not far into Friday, the day the SketchFactor app launched, Petworth neighborhood had already started to get a bad rap. People reported it was a dangerous neighborhood with crime, that and it wasn’t safe to walk alone.
So the intrepid WUSA9 crew went to Petworth around 7 p.m. to find out about the neighborhood firsthand. But as they were on the scene, their 2006 White Ford van—-parked near the Georgia Avenue/Petworth Metro station at the intersection of 9th Street and Rock Creek Church Road NW—-was robbed.
“I’m not going to call it a sketchy neighborhood, but as folks were telling us, you know, it was a good neighborhood, and not much activity happens around there, as that was being told to us, our van was being robbed,” reporter Mola Lenghi said on-air as he reported on his stuff being stolen out of the locked van.
According to the police report of the incident, the crew had tens of thousands worth of property sitting in the van, including a $600 red Louis Vuitton wallet, a $3,500 black Chanel bag, $18,000 worth of Dell laptops, a $200 Go Pro camera, an iPad, iPhone, keys, credits cards, and other equipment. The crew, which consisted of Lenghi, a camera man, and an intern, were ultimately able to track down much of their goods through the stolen iPhone’s GPS and located it in what Lenghi described as “another sketchy neighborhood.”
“It led us to a couple of dumpsters in another sketchy neighborhood—-will give the eyeball test, you don’t need an app to tell you that all the time; we’re not going to tell you which neighborhood that was—-but it’s the type of neighborhood where stolen goods get dumped,” Lenghi said on air.
Theft is, of course, a crime and not something anyone wants in their neighborhoods. But don’t let the incident give too much credence to SketchFactor. After all, submissions to the app describe the activity near the Shaw Metro stop—-a station flanked by a gourmet muffin shop!—-as “large groups of natives causing a ruckus in the CVS parking lot near the bus stop. They drink and smoke. It is scary and uncalled for.” And as WAMU has reported, pranksters have started inputting mock hysterical reports of danger, making it even harder to determine what to take seriously on SketchFactor.
Due to an editing error, the headline of this story originally said that the van was stolen; it was broken into.