Drive By Shooting on Harvard Between 13th and 14th

DSCN1122, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Good lord. I sometimes wonder if it is ever going to end. Right? It can’t be a normal way of life to have a drive by shooting around 4pm on a Sunday. I had gotten complacent about these shootings in the past but this one just turned my stomach. Thankfully, I don’t think anyone was hit but I’m not sure. I saw loads of MPD walking up and down the street presumably looking for shell casings. Not that this behavior is acceptable in the late evening hours but I find it particularly egregious that it can and does occur during the day. I mean this should be plastered across the front page of the Washington Post. Mayor Fenty and Chief Lanier should be hosting a press conference to discuss how this behavior will not be tolerated. Could you imagine if there was a drive by shooting at 4pm on a Sunday off of Connecticut Avenue?

How long is it going to take before this activity stops? Will I be able to look back five years from now and say to myself, “wow, I can’t believe there was a drive by shooting in the middle of the day right off 14th Street”? Ten years?

37 Comment

  • It saddens me to say that I do not believe that drive-by shootings will be a thing of the past in Columbia Heights in ten years. And unfortunately, the only untried Fenty-Lanier solution seems to be checkpoints, which they probably can’t implement in a high-traffic area like any of the cross streets between 13th and 14th.

    (True story: some friends got into a checkpoint on their way into Capitol Hill and after establishing that they lived in the neighborhood, the cops STILL ran their plates, checked them for outstanding warrants and inspected their car).

  • Good grief. I live in the 1400 block of Harvard, closer to 15th. I thought I heard 6 gunshots at around the same time today, but much closer than between 13th and 14th.

  • It’s hard to imagine how this will stop as long as there is such a large concentration of huge Section 8 housing complexes all within a few block radius on the 14th street corridor. Every city that tried that approach during urban “renewal” in the 1970’s has since realized how faulty that thinking was and has since moved to a different model (like chicago, which finally applied dynamite to many of the worst offenders including the Robert Taylor homes). Gradually that housing has to, one by one, go to a largely-market system with low income housing mixed into large development. Money from development rights can then be used to build a mix of much smaller, much more dispersed housing opportunities for low income residents. But having six huge projects all near each other does no one any good, including those who live there, as it becomes a magnet for crime, drugs, drive by shooters, and so on.

  • New2CH:

    Here’s why I wouldn’t expect large changes to the housing situation in Columbia Heights any time soon.

    Also, it could be worse.

  • I was standing next to my car as the man the police were looking for was frantically calling his friend to pick him up just west of 14th on Harvard. I was walking back to my house from the Safeway about five minutes before that and I saw the same guy standing at the second house on the right of Harvard just after the 15th street intersection (if you frequently walk by that one it usually has some shady characters on the porch – not necessarily threatening, but a little older and clearly not all there upstairs). The first time I passed him I took note because after I gave him the head-nod I said aloud to my wife that he looked a lot like Clinton Portis. When I saw him later in his frantic state I wasn’t sure what to think. A green suberu picked him up and they drove off. I figured he was just mad at his friend for not picking him up or not understanding directions. When the pack of MPD squad cars came rolling up seconds later and officers came out guns drawn running in every direction looking for someone I figured it was that guy I saw and called 911. According to the dispatcher, that was who they were looking for and the cops had just stopped someone matching the description.

    What I do not get about the story of the drive-by was that the suspect was on foot when I saw him. He had obviously either just done something and needed to flee or knew that the cops were looking for him somehow. Maybe he was in the process of changing cars when I saw him. If the driveby occurred after he was picked up by his friend, I didnt hear the shots that should have only been about a block away from me. If it happened before, he would have had to have done the driveby between 14th and 13th, then circled back onto Harvard west of 14th, which would leave him driving through the scene a second time on Harvard. It doesnt make much sense to me, though none of it does really.

  • Legalizing handguns is surely the solution!

