Friday Question of the Day

Are we overly obsessed about crime?



I truly and genuinely feel that crime is overrated in terms of our day to day lives. Yes I hate it. I get infuriated when I hear (about) gunshots or muggings etc. but does it really affect your day to day life. I mean sometimes I won’t walk home late at night but don’t we obsess about crime a little too much.

48 Comment

  • I think a big part of it is that we’ve gotten used to living with it. We’ll tell friends “It’s not as bad as all that,” but when, like happened with me tonight, a friend suggests having a party at night in the back lot, my first reaction is “that’s not a good idea.” If there wasn’t that issue here, I wouldn’t have a problem with a bunch of my friends hanging out behind my house at night, or walking around at night with my iPhone, or leaving chairs/bike/grill on the porch. In Hagerstown, you never worried about those things.

    However, I don’t think it’s fair to characterize Petworth as worse or better than anywhere else in the city. Crime is an issue living in any city. I hide expensive stuff and am wary at night just as much in Georgetown as in Petworth.

    In my personal experience, the scariest thing I’ve encountered so far (knock wood) is people getting in fights on the street. And when you think of what’s possible, it’s not that serious.

  • I sometimes think we are too obsessed, but after

    1- last weekend, when the house across the street was shot at several times (and a bullet went through the house and hit the back wall)

    2- last night (when I came home from grocery shopping and couldn’t park in front of my house because some asshole in a minivan with MD plates was there, and he was trying to score drugs, evident from his quick trip down the alley behind our house and subsequent longing gazes up our street/idling out front when his connection was apparently AWOL)

    3- the rumor that the idiot landlord a half block down the street moved the local dealer in to make all his other residents move out so he can convert to condos

    I don’t think we are obsessed enough. Or we are obsessed moreso and frustrated that we can’t apparently do anything about it? At this point I am going to just put cameras outside and make a webpage to document everything, because if I can put two and two together and make four, why can’t the police? Do I have to give them license plate numbers? Take pictures? Go out and score myself and record it? I don’t know. Anyway, yeah, I guess I am obsessed. I am not dumb, and I am careful wherever I go in the city, but this kind of shit is ridiculous. Is someone living on our street going to actually have to take a bullet to make someone do something? Or will that all be for nothing, too? I suspect the latter, should it come to that.

    Granted, the people on my street are 90 percent nice, but it is that 10 percent (or even less) that ruins it for everyone.

  • It’s just a reality of the city. If you live here you’re on a timer – something is going to happen sooner or later. For most of us it’ll be a car broken into or stolen, maybe something taken from a porch or backyard, and for the unlucky few a direct violent crime like mugging, assault, etc.

    Communities only succeed when they lift up everyone, and as long as we leave generations of young men sitting on street corners they will continue to weigh us down.

  • My car was stolen as soon as I moved to Petworth.

  • I often think that my attitudes about crime are as much a product of my age,(51) as they are of “reality.” I was actually less wary of the city during the height of the crack epidemic, which, duh-makes no sense at all. I won’t say I have become cloistered-but I am more aware of my surroundings. And yes, I can occasionally feel butterflies when I am walking and a group of young men are walking in my direction.
    Then-alas- there are days when I curse the ground these knuckleheads (also)
    walk on.

  • As someone who is about to move to DC…. I know you all have me freaked out a little bit. The crime topic is all over the place. The number one question on the city data forums is- What areas are safe?

    The standard response seems to be that this is what happens when you live in a city. However, I have known one person who has been mugged in the New York and that was probably 10 years ago on the Upper West Side. There is crime in Harlem but it is pretty much not random. The victim always knows the assailant and it is generally drug related. A guy was shot on our front stoop a few months ago (paralyzed from the waist down)but he was up to something and he knew the person/persons who did it. Our building had the crime scene posters up for months! I have heard gun shots and someone was stabbed on the block. I just don’t think about it much because it is NEVER random. I taught a night class in the South Bronx late at night and had zero problems. I would have no qualms about walking by myself late at night in Harlem.

