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Georgetown Crime Prevention Method Under Scrutiny

Joe Sternlieb, CEO of the Georgetown Business Improvement District (BID) responded to criticism Wednesday that a mass messaging application designed to combat shoplifting and other crime, is a method of racial profiling.

Georgetown residents, police and retailers are using GroupMe to get up-to-date information on thefts, fires and other safety concerns in the neighborhood. The BID and the Metropolitan Police Department partnered last March to keep the community connected with law enforcement. The BID is in charge of adding new members to the messaging group.

Following a critical report by The Washington Post, and speaking to WUSA9, Sternlieb said a very small percentage (about five percent) of the posts are inappropriate. When that happens the BID visits the store and retrains the staff. If it happens again they are removed from the group.

Georgetown BID has received zero complaints about the program.

There are 420 storefronts in Georgetown and roughly 380 stores are members of the GroupMe group.

"Merchants wanted to know if stores are being robbed. The store across the street wants to know that. You are less likely to be racially profiled in Georgetown because we train against it," Sternlieb said.