  • This is such a complex issue to get into in this thread, and it’s off the topic somewhat, but there was a compelling article in the last issue of the Atlantic that argued pretty persuasively that moving from concentrated poverty into a more dispersed model has meant more crime in smaller communities, like Memphis. There are many more communities now that have a moderate level of poverty, as opposed to a few communities with a HIGH level of poverty (like the traditional urban cores), but moderate poverty has a very destabilizing effect on some neighborhoods that were already teetering on the edge of trouble.

    It’s really worth a read, because it challenges the idea that dispersal is an unmitigated good. Is it a good thing to move people away from the city center, where they are able to access social services without needing cars, for example? The article argues that mixing low income housing in with market rate dwellings has generally not worked.

    But of course, it’s not like concentrated poverty is such a great thing, either. So there’s not a lot of great solutions to this pernicious problem.

  • I am with New2CH on this – that must be a _small part_ of the solution.

    This article is of relevance:

  • Agreed – the concentration of poverty is not a good thing, nor does the ugly, institutional architecture of much of the low-income housing help the situation in that cluster. Maybe spreading things out into the ‘burbs far from social services would be a stretch, but Ward 3 should do their share, you know?

  • All of those section 8 properties have about 15 years left on their contracts. CM Graham is a huge supporter of those properties and is unlikely to do anything about them. Its a shame because its a terrible concentration right on about 6 blocks of 14th, harvard and Girard. Write to your councilmember and ask why he isn’t supporting mixed use. He just supported Somerset Development in their purchase of the cavalier on 14th which will be about 200 units of all section 8. I live near another somerset owned property on 14th and its a NIGHTMARE. But there is a lack of political will to say no to Section 8 concentrations in this City. How much section 8 is west of the Park in Ward 3? About 40 units…all of it for senior citizens. That should tell you all need to know.

  • Where can one find info on the remaining life of the Section 8 contracts? Is that public information?

  • I hate to be pessimistic, but the issue isn’t whether you can stop the culture of violence and poverty – you can’t (that’s one point of the Atlantic article). But you can export it to different neighborhoods or jurisdictions. If you care about Columbia Heights, get the Section 8 moved East of the River or to Chevy Chase (heh good luck with that last one!). If you care about DC as a whole get it exported to PG County.

  • I agree with Can’t wait … when things like the Cavalier are being re-done with Section 8 funding, that’s a decent sign there’s little political will to disrupt the status quo on the concentration of these housing developments.

    Interestingly, according to an email from CM Graham on the Yahoo listserv, the drive-by wasn’t the only shooting on Sunday — someone was shot and killed on 13th and Clifton very early Sunday morning, too.

  • I have said it before and I’ll say it again – this type of event is precisely why I am taking my kids and moving. It is not worth the risk.

  • New2CH:

    I have never heard of a house shooting anyone. It sounds like you want the people to go. We can try and blame it on policies until we are blue in the face. The fact of the matter is that it is the people and not the policies.

    I was doing the Open House thing this weekend. I went to the condos on Lamont right off GA Ave. The realtor showing us the condo kept gushing about how the Park Morton projects would soon be torned down. As if to say that the neighborhood would get better once the housing is gone. Or was he inferring that the people in the housing? Most people on this board know where I stand.

  • Now that is some scary stuff …coincidentally, a friend and I were actually at the 3rd precint yesterday when I heard the call for backup to 13xx Harvard and that someone was shot in the leg.

    On a side note, has anyone heard or experience any break-ins recently? A friend’s house was broken into a couple weekends ago (on New Hampshire Ave by Georgia Ave) …very unsettling.

  • im pretty sure cupcake was being sarcastic, but i do actually think that guns would help rather than hurt the effort to stop street violence…the only people without guns are are law abiding (and apparently scared) citizens anyway

  • Is the answer really just containing “the bad element?” Can we, as a society, do no better?

    I’m not saying that I have the answer. It’s obvious to me that concentrated poverty is a problem, but spreading poor disenfranchised people all over the place offers its own problems. It’s just such a depressing question.

  • When is the city going to start thoughing those living in Section 8 housing on the street when they get arrested? When is the city going to stop giving housing to those with criminal records? At some point a line has to be drawn.