    It just seems like a lot more random people get mugged/assaulted in DC. Almost every person who comes on here either has been a victim of crime or their friend has.

    The drug dealing happens in all cities. However, the muggings appear to be much more prevalent in DC and that is freaking me out just a tad.

  • People can decide that anything is overblown simply by deciding to do so. I think we need to maintain the focus (not exclusively) on crime.

    Otherwise, we will forget that there is virtually NO MURDER, NO ROBBERY, NO HARASSMENT in communities less than 10 miles away. Places where walking in fear is unheard of. We deserve the same and lessening the outrage is the first step to complacency. The fact that people are killed, and injured, homes are burglarized on a regular basis in this beloved neighborhood IS INTOLERABLE. Don

  • I concur with Jeff- It’s a reality that we have to deal with. Crime is everywhere though. Since moving to DC less than three years ago, I have had two bike stolen (one from my my patio, the other while locked to a bike rack in Dupont), my apartment broken into once, my car broken into twice.

    That being said- last summer, someone broke into my sisters apartment in State College, PA in the middle of the night while she was sleeping, tied her up with an extension cord, raped her, beat her over the head with a wrench several times and left her for dead.

    Somehow, that kind of makes having my car broken into in the city, however many times, not seem so bad.

    So- am I obsessed with crime? Yes and no.

  • Since moving into the city from the MD burbs three years ago, I have changed my behavior and increased my level of awareness to minimize my potential exposure to crime. Most of what I do now comes naturally and I often forget that I

  • I posted a while back that in an informal survey at my office of the 20- to 30-something crowd showed that ALL the guys had gotten mugged and NONE of the women. Take home message was that it’s about the risks you take. Most of the guys admitted walking long distances alone after going out for drinks where the women are much more likely to take taxis. Other thing about Petworth – if you come home late at night, odds are you can park directly in front of your house. That’s a lot safer than having to walk a 1/2 mile from your car in Adams Morgan. I’ve been in DC for 14 yrs and haven’t ever gotten held up, knock on wood.

    Parkwood Person — really sorry to hear about your sister, that’s awful. I hope she’s ok now.

  • Jeff’s point of raising up the community is the reason why people are concerned about crime. Yeah, you might have been fortunate enough not to have been the vicitim of crime, but crime will always affect you. It makes you lock your door at night, check your windows before you leave the house, etc.
    And I think the reason why many people, especially community-concious folks like you PoP, continue to talk about crime is because you know that crime affects society as a whole, and that is why you remain concerned about it.
    Crime will likely never go away, but it is a fight worth fighting, if not for yourself as an individual, for the community around you that you hold dear.

  • There are many more good people in this city than bad. Living in constant fear just gives in to the bad. Be aware, but don’t be afraid.

  • The problem with all of this analysis is that the readers of this blog are a tiny slice of Petworth (POP, not a dig, just a fact) that fit a certain demographic. If you really want to get a sense of a community’s safety, you need to really look at the numbers, the types of crimes, etc. Certainly there are random muggings, (more than we would like) but like the person who talked about crime in Harlem, most of the serious crimes here are between people who know each other. Gangs fighting. Domestic disputes. Teens beefing.

    To be honest, a lot of of readers are in their twenties, grew up in the suburbs, and are adjusting to life in the City. Is the crime too high? Undoubtedly. Does anyone deserve to be the victim of a crime? No. But I think many of us are just screaming to be victims. We have shoddy locks on our doors, unsecured windows, and expensive property in view. We walk around alone listening to iPods, talking on cell phones… these are things that people who spent years in a city not to do – particularly in heavily residential neighborhoods without a great deal of foot traffic.

    Each of us made the decision to move to a “transitional area.” We did not select Georgetown, DuPont, Foggy Bottom, Cleveland Park or Tenleytown, each of us for a variety of reasons. But we all knew going in to this that the neighborhood had challenges. We cannot move in and expect crime to disappear over night. We also cannot expect the resentment that some long-time residents feel towards our being here to disappear over night.

