PoP’s Ombudsman Responds

DSCN4260, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

A few readers have asked me why I didn’t write more about the recent shootings in Petworth this weekend.

I actually thought pretty hard about this decision. I did post about the first shooting and I felt that City Paper did a good job covering the rest. But of course the real reason I didn’t post about each individual shooting was because I didn’t want to obsess about it. Believe me, I was very upset, frustrated, sad, all the emotions I feel after I hear about a shooting. (And I’ll gladly post anything that one thinks can help the situation).

But the thing is, when I write about shootings people obsess about it. I know that sounds harsh but I can’t count how many times people say Petworth is a crime filled slum or other such tripe after a shooting. The fact of the matter is that the shootings are devastating but number one, thankfully, they are not terribly common and two they don’t represent what day to day life is really like in Petworth for me. Now let me say again, these shootings are brutal, they need to be addressed, we need a greater MPD presence particularly with foot patrols, we need volunteers to mentor the youth, hell maybe we’ll even need the Guardian Angels, we need to do lots of things but these crimes do not define our life in Petworth.

I remember speaking recently with my parents friends who live and lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn during the 80s. The told me how much crime there was – muggings, shootings, drug dealing etc. And you know what? Today, Park Slope is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Brooklyn. I believe Petworth will follow a similar path. Now, I can’t speak for everyone but personally I’m not going to let the reports of crime ruin my image of the otherwise amazing neighborhood we live in.

You know, when I lived in Cleveland Park, I saw a shooting right in front of the zoo. It was awful. But I didn’t flee Cleveland Park and I’m not going to flee Petworth. Look, life isn’t all flowers and beautiful doors here. No doubt, it can be rough. It’s not for everyone. But it is definitely for me and I suspect many others reading here.

Now, MPD, how ’bout you throw us a bone and honor your word by giving us a couple of foot patrols?

You can read a previous Ombudsman response here.

32 Comment

  • Hear hear!

    Also, I hate to say it, but it’s the economy… Stuff like this is happening all around the country (even the supposedly “safe” burbs)

  • The economy is why he got shot? Really?

  • SG I agree that the economy has something to do with the rise in crime. People are loosing their jobs, those with jobs are worrying because the media is constantly talking about the economy, and drug/alcohol use is up. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion about drug/alcohol use, I have no tolerance for drugs but I do like a good glass of wine! Drugs breed other criminal activities in our community.

    While we don’t know all the facts surrounding the recent shootings, many of the shootings in our community are related to drugs or turf wars. As a community we need stand strong, not tolerate drugs on any level, and work with the police to help put an end to the turf wars.

    We need to better communicate with our elected leaders and police force to build and strengthen relationships that will make our community stronger. Without these relationships and our own involvement we are only talking about the situation.

  • Amen to the foot patrols.

    Or how about just don’t allow cops to carry their personal cellphones while on duty? It seems 9 times out of 10 they’re talking while driving around, oblivious to what’s happening around them.

  • It is also worth noting that there was also a surge in violent crime east of the park over the past week. There were eight muggings, several of them violent, in Georgetown, Cleveland Park, and Woodley Park on Friday or Saturday night. There was a violent home-invasion/rape on Wisconsin Avenue just last night. My aim is not to minimize the significance of gun violence in our neighborhood – it’s a serious problem, and I am alarmed by the events over the weekend. But I am also aware of the need to challenge the black and white thinking (hmm, no pun intended) that there are ‘all bad’ places and there are ‘all good’ places in the city. We have our problems, here, but it remains a wonderful neighborhood with many things to commend it to us. And there is plenty of crime outside of Petworth.

  • Well I think one key detail is that in Cleveland Park and Georgetown and the nice parts of town the shootings are rare. In the Georgia Ave corridor they are pretty common. In fact, shooting happens most every night as near as my ears can tell, but mostly don’t result in anything that the police can follow up on. In this case, and with the other shootings over the last few days, the shooters actually hit something (or someone if you prefer). Now there is a special meeting hosted by Bowser and Mendelson to ‘address’ this issue. What a relief. Anyone who needs a special community meeting to gather input on this must quite literally be deaf, blind, and dumb. Its not like the thugs really hide their presence.

