Dear PoP – DC Crime Wave?

IMG_3468, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

“Dear PoP,

Well we threw a small get together Saturday night and several of our friends from thr CH/ Mt. P area came and helped us drink and be merry until about 1 am. Our Mt. P friend is a distance runner and an avid walker, especially when it involves not giving a DC cabbie any money to hear him gripe about how hard DC cabbie life is (not that they come out to Petworth anyway). So he was walking home and happened to take park road over. Well he made it past Giant and the courtyard and crossed 14th, noted the DCPD cruiser by the metro, and was cruising past Pollo Sabroso when he suddenly found a leather belt around his neck with 2 guys not exactly asking if they could borrow his phone and ipod. The one guy came up from behind and pulled a mobster piano wire choke hold with a leather belt while the second guy jabbed him in the abdomen with an unspecified object that possibly was a gun or at least that was the intended effect. They made off with one of his phones and his ipod, but not his other phone (don’t ask) or wallet. He used phone 2 to call the police and when they showed up over 5 min later (?) he filed a statement and became just another statistic.

To get to the point of this rant WTF is going on? I understand the increase in crime and many of the reasons for it, economy, unemployment, gentrification, gangs, etc. But W(here)TF is the police in all this? How many windows need to be broken? How many crimes must be committed before we see an increased effort by the Police to crack down on crime in CH and all throughout the city? Is Fenty too busy firing people for not letting his 9 yo boys beat up on 8 and under basketball players to do anything? I will say I was at least relieved to hear he got mugged in CH and not Petworth because I would hate for anything to happen in our neighborhood that might cause our friends to not want to come visit us here. :)”

I’m sorry to hear about this incident. It just sounds awful. Recently, I have no idea if crime is increasing or if I’m just getting more emails about it. I’m definitely not complaining but I get emails every week related to some crime incident from Shaw all the way up to Ft. Totten.

A friend of mine lives on a very nice section of 15th Street and I asked her if she feels safe. She said no. But she explained that she receives alerts every time a crime happens in that vicinity and at that point started feeling unsafe. I certainly believe in being aware of one’s surrounding but I’m not sure these alerts are so healthy. If I combined all the crime emails I received for a month and read them all at once, I’d never leave my house. I’m not sure if I’ve become a bit of a fatalist or what. But I probably walk the city, well, more than nearly anyone. And 99 times out of 100 I have no problems. I don’t mean to be flippant about this but I’m seriously wondering if I posted everytime a car accident occurred we would then feel there was an uptick in car accidents?

Sorry I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent. I truly am sorry to hear about this incident. I do wish MPD, the Council, the Mayor, the Prosecutors and the Courts were able to do a better job. And I do think we need to keep up continued pressure on the powers that be. But one of my fears remains that we will lose a bit of perspective reading about every mugging that takes place. Sadly, muggings happen and I think they always will. The question is – are we seeing an increase in muggings or are we just becoming more aware when they happen?

You guys tell me, do you find it useful reading about every crime that occurs in our neighborhoods? Do you think there is a crime wave under way? Do you think Fenty needs to make the issue of crime a bigger priority?

94 Comment

  • We’re more aware. There’s no crime wave right now (no more than there has been), but you do have more people of means willing to live in transitional areas where they’d never have lived before. I mean, Shaw, Columbia Heights, Ledroit, Bloomingdale, Eckington? These were some of the absolute worst parts of DC in the bad old days of the 80’s and 90’s, and those elements haven’t disappeared. The most violent part was COlumbia Heights (look it up if you don’t believe me). Don’t walk around at 1 am with an iPod in Columbia Heights. Definitely call a cab.

    Crime is one part economy, one part lack of values, one part drugs, and one part lack of education/opportunity. These, unfortunately, are structural issues that will take a generation to change. Hopefully Obama is on the right track with this country, but it’ll take a while. There’s no quick fix for crime unless you want to live in a police state where you incarcerate yourself out of the problem (which is more moving than solving the problem).

