Dear PoP

P5110010, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

The “Dear PoP” letters are getting good this one had a picture attached.

Hey PoP,

So, what would you do if you found the back security gate of an abandoned house next to you wide open? What would you do if it were right next door?


Dear Worrier,

If I found the back security gate to an abandoned house wide open I would call 311. But before I called 311 I’d think to myself, wait a second, do I call 311 or do I call 911? I’d wonder does 311 even exist anymore? Then I’d mutter some curses and question why the hell they changed the 311 – 911 system. And ultimately I’d call 911. I’d also talk to some of my neighbors and ask if they knew what was going on. If I was feeling particularly bold I might close the gate a bit so it didn’t look so obviously wide open. I’d be sure to check back on it the next day to make sure it was secured. If it was still not secured the next day after calling 911 I’d follow up with a call to my Ward community outreach person and let them know the problem. Hopefully one of those two steps would resolve the problem. Let us know what happens.


Anyone have other ideas?

10 Comment

  • 311 does exist. It goes to the city call center. Call…definitly call.

  • There was a vacant house between my neighbor’s house and ours. We both started noticing odd things — like blinds being raised/dropped on the second floor, the basement back door was found open, thought we heard music coming from the house, etc… We looked up the tax record, identified the owner and contacted our ANC rep – he was very helpful and eventually the house went into foreclosure. It was recently purchased and a wonderful new neighbor has moved in!! The house was vacant for over a year and we were worried about squatters.

  • This is a very serious issue that should not be taken lightly. You could have people living in there dealing drugs and they could accidentally set the place on fire ect.

    I would recommend calling your ANC commissioner as well as DCRA.

  • As someone who has personally battled with this issue for over three years I can tell you what a hassle it has been. I have 2 abandoned houses near me that were being used to sell and use drugs at a disturbingly high rate. All I can say is that it takes persistence, persistence, persistence. Above posters are right in saying you should contact the DCRA asap, but also tell them you want to know what date they are setting for inspection that way you can follow up on it once that date has passed. Also, make sure the house is being taxed at the vacant rate which is $1 for every $100 the house is worth, WAY higher then if it is not being taxed at that rate. Having this change in status is a very strong incentive for the owner to fix the property or sell it. Last but certainly not least, contact your council member with your concern about the property. I finally had to do the last and included the fact that I had seen children playing in and around the building, which was true, and that started getting some attention very quickly. Good Luck..

  • JnDC,
    How can you tell what rate the property is being taxed? I’m not sure how to research this for the vacant properties on my block. thanks!

  • Go to the Real Property Assessment Database: . From this, you can find out the property owner’s name and mailing address. I would send them a note (or even call, if you can track down a number and don’t feel shy) letting them know that there’s a problem with security for the property. If the owner is a responsible person, s/he will appreciate being told. (I’d call the cops first, of course.)

    This page will also tell you the rate that the property is being taxed at (it should be 003 – Vacant). If it’s listed as something else, you can contact the Office of Tax & Revenue to let them know.

  • you can determine the vacant status here:,a,3,q,625194,dcraNav_GID,1691,dcraNav,|33420|.asp

    also look it up in the DC real property assessment listings (

    it should say “Tax Class: 003 – Vacant” if it’s being billed at the higher rate.

  • Why not put a bike lock on it (locking them closed), and see if it moves? They’re easy enough to cut off (get a cheap one), but if it disappears, you know you really do have a big problem…

    …I also find it tempting to climb in…but…

  • Feel free to try the above routes, however I think I got more of a “that-day”-current status of the property by e-mailing with my council member/Dir Linda Argo of DCRA or

    Malcolm Avant
    Office of Vacant Property
    Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
    941 North Capital St. NE Suite 7100
    Washington, DC 20002
    [email protected]

    Regardless, I would say the key is to get them to give you a date they plan to inspect, and follow up a few days after saying you were wondering what had been determined.

    I also submitted city service requests at to help draw additional attention to the matter. They have a vacant building “section” that you can file your complaint under.

    The more ways to draw attention to it the better.

    Also, as tempting as the bike lock is, you could be locking someone in…

  • Oh, and I meant $5 for every $100 the house and property are worth. Big difference…

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