There is a CVS pharmacy close to my house, on 12th and Pennsylvania Avenue, SE.

Much of my Capitol Hill life has inadvertently taken place in and around the small pharmacy: last-minute Valentines for the kids; last-minute sunblock; friends’ prescriptions that need to be picked up now; last-minute pacifiers; a good make-up change; an ill-fated make-up decision; an impromptu camera film-loading session; a funky self-portrait taken in front of the Yume tree, a mosaic on the side of the building.  

The locals are eager to point out is the “good” CVS-- as compared to the one a little farther northwest, on Pennsylvania and 7th, which is overpriced and seldom has anything you likely need, but which caters to the unsuspecting suckers pouring out of Eastern Market Metro. And some of us go in often enough that we have gotten to know some of the staff by sight; others, by name.

So at around 9:25 am yesterday, when I was on my way to drop off my son at summer camp at the elementary school nearby and saw a fleet of police cars driving to the pharmacy, I loitered long enough to try to ask someone what happened.  As it turns out, the store’s ATM --which was in the process of being restocked-- was robbed at gunpoint by two men who made a clean getaway in a gray car labeled with an M on the license plate. This was what I found out via Twitter, thanks to alert friends and acquaintances who subscribe to the multiple alert services the city issues, such as Alert DC.  

(If you want to know more about what happened at CVS, you can read up at the Capitol Hill blog,  The Hill is Home.)

Because when I approached one of the policemen at the scene --one of several who were frantically loitering about-- he simply said, “That’s what we’re trying to determine.”

This is not an article to complain about the relative futility of having around ten or fifteen police officers doing the job that at most three or four could have handled competently; the alleged perpetrators got in, did the deed, and sped away almost ten minutes before I asked anyone a question, and they did not leave death, destruction or vital clues in their wake.

But it was a little funny to see this display of martial incompetence when asked a question that, had I not had a smartphone, would have gone flippantly unanswered for a good part of the day.

What if I had happened to spot a gray sedan with a letter M on the license plate on my way back home? Could I have done something or called someone? Shouldn’t informing the community happen at all levels, not just by broadcasting police presence with five police cars, a paddywagon and later a helicopter?

Apparently the power of a single tweet can fill you in more than the people who are getting paid to figure it out..  

All I can say is that I’m glad there was a quick police response and that no one is hurt.  Now let’s hope the money can be recovered.