  • @1155. Damn right. Ive seen people say it a few times here. but be aware of your surroundings, get a mean look on your face and dont wear your eyepod. might not have helped in this situation, but sometimes it does.

    and the problem IS generational.

  • I’ve always been told by the police that there is a crime spike when the weather first gets good each spring (i.e. now), and again when all the kids get out of school in May/June. this year, with even more gentrification and fewer summer jobs b/c of the economy: not good.

  • I do wonder if maybe it seems like there is more crime because I now read about it all the time on POP but I don’t think that is the case. Yeah obviously crime was WAY worse “back in the day” in CH and other parts of DC but then things got better and now it seems we are in a little bit of a slide. I guess the only real way to tell is to compile stats of crimes in CH and around DC and see if there has been more crime lately. Anyone willing to do that would be my personal hero. I will try to do it but my time is often limited and someone could probably get it done faster than me. Either way I think it would be interesting to look at the numbers and see what they say.

    One last thing. I know the person who was mugged in this story and all that was taken was their Ipod and phone. No wallet, cash, or jewelry was taken. He called the cops and obviously they didn’t get there in time to catch anyone (nor would you expect them to in most cases) My question is would you even bother calling the cops? I think personally I would not.

  • I definitely would, if only to get something down on paper in case the phone company starts hassling about replacement costs. It can’t hurt.

  • crime ebbs and flows – we were having daily muggings in ledroit two years ago, which has backed down. that said, i have become more aware and fearful and now won’t walk around the neighborhood. it completely sucks, i passionately hate the pieces of s*** that, say, held up Timor but feel powerless to help it.

    that said, this blog has convinced me that phil mendelson is a joke. can’t wait to get him thrown out next cycle.

  • I’ve lived at 14th and Col. for 5 years. The appearance or feeling of safety has increased tenfold. Actual safety is still the same. We def. have more increased police presence in the hood, but the element has not gone away. I’m lucky – i’ve never had an issue in 5 years. The illusion of safety is the downfall of the victims. I love that we have more foot traffic, but that’s not enough. People still get mugged in Cleaveland park, dupont, wherever. As for the wave, yes, there is always more crime when the weather is warm. That’s not rocket science.

  • This is scary stuff. I just with a few of these criminals would pick the wrong person and get tazed, shot, or stabbed, preferably fatally. The police and criminal justice system are not providing sufficient deterrence, so ordinary citizens are going to have to. And I really don’t understand why DCUSA, the stores north of Tivoli, and the big condo / apartment buildings in the area don’t all pitch in for some sort of high visible, private security van filled with a few bad-asses just constantly patrolling the area. MIght put a good scare into some of these sociopaths. And I STILL NEVER see police officers on foot or segway in the area, or even really patrolling with their cars. Just sitting parked does nothing and is enormously frustrating to see.

  • I can’t get past the image of a belt being thrown around one’s neck. Scary.

  • That sucks.

    Cant say one way or the other about the wave effect. It would just be anecdotal. It is the kind of thing that, unless overwhelmingly stark, we can only know after the fact when the stats are all reviewed.

  • When will Jim Graham step forward and propose some common-sense belt control legislation? Without belts, these miscreants are helpless, waddling around with their pants around their ankles. Yet no one on the Council has the guts to stand up to the “Big Belt” lobby. Shame on you, City Council! And shame on you, men’s haberdasheries, to allow your products to be wantonly used in such a violent manner!

  • Belts don’t mug people! People mug people!

    If you make belts illegal, only the criminals will have belts! (Although, I guess it would make them easier to spot.)

  • To the original poster who questioned why it took the cops 5 minutes to get there when they were just around the corner: When you call 911, the call goes to a centralized call center (which is NOT run by MPD). The call center then sends the call to the MPD dispatcher who prioratizes calls and puts out the call.