    All we can do is keep plugging forward. We have to be a part of the community and get to know our neighbors. We also have to keep demanding quality police work and do our part to share information when we know something is going on. Ask those who settled in DuPont and Logan before they were what they are today what they experienced. Many of them would be happy to share their stories of how they reshaped their neighborhoods.

  • Most people I know who live in DC have not been mugged, have not had their cars stolen and have not experienced any other crime.

    I’ve lived in DC for ten years and Petworth/Columbia Heights for five. I’ve never experienced even the most minor property crimes. I’ve heard gunshots, but that’s the extent of it. Maybe I’m just insanely lucky, but it seems to me that you only hear about the bad stuff, people who have never had a problem tend to not bring it up because its a non entity.

  • I agree with e. The people most likely to post to a blog on crime are those whose lives have been directly affected. There are hundreds of people for whom this has not become a personal issue, and who are not moved to say anything. The effect is that it appears as though the majority of people have been crime victims, when it’s not the case. From a statisticians perspective, it’s not a representative sample.

  • In DC crime is so localized, it’s a block by block issue. I mean, one block could see no crime while the one across the street has all kinds of violent and petty crimes, and it does usually correspond to drug corners.

  • I think we do obsess too much.

    I’ve been in DC for 25 years, in Petworth for 18 of those. (Foggy Bottom, Adams Morgan, Shaw and Mt Pleasant before here.)

    Have I experienced crime? Yes. One night at GW, 20+ years ago, in front of the campus security station, my boyfriend (now husband) was mugged at knifepoint. One night in Bethesda, 15 years ago, someone smashed my car windows. I used to work as a bank teller, and at the bank, 15 years ago or so, I was robbed at gunpoint. And most annoyingly, my house has been burglarized 4 times. (twice right after we got here, nothing for 16 years, then twice in a few weeks a year and a half ago. Yes, we now have a damn alarm system.)

    But still, I think we let fear dominate the conversation. It infuriates me to feel like I need an alarm system. This is not how I wish to live – locked in. No, I don’t take stupid chances and walk in dark places alone. No, I don’t ignore the reality that not everything is safe.

    But I love this city, and I will not allow overblown fear to shut me off from my city, from my neighborhood, from my life. So I stay here, and I love here, and I know that there is much less crime then people think there is, and much more of it is targeted. I watch. I call the cops when needed. But in the end, I live here, I love it here, and I will not allow fear to take that away from me.

  • I had a car window broken this morning – parked on 1300 block of Kenyon.

  • I lived in MD for two years. The first neighborhood 2 kids were shot in a gang related incident just a street from mine. In the second neighborhood my house was burglarized twice in under 8 months. When I moved to DC my car and renter’s insurance went down and I have been here almost a year. I know more of my neighbrors here in Petworth than I ever did in MD those two years and I do feel safer.

    I don’t think you should ever put the idea of being a victim of crime out of your mind in any place you are in. I also don’t think you should walk around thinking you are going to be a victim, but know your surroundings, pay attention, and don’t do stupid things just on the assumption that you will be safe.

  • Humans are built to try to protect ourselves, so the slightest possibility of death is blown up in our minds unless we’re sociopaths, this is documented.

  • Ironically, the only time my car has been broken into was in a gated garage at the Avalon at Arlington Square (aka Olympic Village). Not since moving to Petworth though (knock on wood, or, maybe it’s because I drive a standard, not an automatic).

  • I think I was more fearless before I got married. For example, a few weeks ago my husband and I were walking by the Target and there were a group of boys behind us- walking real close seeing if we would grab our bags and cross the street i guess. before i got married and probably if i wasn’t with my husband i would have joked with them and told them to back off. but i don’t want my husband to bear the brunt of my actions. he’s one of the ones who’ve been beaten/mugged in the neighborhood and is particularly vulnerable because of recent brain surgery.

    even though there is crime it doesn’t/can’t consume me. we went away for the weekend and came back to our house and the front door was wide open. expecting the worst, we entered and the house was intact. apparently we left the door unlocked all weekend and probably the wind blew it open. the front light was on and nothing was taken. so there you go.