  • I like your editorial point of view POP. Leave scare tactics and fear mongering to Fox News. Your coverage of the crimes was sufficient.

  • Guys, let’s not “normalize deviancy.” Any shooting is unacceptable. I don’t care what’s happening in Georgetown. If there are bullets flying in my neighborhood, it’s unacceptable.

    I won’t allow the threat of personal violence to become a “normal” occurrence in my life.

    Every one of these shootings should be up in lights. Everyone should be aware. And each and every one of us should be hopping mad that a small handful of scumbags is trashing the quality of life here. Then we should do something about them.

  • Great post, PoP.

  • I don’t think labgirl was trying to normalize anything, just pointing out that there seems to be an uptick in crime all over the city. I agree it is absolutely unacceptable for there to be shootings in our neighborhood. There needs to be more cameras, police presence, foot patrols, neighborhood patrols, and engagement of the community. We need to let these thugs know this isn’t acceptable here.

  • labgirl, you mean west of the park?

  • Hey I lived right next to Park Slope in the 80s and Park Slope was really not crime-ridden at all then — it was already considered gentrified (though nothing like today), much less than my neighborhood then. It was great living there in those days. (But suddenly in the very late 80s, right after I moved, a bunch of my friends got mugged, right as the bad recession began.)

  • Again, it may be an uptick in well-healed areas, but in P-worth (and other parts) its just another day. I’ve come to conclusion that any area not considered totally rich (and white) is just not a priority for our city council. Why would it be? The criminals who shelter in poor neighborhoods could very well be a councilmembers greatest constituency. All I have is 16 years of DC living to draw from, and that’s my conclusion. I mean, c’mon, are the thugs really that hard to find? And if so, why I am finding them most every week just by taking the GA bus??? I agree with PoP that its important not to dwell on the negative, but its also absurd to think that we’re all just over-thinking (over-dwelling?) on some perceived, erroneous threat. My out of town friends can’t believe that threats of death and violence are absolutely commonplace in my life. Neither can I.

  • Anon 12:03: exactly my thoughts. Park Slope was pretty upscale then (70’s, 80’s) although there were certainly some outlandish thinkers, like Dr Zubay. And of course Alex Scioli’s parents at the Community Bookstore.

    As author/sex columnist Amy Sohn recently emailed me, NOW 30 years later is when the “gentrification” in Brooklyn spread to Flatbush and elsewhere…

  • For the first half-hour (at least) of ANC 4C’s meeting this coming THURSDAY (not the usual 2nd Tuesday), MPD Chief of Police Kathy Lanier and Councilmember Muriel Bowser in conjunction with the ANC will address community concerns about the recent gun violence in Petworth. Please join us.

    That’s Thursday, November 13, at 6:30 pm at the Patrol Services Bureau Bldg (formerly ROC-North) at 801 Shepherd Street NW. With the already full ANC agenda, I anticipate the ANC meeting lasting until about 9:30.

  • Joe: see the above about “deaf, blind, and dumb”. How will this meeting differ from the previous umpteen meetings on the EXACT same topic?? Oooh you gov folks make me so mad. Face it, you don’t have laws with teeth and you don’t have enough police to enforce the laws you do have. Quit blowing smoke up our collective asses. Or continue. Frankly I am leaving ASAP and you can all continue making excuses in this gangsters paradise.

  • Want to do something about crime? Work to get rid of at-large Councilmember Phil Mendelson when he next comes up for re-election. He oversees the relevant Council committees and has a history of being soft on crime, especially juvenile crime.

    And bring back the chain gang. But with a twist. Clown suits.
    That’s right. Public humiliation for the teenage thug demographic. Juvenile offenders have to trade in their low-rider Lil’ Wayne wanna-be jeans for a nice big baggy polka-dot jumpsuit, put on a big red rubber nose, bright orange wig, and oversize shoes. Then they have to go pick up trash by the side of the road. They can’t run away from the supervisor easily: “Hey, catch that clown before he hits the metro escalator!” The risk of the Clown Suit would at least somewhat diminish the attraction of the corner gangsta lifestyle.