    While MPD does deserve some of the blame for this much of lies with our Council and lax laws and more so with the AGs office here in the city. Speaking with the Lt. in Adams Morgan the other week, he was talking about someone who had been arrested dozens and dozens of times, but was rarely “papered” when arrested therefore saw no court or jail time. Believe me, MPD is frustrated too.

  • I am absolutely not blaming the victim here, but that stretch of Park Road can be vaguely menacing even in broad daylight. I hope those traveling cross-town in the future will detour to the far-more-traveled Irving Street.

  • Sorry, I’ve got to roll with the Schadenfruede here. Always watch your back. And how much did he lose in replacing those stolen items? Much less than the cost of a cab? I mean, I get it, he wasn’t planning to get mugged. But we can all live and learn. Thankfully, he’s safe. And next time, I’d rather give my money to a cabbie than a mugger.
    The police aren’t going to go all CSI on a CH mugging. And they can’t be there to protect you. Sounds like City Life 101.
    Anon 9:10, priceless.

  • Let’s communicate our desire for more cops walking the streets by signing a petition. Only in this way can we quantify for the MPDC, Mayor and Council just how pervasive this desire is:

  • anon 5:55 – Promise you’ll never go into law enforcement or politics, please?

    monkeyman – Don’t make me take my belt ownership issue to the Supreme Court. I’m not going to suspenders.

  • If we’ve seen an uptick in muggings, it’s because in the last several years there’s been an uptick in the number of people who naively believe that CH is safe enough to walk through, alone, at night. It’s not, and it probably never will be, given that, geographically, CH separates some of DC’s most well-off and poorest neighborhoods. (Shopping centers, trendy restaurants, and overpriced apartment buildings won’t change this fact.) Simply put, muggings in CH will decrease once people stop foolishly walking around alone at night.

  • Agreed, Irving Street. In no way is the victim at fault here (unless he was using the soon-to-be-stolen iPod at 1am), but I would never walk down that section of Park unless I had to. And definitely not at 1am. It’s not well trafficked and shady even during the day. Irving St. is the way to cut over to Mt. P.

    I do personally think crime is up, but it’s purely anecdotal. Can’t wait for summer in the city.

  • On a positive note, homicides in DC are down 22% so far this year:,a,1239,q,561242,mpdcNav_GID,1523,mpdcNav,|.asp

  • Try this link (from above):

  • We are hyper sensitive to crime…..I think DC has become a much safer city than 10 years ago, but it still has alot to go.

  • [email protected] all this blaming the victim BS! Sure, he probably should have been more aware of his surroundings, but to blame him for wanting to walk home is just nonsense! No one should have to be afraid of walking 5 or 6 blocks back to their home. And I am very glad he reported this unfortunate incident to the police.

  • When I was in college in Philadelphia I was robbed and kidnapped at gunpoint.

    After everything was done (police, courts, whatnot) I found the way I felt safest at night was walking in the street. I know it isn’t the safest thing, but hugging the driver’s sides of cars and walking in the street allows more people to see you, and better lighting.

    Just a thought. I still do it sometimes in DC when I’m walking alone.

  • @9:45:

    “That section of Park” has a lot more foot traffic and eyes on the street than most residential blocks in the area. The vast, vast majority of crimes are theft from auto, and those are usually around the corner on Hiatt or Pine. Shit can go down anywhere, but I wouldn’t single out that street. Not so sure what makes Irving any better, especially with all those retail spaces and schools and both sides, none of which have any people in them after hours.

  • The US has been talking about a safe routes to school program for some time now. DC needs to consider a “safe routes home” program. My wife feels uncomfortable walking the 3 blocks north on New Hampshire from Petworth Metro. She shouldn’t! If the DC govt can’t spring for some on-call police recruits to agree to either sit at certain corners to ensure pedestrian safety, or perhaps agree to walk with folks from metro to their block, perhaps a community organization could somehow agree to set up some system so that lone women can feel comfortable walking from metro to their home through their own community. Is this a far fetched dream or what…

    My friend’s wife simply walks through CH while on the phone with her husband just in case something happens, at least he would instantly know and could call the incredibly nonresponsive police to alert them to the location of the crime. He after having a bottle thrown at his head years ago by young punks, simply keeps a $10 spot in his shirt pocket to pay for a cab. It’s just not worth the risk.