  • SORRY – We are not obsessed enough. I can’t believe how complacent people are

  • Does the night-time open air drug market on our block count as affecting my life? What about the prostitutes who come buy the drugs or conduct business on my block? And the high people who hang out on the block? And the increased flow of sketchy men walking down the block? Frankly, I think we need to start obsessing a bit more!

  • Agree with ColorMePethworth. Let’s build a community ethos that gives up referring to 16 year-olds guilty of attempted murder when they shoot up the corner as just “teens beefing with each other.”

    I’ve always been amazed at the exceptional complacency with crime in the area — the justifications when some things happen just strain belief. I’m not saying we should obsess to the point that we can’t enjoy living in a ‘hood with all sorts of great things to offer, but don’t just accept crime as a cost of living here, either. That’s a total cop-out. If we all accept it’s eventually going to come for us, it probably will.

  • i second the point about each block being very, very different. I live on 2nd Street NW in Ledroit Park and where I live down by U street there are rarely incidents, neighbors are all out on their stoops through dusk, etc. Two blocks to the north by the public housing projects there are routinely shootings and muggings. I would not walk up there under any circumstances at any time of the day. I also read a lot about people being mugged cutting through alleys, which strikes me as a supremely bad idea especially at night (I get crime report e-mails and regularly see some victim was mugged while walking through an alley at 2AM – well seriously, you are pretty much asking for that unfortunately).

    If you are freaked out about moving here I would suggest visiting where you are thinking of living a few times at different times of day and walking around and seeing how it feels. You might also want to check crime maps to see where incidents tend to occur. And I would suggest you recognize that the choices you make – walk or drive, ipod or no ipod, cut through the alley or not – are a pretty big determining factor in whether or not you’ll end up a victim.

    Finally I always carry a little bit of cash so any potential mugging can end rapidly and without a beating to try to figure out if I am holding out on the guy.

  • The idea that Petworth is just as safe as anywhere else in this city is just silly.

  • I’ve lived in DC 28 years. Here’s the crime score in my household.
    Minor Stuff:
    Handgun found in yard while gardening
    4 bikes stolen back porch locked (on different occasions)
    hanging plants stolen back porch
    hammock stolen front porch
    Much prostitution activity in our carport yuck
    Being threatened by jerk stealing my newspaper with “shut up or I’ll put a cap in your ass”
    Car Stolen

    Major Stuff:
    3 muggings (husband 1 me 1 son 1)

    Really Major Stuff:
    Home broken into while Husband and Daughter present (8 pmish or so)
    Robbed at gunpoint
    Raped at gunpoint (daughter 13)

    I still love living here but all that stuff can wear you down.

  • People are “obsessed” with crime in Petworth and Columbia Heights because it is rampant. It is impossible to walk just about anywhere in these neighborhoods, at least north of Monroe, and not see crime occurring every day. I don’t see violent crime happen every day, but I certainly see public drunkeness and drug dealing every day. I suppose these crimes don’t result in direct physical or financial harm to me, but it is still there.

    Just because I haven’t been mugged or had my house burglarized does not mean that crime does not affect me. I have to take many precautions to keep myself safe. I have lived in other cities (mostly Boston and Providence) and most of these precautions were not necessary there.

    If you can’t wear your iPod walking home for fear of being jumped, crime affects you. Arguably, it does not affect you that much if that is the only precaution you have to take. However, if it is the only precaution you are very lucky.

  • Crime is under-reported by the only respectable newspaper in town, downplayed by the mouthpieces for the municipal government, and considered an exaggerated obsession by too many who live here. That people are willing to tolerate this epidemic of crimes, violent or quality-of-life, in this city simply makes it worse for all of us. Once locals ditch the mindset of “people moving to new neighborhoods are easy targets for crime” or “crime’s to be expected in a city,” some progress can be made. Until then, many out there are just enabling the behavior of criminals, not to mention the do-nothing cops and councilpeople who pretend this problem doesn’t exist.