  • Steve,
    I agree with you. But here is the issue. DCHA manages the Section 8 program. It is one of the worst run DC government agencies. They are very pro tenant. As such, tenants get away with everything. That is why the housing projects and the section 8 projects are in the shape they are in. Some of the workers at DCHA are, in fact, former or current Section 8 voucherholders.

    In addtion, the cooperation between MPD and DCHA is nonexistent. How is MPD to know that the person they are arresting for drugs (an evictable offense according to HUD) is on the lease of a section 8 voucherholder? So the job is left up to the landlord to find out this information, get the police report, and relay it to HUD. Unfortunately, most landlords either don’t have time to be detective or only care about the money.

  • Here’s the thing, though — first, I agree with you that criminals shouldn’t be living in Section 8 housing. But if you throw them out or arrest them, they don’t just disappear off the face of the earth. I can understand people making the calculation that look, if we don’t offer these people some form of stability, even if they are undeserving, then they just are going to carry on their violent activities somewhere else.

    I’m not saying I agree with that calculation — what about the law-abiding people living in Section 8 housing who just want a safe place to stay? — but I can understand the thought process.

    That said, I live in a condo development and one of my neighbors was a Section 8 tenant. And she was awful. And it wasn’t because she was poor, or black, or whatever — it was because she was clearly mentally ill, and shouldn’t have been living by herself. And, I know this makes me sound ugly, but she didn’t conform to the standards of the community. Knocking on my door at 2 in the morning to ask me if I “did hair” is not the standard of the place where she was living. I feel like she would have been better served being closer to her family and social services.

    Her landlord was only in it for the money. DCHA did zip to help us, or her. And then she set her mattress on fire, the police and fire department had to be called, she was arrested, and we’ve never seen her again.

  • nate, look at the details on the Park Morton here (,a,1285,q,642162.asp) if you are curious. The current families are mostly single moms earning $10-$30K per year. There are plans for bigger, nicer apartment buildings and townhouses. Aside from that, a big change is that they will restore traffic flow east-west to Warder. This means taking down two private homes facing Warder. Eminent domain, I guess?

  • Cristobal, “actually think that guns would help rather than hurt the effort to stop street violence…” Can you explain me the logic of that? I gather you must mean allowing people to carry concealed guns? Because the Supreme Court’s (IMO supremely idiotic decision), as far as I know, only deals with having guns at home (and keeping them there too). Just was not clear to me what you had in mind.

    Nate, yes, of course its about people and their behavior. However, badly planned infrastructure around people can also contribute to the issue.

  • well, yes, having guns at home will help with break ins and robberies, but i also support letting citizens carry conceled weapons as well… if it werent just the thugs who carried weapons, then maybe it wouldnt be so easy to commit crimes. im not so unrealistic as to think that this would solve the problem though, it would also take the the compliance of the liberal nuts who use the constitution to protect any and every one other than honest law abiding citizens, meaning that one shouldnt be afraid of going to jail for life if forced to use deadly force while protecting his or her person/family.

  • Nate – I guess it just frosts my nads to know that my taxdollars are going to house a bunch of no good hoods. I don’t have a problem with folks who are struggling to earning an honest living. Its time to start asking our goverment to be accountable on these things. Otherwise we should shut up, stop complained and live with these shitheads.

  • C, ahh.. for some reason I got the urge to dig up my old Metallica LPs and play “Fight Fire with Fire” over and over again and bang my head! 😉 Of course it had a much more profound cold war era message. 😀

  • Not to get too biologically determinative on you all, but check out the reports on environmental lead from paint, etc and crime.

    As a social scientist, my first reaction was total skepticism. but researchers have found these trends across countries and time periods, not just within the US.

    Given that we live in a dirty mid-Atlantic city with lead water pipes, maybe we need to look beyond the typical poverty-crime debate.