    At least this guy didn’t take two to the chest. The odd thing is that the cops likely aren’t seen in some of these neighborhoods because they too would become targets of very violent crime. Ugh, what a city….

  • “You guys tell me, do you find it useful reading about every crime that occurs in our neighborhoods? ”

    I have mixed feelings, but I think it is useful. Sometimes your blog brings me down because of the crime reporting. At the same time, your readership is big enough that you get special attention from city government, and they need to be hit over the freaking head with this, daily. Or hourly. So I think you’re doing a service by keeping crime on the front burner. You said yourself in the interview the other day that crime is the most embarrassing part of the city. I 100% agree. But if you’re going to report on crime as a policy, you’d be doing 5 crime posts a day and this would be an MPD blog. Good Luck out there.

  • Brilliant idea to walk that stretch of road home at 1am after a night of drinking. I mean, the neighborhood has totally changed and what’s the worst that could happen?

  • I don’t know if anyone has tried this, but I recommend giving it a shot (and I’d be curious to hear the response time if anyone actually has tried it). Program the number into your phones folks:

  • In happier news in that general area, did anyone else attend the Allegro opening last night? WOW! Hard to imagine an event like that in CH even a few years ago. I am optimistic that once that huge block of apartments fill up and Social, the Thai place, and Dave’s Tavern all start to open, all of the additional foot traffic and eyes on the street will really help that area of Columbia Heights.

  • @Bradford-

    I do the same thing-walk in the street. You can see what’s coming from all angles, alleys and driveways. The sidewalks are not good viewing positions. I also don’t hesitate switching sides when there are multiple people (2 or more) on one sidewalk. If they start walking toward me, I don’t hesitate to sprint to nearest well trafficked road no matter how foolish I look.

    safety tip of the day.

  • The victim of the crime of the day (new PoP feature!) said that he SAW a police cruiser a block from where he was mugged. That’s what really grates my cheese. That it takes 8-10 MPD cops to watch a drug bust. At least two for a routine traffic stop (my friend got pulled over for talking on his cell phone– two cruisers tied up for 15 minutes). And that they can’t respond to a violent crime from a block away in under 5 minutes.

    When I was a teen, I had an officer get a call on his radio while he was writing me a ticket. He RAN, and yelled over his shoulder “you got lucky this time!” How many DC cops do you think would abandon a speeding-ticket-in-progress to respond to a radio call? Hell, they won’t abandon a latte-in-progress.

  • Any idea what was going on in the Adams Morgan/Columbia heights area last evening? I saw multiple groupings of about 10 khaki and blue clad police (or they looked like police, not sure their exact affiliation) patrolling on foot around the area. I have never seen such a turnout, it seemed there was a group walking around every block. Could anyone provide information as to who they were and what they were doing?

  • I also walk in the street after hours. Not sure it helps, but you’re more visible to neighbors and/or oncoming traffic if something happens.

  • More cops, more cops, more cops!

    This is a great time to expand police recruiting, budgets not withstanding. Police presence makes a huge difference in cities – I lived in South Central LA and there were not enough cops at all, once they started putting more police in the area it really got a lot better – it’s amazing how nice and safe it is now, I’m blown away when I visit. It doesn’t take a generation – it takes a committed city that decides to stop putting up with all of this.

  • Affluent people invade impoverished neighborhoods and don’t expect to get robbed? Come on now!