  • Big floppy shoes on the gangbanger set would be awesome. Of course with their asses hanging out of their pants they already look pretty stupid…

    Agreed re: Mendelson, though I am not entirely sure he’s the only culprit. Perhaps M. Barry shares some blame…. I often think of this Washingtonian article on Mendelson:


    I’d love the hear anyone who thinks / knows this article is wrong or inaccurate. Note the article does not call for more BS meetings to ‘discuss’ the problem, nor does any thinking person.

  • I think many residents would like to know why the police — DC and federal — have allowed open drug dealing to continue at 3rd and Taylor for the past 20 years. Everyone knows who is involved and knows which house is the base of operations and yet nothing seems to change: 1988 turns into 1998 turns into 2008.

    While there is some street crime in Petworth, the problem last weekend was almost certainly drug-related. I am no anti-drug warrior, but these drug dealers do not operate violence-free. It would be nice if they did, but they don’t. Because they use guns and shoot up residential neighborhoods, they are a public nuisance.

    Those who harbor or shelter these men are guilty of helping to perpetuate this crime and they force the rest of us to suffer from it. Without a residence to operate from, these men would go elsewhere. I believe it is therefore safe to say that these residence are public nuisances.

  • Email Mendelson and Fenty immediately.

  • I did correspond with Mendelson a while back. He wanted to meet and talk at 2 in the afternoon. Exactly the idiocy I’m tired of: I work, I don’t have time to do your job for you. And again, are these openly violent thugs that hard to find? Maybe if your head is in your ass. He also gets to live in a nicer neighborhood than me, and gets to drive back and forth to work, thus his view of the city is not mine.

  • I really don’t see what Mr. Martin or the ANC can do. The laws in DC effectively make drug dealing and prostitution legal. There is very little the police can do, which is why there are open air drug markets and brothels throughout Columbia Heights and Petworth. The open air drug markets lead to shootings. They will continue to lead to shootings until they are eliminated. There seems to be a lot of political momentum in DC keeping these drug markets open, so it seems unlikely that the laws will change and there will continue to be shootings. You can have foot patrols, bike patrols, Segway patrols or any other sort of patrols you want. Unless drug dealers have a realistic chance of being arrested and incarcerated for a significant amount of time, shootings will continue at their present pace for the immediate future, as they have for years.

    Presumably gentrification will eventually push out most of the drug dealers and with them, many of the poorer residents of these neighborhoods. However, it will also reduce diversity, which so many profess to enjoy.

    Regardless, I too am working to get out as soon as possible (from Columbia Heights). It’s not that there’s nothing good here, it’s that the pervasive crime outweighs the good.

  • Though many comments are well thought-out and aired, such topics “angry up the blood” as Grandpa Simpson put it. With City Paper and other neighborhood blogs effectively covering the crime thing, a blog with the slogan “Welcome to the Beautiful Life” should let others carry those discussions.

  • What I know is true:

    1. If we accept violence as acceptable then we are no better than the dirty scum who ruined DC in the 1980s. I am better than them.

    2. If we obsess over violence at the expense of beauty in the city then we become what we hate most of all and the violence becomes our world. I am better than that.

    So what happens next? I think what happens next is that I sell my house.

  • AngryParakeet,

    I agree with you, especially based on PoP’s original post, that this is an inappropriate forum to express my disgust with the crime in this area. You refer to “neighborhood blogs” that are more appropriate to carry these discussions. Could you be more specific?


  • Prince Of Petworth


    Where in my original post did I say it is an “inappropriate forum to express my (your) disgust with the crime in this area”?


  • You didn’t say it was inappropriate; I thought it was inappropriate.

    It seemed like the whole point of the post was that people get obsessed with crime when you post about it. Depending on how you define obsessed, my comment could be deemed obsessive. I don’t think it is, but I don’t think people get obsessed about crime when you post about it generally.

    But this is your blog. I shouldn’t be posting a comment that shows obsession about crime especially in a post that says that you avoid posting about crime because people become obsessed with it. That’s my logic.

