Overheard/Friday Question of the Day

Walking down 13th Street near W last Sat. night I heard a group of teenagers talking. One teenager was running towards another shouting “No dawg, this is a gentrified area, the cops’ll be here in two minutes!”. I quietly laughed my ass off at the time. But then it got me thinking. Do “gentrified” areas face less crime because there is the perception/reality that the cops will respond faster? I’ve heard other folks say that sometimes “gentrified” areas face more crime because “that is where the money is”. What do you think – does the mere fact that an area is “gentrified” deter criminal behavior because of the perceived police response or does it attract more criminal behavior?

15 Comment

  • How dare you ask that! You must be a racist!;-)

  • I think they get more police attention because new neighbors are more likely to call the police if they see something suspicious, rather than just walk on by and accept the same old stuff.

  • I was in the barber shop the other day, when the “g” word came up in conversation. Many of the older men were applauding said “transitions”, because they felt that there was ( and is) a correlation between an influx of more well-heeled neighbors and civic response on many levels. I think there is some truth to it myself. Part of the reason for this disarity, for want of a better word (and this also came up in this conversation-is that many of us ( and by us, I am talking about black folks) is because we don’t raise enough hell about crime, etc. (oh boy. I sound a little like Nate here)
    And frankly, many knuckleheads know that.
    But I also think that said knuckleheads would potentially choose these neighborhoods
    because they are what they are.. But what do I know? I tried stealing Sara Jenkins’s
    heart in second grade. And failed….. (sigh)

  • I think it’s a little of both. The more experienced criminal will more likely commit crimes where there is more money to be had whereas the beginner will prey on those less likely to report a crime out of fear of retaliation. Once these beginners gain the necessary confidence in the skills they will move on to better neighborhoods.

    As for the repsonse time of the police, in my experience here in Brightwood, when I moved here in ’93 there was a gaunlet of drug dealers on 13th Place (2 blocks from the 4th district Police station). I called the police 4 times in one evening for a loud party that turned into a street brawl and one gunshot. After an hour and a half one squad car drove by, ignoring the 8 or so guys that were still hanging around.

    Now that a few middle-class, mostly white (this is my own observation) residents have moved in everything around here has improved from the new condos popping up on Georgia Ave. and Military Rd. to the renovated Safeway and new CVS. I had to call the police recently on a guy who decided to move in to my building’s hallway. Four cars showed up in less than 20 minutes.

    Though this is just what I’ve experienced I, also, agree with Reuben that we (as Black folk) tend to be more apathetic in reporting crime…

  • There’s a crime camera now at 14th and W, maybe that’s one reason the police responses are so fast in that area

  • Are there two things going on here? First, it seems like there is a lot of crime between neighborhood groups – call them gangs if you want, but I am not sure they are organized in the west coast sense of gangs. The second is the robbery, breakins that probably happens everywhere. In this case, is it a matter of concetration? By that I mean based on population density. Does this sort of crime happen in the less dense suburbs with the same frequency, but is less concenrated so it is less noticed? Do crime stats back this up? I remember growing up in the ‘burbs in West Springfield and recall my mom’s purse being stolen out of the hall closet by someone posing as a Greenpease canvasser and other break ins in the neighborhood

    By the way this happens alot west of the park too. I recall some telling by about a spate of laptop thefts in Spring Hill. No window bars overthere!

  • Better policing comes along with more affluent neighborhoods. Period. Does that mean crime doesn’t happen in those neighborhoods? Of course, not. Crime is everywhere. However, the frequency of crime is far less, and the police response when it does occur is a lot faster. It’s not one of those things that’s simply brushed off because such activity is particular to such a neighborhood.

    Does under-reporting of crime occur? Absolutely. Many people believe that law enforcement doesn’t care anyway, so why bother? It’s a vicious cycle.