  • I would like to see plain clothes police make these walks as a mechanism for catching these criminals. As many have stated, it’s a near sure bet you will be assaulted walking on certain streets at certain hours and the best way, the ONLY way, is to bait these thugs with law enforcement posing as citizen pedestrians. I recognize it is a dangerous assignment, but the innocent and unarmed public are doing it (and paying the price) by necessity on a daily basis.

    PoP – I think we need to engage MPD on this because although there is a need for police cruising in marked vehicle and walking a beat, these practices are neither exposing who among the loitering masses are actual violent criminals nor providing an adequate mechanism for their apprehension.

  • Without belts you’ll have a bunch of thugs running around with their pants falling down to their knees

    As President Obama said “Brothers need to pull up their pants”

  • I am shocked this happened. SHOCKED! I mean that area doesn’t have any curb cuts, so it must be pedestrian friendly right? Seriously hipsters, gentrifiers, and like minded liberal folk, let’s start using some common sense. While I hate paying for cabs as much as the next person, there are times when they are the smartest option. If I’m planning on having more than two drinks, or know that I will be needing to walk through Petworth, CH, or many other parts of this great city, I plan to have some cash for a cab, and even have a cabbie friend’s number in my cell. If you’re too cool for school, you’re taking your chances. If you live in D.C., you need to have street smarts. I will let Neener pick it up from here. Neener….I know you’re out there with some knowledge to share.

  • Anon 10:23…those were MPD recruits that you saw and sometimes they leave the academy and come to walk through neighborhoods. Their presence usually increases in the nicer weather.

    WDC 10:21….see earlier post about MPD response time…911 call goes to unified call center (not operated by MPD), UCC links to MPD dispatch, MPD dispatch prioritizes calls. No one, not even the victim, has any idea what that nearby cruiser was doing. Also, if the cruiser was that close-by, why didn’t the victim just go flag them down.

  • I think crime is the same in ch and Petworth based on the reports for the last 2 years. I think that with all the economic development that has occurred it should be going down in these areas. I also think MPD is lagging behind residents of DC in terms of what is acceptable

  • Outraged by crime in your neighborhood and the lack of MPD response? Volunteer for the Police Auxiliary Service. For more information, contact:

    Skip Barrett
    Police Headquarters, Room 6061
    Phone: (202) 727-2767
    Fax: (202) 727-0310

  • I read the Northwest Current crime report each week with some interest/attention to where crimes are occurring and violent v. non-violent. I believe that they get the information off the police blotter and I have to say that I have actually noticed a decline in the overall number of incidents and in the violent incidents. Not sure that the reporting is accurrate or not and certainly would like to see further decline, but I have been encouraged recently.

    The khaki police uniforms are recruits/trainees. I often see large groups of them wandering the Bloomingdale.

  • re: being more aware – I get the Alert DC texts and emails. I find that where I live, I get lulled into a false sense of security a lot of the time, because there isn’t that much crime in my immediate area. A month or so ago, I got a text saying someone had been mugged 2 blocks down my street, and it’s a good wake up call to remember that it’s still the city, and crime still happens and I still need to be cautious.

  • Sorry, Adams Morgan. I reject your explanation. Just because there’s a system in place doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. If the system you describe can’t get an idling cruiser ONE block in under five minutes, it’s broken. Hell, they should be able to get ten blocks in that time. Jesus, there are real life emergencies that require response in minutes. Shall we all just give up on the idea of surviving a choking episode? Or a violent attack? Because that’s just the way MDP is set up?

    Violent crime, such as having a belt around one’s neck, should have priority over the CVS run. Should have priority over almost anything else I can imagine.

  • “Affluent people ‘invade’ impoverished neighborhoods and don’t expect to get robbed? Come on now!”

    “Seriously hipsters, gentrifiers, and like minded liberal folk, let’s start using some common sense.”