  • Are you kidding me? You move into an area with a history of crime and then get pissy because there is crime? Stop with the indignation already. Should crime be accepted? Of course not. Should we work hard to correct it? Yes. Nobody here has suggested we be complacent about it. But you are nuts if you don’t think that being a newbie in the neighborhood does not make you more of a target.

    Obviously things need to change. But expecting our government or police to suddenly solve a pattern of behavior that has been embedded in the community for two generations is ludicrous. It is going to take years folks. Again, ask people who have lived through this experience in other parts of the city. It is a long process without a singular solution. If this is too hard for you, or if you expect an overnight change, then you are in the wrong place.

  • are we really using the iPod while walking home as a measure for how safe the neighborhood is? i know it sucks to be a victim of crime, but there are things we can all do about it. when i first moved to petworth there was always a group of people hanging out on the corner of critenden and sherman circle right by my house. whenever i would walk by them i would say hello and comment on the day or something. over a very short period of time they were no longer hanging out there. i got to know my neighbors, even the “recovering” crack addict who was always walking around looking for a fix. we would talk about his trying to get clean and he would ask me for money, which i never gave him, and i always told him it would be a bad idea. i got to know the kids around my house. i would fix thier bikes or buy a soccer ball for them to play with in the alley and keep in my carport when it wasn’t being used.

    when i moved to CH we had lots of problems with drunk people hanging out in our alley and using our garage (which didn’t have a door at the time) for sleeping. a combination of asking these people to leave, calling the police and just being around made all the difference. we still get people hanging out and when i walk out there they usually disband and leave. else they know the cops are going to be called.

    these are our neighborhoods people, and WE need to do something to make them change. expecting things to happen overnight will leave one frustrated. so will sitting around waiting for someone else to do something about a problem you have. get involved with your community. get to know your neighbors. be friendly. smile at people. talk to the homeless person who might need some help and see if you can help.

  • Of course there’s a singular solution: call 911 when you see someone committing a crime. Act like you care about the neighborhood you call your own (where you’ve paid taxes to earn the right to services). Demand that the police just do what they are paid to do. Stop making excuses.

  • Wow CP, thank you so much for clearing that up for all of us. Really, 911? What a great idea, I never would have thought of that. I guess we can now check “stop crime” off of our “to-do list.” I am so relieved that’s solved.

  • emikael-

    many people do not call the police when they see or experience a crime. so yes, it is a great idea. also, one has to keep calling and reporting crimes. change won’t happen from just one call.

  • 11th & P – I was responding to CP’s assertion that 911 was the singular solution, albeit in a snarky way. (I’m sorry CP, I apologize for my sarcasim.) I did not suggest calling 911 was a bad idea, only that it is not the “magic bullet.”

  • I agree that the crime will not go away anytime soon, and that calling 911 is fairly ineffective. However, the original post suggested that we are obsessed with crime and that it does not affect most people that much.

    It seems pretty clear that crime is one of, if not the biggest problem in Petworth and Columbia Heights and that it affects everyone who lives here significantly, even if the effects tend to be more subtle than getting jumped and robbed.

    Whether I am indignant or pissy about it doesn’t seem relevant.

  • @Schweeney: I don’t know what could possibly be worth living through all that. Your laundry list sounds like something you might expect in a depraved and lawless section of some depraved and lawless Third World city.

  • I have lived in DC since 2001 and Arlington for a number of years prior to that. I have had my car broken into on two occasions – once in Tyson’s and once in Cleveland Park.

  • My husband and I have had our share of crime in Petworth/CH- two bikes stolen and two cars broken into…HOWEVER, I can also say that one night a few months ago we came home (late) and woke up in the morning (late) to discover that we morons had left the front door wide open. Everything was in place, nothing was taken. I think it says a lot when not only is your front door unlocked but also wide open and absolutely nothing was missing.