  • hm, i dont know that song…are there any covers of it performed by current pop culture icons (britney, lindsey, etc)? i may have heard those versions…

  • Thanks for the Atlantic article, I will check it out. Certainly, there is no easy solution. But the status quo is unacceptable and almost anything is better than what we have currently … whatever changes occur, it is unconscionable that many of the DC schools are in dilapidated, disguting buildings (see Cardoza H.S. or Tubman elementary) that provide awful learning environments and are often understaffed without sufficient resources for quality teacher or after school extracurriculars. Improving the schools would go a long way towards breaking the cycles that contribute to the gang violence and it is criminal that the schools are in the state they are in despite a city that has boomed for ten years … where does all the tax revenue from these new condos go to exactly?

  • A while ago, I visited a beautiful new middle school in Northeast — Kelly Miller Middle School. Visually, that school certainly rivaled anything that was available in any suburb. Then, the last time the Post did its story about D.C. schools infrastructure, I found out that it had been allowed to fall into disrepair — a $150,000 telelvision production studio was being used as a storage room.

    I don’t mean to be such a downer, new2ch. I just feel like there are so many issues at play here; issues that include dilapidated schools and housing projects, but that go beyond that, too.

  • Sure some of the schools are dilapidated. But some of the homes that the kids live in are dilapidated too. There is only so much the gov’t can do. The bulk of it falls on doing for yourself. Unfortunately, too many of these people are just so dependent on the gov’t for everything.

    Time and again, the gov’t has shown itself incapable to deal with micro issues effectively. The gov’t can effectively come up with a framework but can’t be relied on to come up with solutions that fit every family without some collateral damage. For some people welfare/section 8 is just what they need, for the vast majority it is a system to manipulate.

    I think that it is time that social workers begin to accompany police on calls of truancy, shooting/stabbing/assault victims. This is a culture war and police are not fit to fight this. Just locking these people up is creating a class of super criminals. They come out stronger and more determined to commit crime than before. The police in DC can’t effectively combat young athletically fit criminals.

  • to the person who wrote that DHCD manages the section 8, thats only half true. They may issue the section 8 voucher on behalf of the Feds but many of the properties themselves are actually privately owned and yes they are profit making ventures. Including the group buying the Cavalier. Rents are calculated based on the entire median area rents (so this includes high dollar places like fairfax too). So assume that median rent for a one bedroom is 1800. So even in anacostia where a marget rate one bedroom would be a lot less than 1800, the owner can still charge that much. the tenent never has to pay more than 30 percent of their income for rent, so if they make 300/month only 100 would go to rent and the govt/our taxes pays the bance of the 1700 to the property owner. most property owners enter into 20 year contracts or run the properties into the ground so they dont pass inspection and can “opt out” of section 8. groups like WIN have a lot of influence and are not that concered about mixed income or dispersing section 8 and thats how you get these entire concentrations. And no its not worth the landlord going through DCs absurd tenent friendly laws to try and evict anyone. Why should they? they are garuanteed rent from the program. No market competition. I used to be a liberal but living in DC is turning me into a free market republican. There is no time limit on section 8 vouchers, just income limits. so there are no incentives to make more money. anyhow, this is a long email but most people don;t really understand the program. if you don’t like, demand your council member work harder to create mixed income buildings. I would vote for garfield terrace being demolished (that place is actually public housing) and being rebuilt with mixed income. But thats not politically correct in this liberal town!!

  • one shouldnt be afraid of going to jail for life for defending ….? all right ok ill give you
    ‘violence doesn’t begat more violence” believers all the guns you want. the hell with concealing it. carry your big fat shiny weapon over your shoulder proudly. let’s stop making amunition so maybe in 30 50 100 yrs or so.. we will, as we tell our children be forced to “use your words” peace who am i kidding?

  • i dont quite understand your post anon 8:07

  • Columbia Heights Village is a scourge on the neighborhood and should be torn down.

  • OK, the shootings suck, but all of you who moved to Columbia Heights knew about the public housing, presumably? And yet now you’re agitating to have the poor folk moved out? That doesn’t seem right.

  • I agree with the last statement, people had to know the Petworth/Columbia Heights area is a shady area. DC is the only city I can think that you have section 8 apartments 1 block away from 600K homes. I understand people want to put roots down and make this a community for themselves and their kids, but I don’t see that happening. I hate to say this but DC is too left leaning in dealing with crime as well as city planning and this hurts everyone.

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