    You people blaming the victim are absolutely ridiculous. Get some perspective. Yes, we all get it, use common sense when walking home. Yet, the fact that you are asking us to basically tolerate crime in”our” own neighborhoods is absolutely beyond me. (FYI: Just because people moved here later than you did, does not give you any moral high ground or exclusive claim to the neighborhood.) Essentially your argument is, “you don’t belong here, so you deserve to get robbed.” Freaking absurd.

  • My roommate was robbed Monday night. He is a white guy. Robbed on my back porch as he was coming into the house. The young black male robbers stole his laptop which included his entire architecture thesie work. One of the robbers was screaming to shoot him.

    I have said it over and over. There is something terribly wrong with the black community. The police just can not solve this. If I had robbed someone, there is no way my mother would have let me come into her home with a laptop, ipod, and someone else’s wallet. Long before MPD is involved, this situation is already a lost cause. The mothers don’t care. The daddy’s ain’t around. All you can hope for is to get enough money and get the hell away from the thugs.

    So I asked my roommate what the culprit looked. 5’10”. medium brown complexion. Slender build. Short hair cut. Guess what? If I were 15 years younger, that would be a good description of…ME!

    These thugs have the keys to my home. I am forced to spend money to change locks due to this. But I can’t give my renter the security of feeling that Petworth is safe anymore. And that is the true cost of crime. People don’t feel safe. And they move. Leaving nothing but the unproductive outlaws.

  • WDC: You can reject my explanation all you want, but that’s how the system in this city works. Don’t like the system? Email your Councilmember and he (assuming it’s the Grahamstander) will a) forward your email to someone else for them to do something about it and/or b) respond and tell you how he’s done more to fight crime in this city than any other councilmember (a similar email went out from him to one of the listserves just the other day).

    BTW, victim says they noted an MPD cruiser “by the Metro” but there is no indication what this cruiser was doing there (you made the assumption it was idling, the original poster did not say it was idling)…they could have been on another call….

  • I agree that knowing generally where crime is happening is a good thing. Coming up on the one year anniversary of my first violent (pistolwhipped in the head) robbery in DC after living here for the past 6. Made the mistake of walking up 13th St rather than the more well lit/traveled 14th, which i knew in theory but didn’t think it mattered. I was wrong. Now a guy who used to walk everywhere in the city, takes a lot more cabs. Sad, but I don’t like hospital ERs a lot.

  • Why no description of the muggers? I guess we don’t need a slide rule to figure out that they were black, per usual.

  • Nate, a laptop was found up in Takoma on the street last night. If you want to follow up contact Dodie at 202-291-5338 or cell 202-409-4961. If you can describe the laptop and such she’s hoping to give it back to its owner.

  • There are two issues here and people are confusing them. First, how do we stop crime like this on a micro level, i.e. how do I prevent happening this to me? The solutions are simple and uninteresting: take a cab, walk in groups late at night, ride a bike, etc. We already know all this. The only issue worthy of discussion under this rubric might be which blocks are safe and which aren’t, but of course, that changes.

    The second and more interesting issue is how to stop crime like this on a macro level. This has virtually nothing to do with the micro question (other than if people take stapes to reduce their individual exposure, there will be fewer people to mug, but I think that effect will be negligible). This is something we as members of this community should talk about. The ideas here expressed are: more police on foot, undercover police, quicker police response. I know from experience that the spotlight and constant police presence on columbia rd between 13th and 14th has made what was once an absolutely terrifying block safe to walk down. Obviously this cannot be done all over the city, but is there a way to approximate this effect? Roving foot patrol after dark throughout the neighborhood seems like a good idea to me. How do we make it happen?

  • Blaming the fscking victim is pathetic. And implying that they deserve it if they haven’t lived here for twenty years, or are well-off, or are white is so fscking wrong it makes me want to hit something.

    Who the fsck cares about shit like that when it comes to a fcsking mugging you stupid fscking idiot.

    People who live here should have the ability to WALK HOME AT NIGHT. Full stop.

    How fscking hard is this to understand?