  • I have not been a victim of any major crime… but I have definitely found myself in situations that could have ended bad.

  • Having lived in NYC back when 2,000 murders a year was common, DC seems tame by comparison. That’s not to diminish the crime problem here. It’s real, but I don’t think it’s rampant. I say remain vigilant, but don’t let fear run your life. I won’t stay sequestered in my house out of fear of being hit by a random gunshot, but I also won’t wander the streets at night talking on my cell phone or listening to music or being oblivious to my surroundings.

    Guns and knives aside, the biggest weapons drug dealers and muggers have are fear and intimidation. I’ve lived in “transitional” neighborhoods and I’ve seen them tip from dangerous to safe — the key was turning fear and intimidation back on the criminals. They grew intimidated because they were fearful that someone was always watching them — they knew that if they tried to sell drugs or mug someone, the likelihood was someone was going to call the cops or take down a license plate number or photograph them. The neighborhoods that never changed were the ones where people said “It’s not my problem” or “I mind my own business” or “don’t snitch” or “it’s the cops’ job.” Once you take that attitude you’ve lost, and you deserve what you get.

  • Does anyone attend the PSA meetings? Are they productive or a waste of time? I’ve been wracking my brain to figure out how I can be part of the solution in this equation. Other than calling 911, anyone have any ideas? For the record, I know all my neighbors and every transient individual in a four block radius. I really don’t worry and overall feel safe but there are certain elements (ie a portion of the House patrons) that the whole block suspects are doing unsavory things after dark.

  • We aren’t doing enough to prevent crime. It is embarrasing. The capital of the USA is a crime infested gutter. Meanwhile, police officers can earn $150,000/year.

  • I’ve been in DC ten years now, Petworth for 8 months. in my opinion, the concerns about crime are not overblown, although they may be in my far corner of Petworth (near New Hampshire and Missouri).

    I lived in Adams Morgan from 1998-2007. within 2 months of moving to DC, my car was broken into and the cheap factory radio was pried from the dash. $400 damage to steal a $30 radio that no respectable pawn shop would give 50 cents for.

    a year later, my car was broken into a second time; nothing was stolen because there was nothing in it to steal.

    a year later i was mugged at 9 pm on a weeknight less than 10 meters from Columbia Road on Quebec as i walked home from the safeway. 5 teenaged assholes swarmed on me and just started wailing on me with their fists; fortunately, someone in a nearby building yelled out the window that they had called the police and the cowards scattered. when the police arrived, they tried to talk me into not filing a report even though i took stitches under my eye to close a split, and i was pretty bruised up, because “you said you don’t think you could identify them, so there’s no reason to fill out the report.”

    my car was broken into a third time about a year later, on a Saturday morning at about 10 am while about 8 people watched. the cops were called, and they caught the little bastards sitting in my back seat trying to pry a speaker from the console.

    the last year i lived in Adams Morgan, 3 people in my 50 unit condo were mugged in less than a 6 month time period.

    so far, so good in Petworth. my next door neighbors are loud and obnoxious drunks who don’t keep up their property, but the rest of my street is made up of really nice, friendly people who watch out for one another.

  • my boyfriend and I were just harassed by a group of teenage boys. they tried to pull him to the ground out of nowhere. luckily some cars were passing and I think that kept them from taking it further. then minutes after that some young men that smelled strongly of weed went running by us looking scared and over their shoulders. hhmm??

    definitely not overblown.

  • I don’t think we are obsessed by crime any more than Mclean residents are obsessed by the quality of their grass. Your viewpoint is all a product of your environment.

    I fail to see how being concerned about crime, discussing experiences and sharing tips on how to stay safe is a bad thing.

  • We’re actually moving to Petworth (Georgia Ave & Quincy Street) in less than two months. It’s just about being safe. I’ve been in situations when I lived in a bad part of Boston, and you call the Cops. You do something. You can’t shelter yourself from everything, but just be smart and safe.

    I just hope the area we’re moving to isn’t TOO shady.

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