    But if you’re OK with it, I’m OK with it.

  • Neener- are you really going to move? Just curious..

  • Have I met with realtors and looked at houses outside of the district during open houses? yes, about 6.
    Do I review home sales in my preferred future neighborhood on a daily or weekly basis? yes.
    Have I reviewed schools in that neighborhood? yes.
    Have I called my realtor about putting my home on the market? yes.

    Does my entire family agree with me? no.
    Do I have enough money saved up to purchase a house before I sell my current house? no.
    Have I met with my bank to discuss what my maximum mortgage number is? No.
    Have I itemized what work needs to be done on my house prior to sale? No.

    Which is to say that I’m about 33% through the process with about 9 months of work ahead of me. I’m sorry if my personal declarations come off stupid, but selling a house with 10 years worth of accumulation is no easy task.

  • But on the flipside, in the last 4 months I’ve completed 7 home improvement projects with a goal of selling.

  • The problem in DC is that these disputes get settled with guns partly because having a gun in DC will get you no more than a slap on the wrist. We can moan on and on about MPD (and I’m not saying we shouldn’t, they don’t seem to give a flip about patrolling this neighborhood), but until the price of pool goes up with regards to carrying a firearm in this city, a lot of disputes that would otherwise result in a bunch of yelling, or an occasional beating, will instead result in stray bullets coming into peoples houses.

    With the Heller Supreme Court case in the news a few months back there was a lot of lamentation about how this would effect the “ban” and no little editorializing in the WaPo about the end of the world, as if it matters a jot to the person carrying an illegal gun in DC what the law is when they know they’ll never spend a day in jail if caught with a gun. The city could go a long way towards curtailing this by simply instituting reasonable sentences for gun possession.

    Currently, a 1st time offense is considered a misdemeanor petty offense with a possible maximum punishment of 12 months in jail, but nearly all first offenders go free with time served (a day or two) or probation. This is similar to a lot of states, and frankly, I don’t have too much trouble with the first offender (assuming they are really a first offender) getting probation. Virginia, that bastion of strict gun control, has a similar punishment for first offenders. What I would like to see is probation terms handed with violators of probation for gun offenses facing a mandatory 90 days in DC jail if they screw up. It sends a signal, but it also acknowledges that everyone gets one chance to shape up.

    Where the DC code, and DC government from Fenty on down, has failed the citizens of DC in a deadly way is how gun crime for repeat offenders is handled. Or should I say, not handled. The punishment handed out for repeat offenders, people who have been caught with an illegal weapon at least once before, is, according to DC government, on average less than ZERO months in jail.


    What? “How can that be?” you’re saying? I’m not entirely sure myself, but if you look at page 6 of the 2006 Report of the DC Sentencing Commission (their ’07 report is missing, and their ’08 report is suspiciously void of any data on sentences), you’ll see in Figure 2-2 that not only do felony gun offenders get below “0” months in prison, the sentences gun offenders receive are lower that “property” crimes and drug offenses.

    So, between 200-300 serious gun offenders ostensibly get probationary sentences or time served for repeat felony instances of illegally carrying guns. There is no enhancement for having your third or subsequent felony possession, and even if the judge has a particularly bad hair day the maximum allowed by statute is 5 years. However, even though DC government is careful not to produce the raw data on these sentences, we can see that if the average is below zero months in prison, and there are usually less than 300 cases, there isn’t anyone (or hardly anyone) getting the max.

    This is pathetic situation. There needs to be a mandatory sentence for repeat gun offenders in this city. 2nd offense should merit a minimum of 1 year in prison. This would make an impact. Time served and a revolving door don’t.

    I would like to go to this meeting on Thursday, but I probably cannot attend. So, I hope that someone might mention this to the city fathers when they start wringing their hands about how they can’t do nothin’ about this.

    Again, in Virginia, where carrying a gun is almost as important as loving Baby Jesus, second offenders get 1-5, and a third offense will get you up to ten. When Virginia has tougher gun laws than you, you know that you are fucked.

  • I dont think you “come off stupid”, Neener. Nor was I judging you.. Not by any means. You and I are in a similar boat…

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