  • Also, not ignite the Tivoli North thing again, but a pertinent meeting for some to attend is tonight and described below.

    Dear Business Owners and Community Members:

    Tivoli North Business Association invites you to our third
    general meeting of 2009 in conjunction with the “Call 911” Campaign,
    Thursday, April 23rd in La Molienda Restaurant, 3568 14th Street, NW. A
    community “Meet and Greet” starts at 6:00pm and the panel discussion starts
    at 6:30pm.

    This meeting will:
    Provide feedback from government agencies now working on a series of events
    in our commercial corridor on issues addressed at the March 12th general
    meeting at Kikos Chicken, such as: vagrancy of intoxicated people, violent
    assaults, shootings, loitering, and the improvement of the working
    relationship between officers and members of the community.

    Petition to action residents, business owners, community organizations,
    Metropolitan Police Department, council members, and the Mayor to improve
    this area.
    Offer a chance to meet Ligia X. Muñoz, representative of the upcoming Latino
    festival on Fourteenth Street: Fiesta DC.

    Other invited speakers include: Councilmember Jim Graham (Ward 1) and
    Councilmember Muriel Bowser (Ward 4); Captain Kevin Anderson, Inspector
    Edward Delgado, and Sergeant Carlos Mejia with Metropolitan Police
    Department; Cecilia Arce with Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs;
    and George Escobar with the Mayor’s Office of Latino Affairs.

    We request your presence at this important meeting. Your continuous support
    is needed and very much appreciated. We look forward to see you on
    Thursday, April 23rd.

    Hector Gomez
    Executive Director
    Tivoli North Business Association

  • Pennywise, maybe you could encourage Dodie to turn in the laptop to the police if it’s not Nate’s renter’s? I know there’s a risk that it might not get back to its owner that way either, but odds are it belonged to someone who doesn’t read PoP…but who might have filed a police report.

  • Oh trust me, Dodie is in touch!

  • I’m actually surprised that there haven’t been increased policing efforts in Columbia Heights, Shaw, etc for the exact reason someone mentioned above — these neighborhoods used to be some of the most dangerous in the city and yet thanks to the housing bubble and gentrification forces, these neighborhoods are now home to a significant population of higher-income/better educated individuals who are theoretically more demanding of city services including policing. I imagine it will take replacing some of our city leaders with new ones.

    A crime wave? There might be an increase in crime, or there might be in increase in crime against the type of people who move in the social circles of the type of people who read blogs like this — I came across this map the other day and it’s rather sobering, as it is based on data from 2006-2008:

    As for this specific incident, this person chose to risk their personal safety by walking home late at night instead of opting for a cab or having someone drive them home (no designated driver at the party, I take it?). Every person has a different comfort level with exposing themselves to potentially becoming a victim of crime, and walking home is not a choice that I would have made. I’m not trying to say that the victim was asking for it, but they could have minimized their risk of becoming a victim by taking a cab home or walking over to MtP on Irving St (which is better lit, has foot traffic to/from the metro, and bus traffic). I’m debating whether to send this post to a friend who’s planning to move to a building at 16th & Park in a few weeks – I suppose I should.

  • Umm..why are people acting like these neighborhoods were full of poor people even in the bad days? It’s your racism that assumes the people were poor. Most of the people on my street in Columbia Heights who have lived here for over 40 years are primarily working and middle class families. This neighborhood has never been a poor neighborhood with a bunch of rich people moving in. It is a middle class neighborhood changing to an upper middle class perhaps but just because the neighborhood was primarily Latino and African American did not make it poor.

  • Pennywise Says:

    April 23rd, 2009 at 12:00 pm
    Nate, a laptop was found up in Takoma on the street last night. If you want to follow up contact Dodie at 202-291-5338 or cell 202-409-4961. If you can describe the laptop and such she’s hoping to give it back to its owner.
    I will give this info to my roommate. I sincerely hope this is his. He was distraught as he would likely have to repeat the semester due to all the work he lost. Thank you. Thank You! I feel so bad for him as if I was robbed myself. I know that it is a Dell laptop. I have the serial # but left it at home. It is probably a bulky laptop as it was an older model. He also had a Western Digital external hard drive. I’m sure they kept his ipod and wallet and his house keys.