    There are so many factors involved. Does race/gentrification play a role? Yes. Does apathy on the part of less affluent residents play a role? Yes. Do the attitudes of some officers play a role? Yes. Until we’re all willing to acknowledge all parts of the situation, the problem will remain.

  • I think E-Girl hit the proverbial on the head… Well stated…. I recently had a conversation with a young man wearing a “Stop Snitching” t shirt. I asked if he’d feel that way if someone, say, knocked his Mom in the head -or worse..
    I don’t understand the rationale behind protecting people who spread violence and havoc.
    It’s not like these guys are, oh, guerillas hellbent on overthrowing
    an unjust despot or something.. Self hate is (yet another) crime.

  • I think the answer is rather complex. But I doubt race has much if anything to do with it. My take is that as gentrification occurs, the criminals are spread out. Take Shaw for instance. Many of the drug dealers, robbers, etc have been displaced. As such, if you sell drugs in Shaw now, most of your customers have likely moved on. Now if you are a robber, you are more likely to rob someone or be seen by someone that won’t have a problem “snitchin”.

    When I first moved to Petworth, a guy would sell drugs out of his car at the corner of 4th & Emerson. I was amazed that noone seemed to care. He was able to do this because the neighbors never called the police on him. Hell, he was their friend. And this was occurring in their block. Suffice to say he didn’t last long after I moved in.

    I have an apartment building in SE. I recently had a tenant comment to me about how he watched so many customers for the drug dealer in the next building over come and go all night. He never mentioned calling the police on the guy. You can’t blame white people or gentrification for failing to do something when you won’t take the first step of doing it for yourself.

    We in the black community have taken the approach that this guy is doing it to feed his family. Or he can’t find a good job, so this is all he can do. Yet, most of the drug dealers I see DON’T take care of the kids they have. Nor do they do anything to deserve a “good” job.

  • I know a lot of people who do care and do raise hell, and still get nothing for their trouble. There is a MISPERCEPTION that if you are IN the hood, you are also OF the hood.

  • Hello neighbors,

    I used to live at 12 & U, and I moved because the crime was getting so bad. I have been in Petworth for nearly 3 years and have none of the same problems. Yes, there is still crime, but I know my neighbors here, and they will call the police in a second if anything weird is going on on our block. In my old condo building, people barely spoke to each other and didn’t really seem to want to admit that the multiple stabbings, shootings, muggings and break-ins were actually happening and getting worse. They seemed to believe that because the area had become “gentrified,” there was a magic shield surrounding and protecting them from all violent crime.

    I could be totally wrong about this, but it is my understanding that the 4th District has a lower crime rate, in part, because of a highly visible police presence. When I first moved here, I remember how often I saw police officers patrolling the streets. It was in sharp contrast to frequently seeing police in the 3rd district with sirens blaring on their way to what I assumed was a crime in progress (NOTE: officers in the 3rd district work extremely hard as well!!!!)

    The primary difference, from my perspective is that people here seem to be more invested in the quality of living and our neighborhood. When I lived on U street, people seemed to be more interested in being near the “Hot Spots”–a frame of mind, that in my opinion, lends itself to viewing one’s presence in the area as transitional, generally speaking.

    Live well,

  • The last commenter has it exactly right. I’ve lived in expensive areas and I’ve also lived in the hood; from what I’ve experienced the more expensive areas get much better police response and the police treat the residents with at least a shred of respect.

  • The last anonymous commenter, that is.

  • Nobody is concerned about what the kids might have been doing that made them worry about the police coming within 2 minutes?

  • an old family friend was once asked ( and asked, and asked) why she chose to live west of rock creek park instead of a predominately black section of the city. she said she did because she liked a particular house, yes, but also because the services were better-including-she said, police response.
    i think its true. and the fact that this region is highly segregated makes the question even more complicated. but i can tell you this, bucks alone dont guarantee -oh-decent places to live and or shop… middle and upper class black folks in pg county JUST got a decent shopping mall-and their demographics still havent produced a decent number of sit down restaurants..

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