  • Re: increased patrols, I think this is a moot question in the current budgetary climate. At least up in 4D that’s what we’ve been told regarding a request for community sub-stations.

  • Col Heights, did the people act poor? Did they raise their children to become Army Colonels, nurses and college professors who attended good schools or did they become Army Sgts or teachers who attended UDC or Southeastern or worse yet, did their kids go from middle class to lower class, having kids at 19, 20, 21, 22.

    I just spoke to a woman on the block who was upset because her grandson just had his first kid at 19, making her a great grandmother at 62!!! That’s unacceptable to her and unacceptable to society. She told us the good news and then lamented for about 5 minutes.

    Then her next door neighbor came out and we talked and she is very upset because her daughter keeps gaining weight after her baby was born. Daughter is about 220 according to the woman. She asked what I do (bike, run, walk, and eat very little) and she was just like, “My generation didn’t eat fried chicken every night.”

    Nate is right. Something is terribly wrong with DC culture right now. There is a pathology at work. Older African-Americans talk to me about this ALL THE TIME but I know that I would not just be a fool to take them up on their offer to mentor their adult children, I’d be disliked as an buttinski ofay. I am asked for advice all the time. Right now, the only thing I can think of to shake some sense into these 18 year old boys is to get them in the Army so that someone gives them some patch on their arm.

    There was a kid on the metro today who wore a button down shirt that read:
    More Guns
    More Guns
    More Guns

    a BUTTON DOWN SHIRT! Guess it passes dress code at school.

  • Just in case the strangulation by belt thing is a new trend:

    In my self defense course we learned about the value of dropping oneself into deadweight. Relaxing enough to be true deadweight can be hard in such circumstances, but if you at least drop your weight down, get into a crouch (keep your feet underneath you so you can run), you throw the assailant off balance, giving you a chance to get away.

  • Nate – I’m beginning to think we shouldn’t offer to be friends with you. They seem to get mugged a lot!!!

  • It’s a neighborhood full of public housing units and section 8 housing. It’s a poor neighborhood, relatively speaking. It’s also a neighborhood with lots of criminal activity/gang activity. When rich folks move into a neighborhood full of poor folks and gang members, they should expect to get robbed. Yes, in a perfect, ideal world, they would be able to walk the streets at all hours safely. But that’s not reality. I blame the “victim” here. Be smart, or get mugged. Very simple choice. But to ignore the reality of the economics of the neighborhood just because you’re not used to crime or think things should be different is just stupid.

  • Someone mentioned this on another thread, and I think it bears repeating. If the theory is that the robberies, etc. happen because people with money moved into a neighborhood filled with people with little money, how do you explain the high crime rates in parts of DC where that is not the case? Explain Southeast (my apologies for generalizing here), for example, where the demographics throughout many of the neighborhoods has very little variation in terms of most controllable variables (income, race, education, etc). People still get robbed there. Even people that have next to nothing and lived there all their life. Explain large parts of Southwest and sections of Northeast. Low income residents get robbed there too. Even homeless people get robbed. Can your theory explain that? It happens in places where there has been no gentrification whatsoever.

    The “invasion” concept and the like are convenient, but if you are looking for an explanation that holds water, look elsewhere.

  • Does anyone know where to find mean and/or median income levels for the various neighborhoods in DC? My own suspicion is that, overall, columbia heights remains a “poor” neighborhood, with new pockets of middle and upper middle class. I think it’s moving towards lower-middle class, but not quite there yet. But I don’t have any actual numbers to back it up, and I’d be interested in seeing them if they exist somewhere.

  • Crime wave, no? Increased awareness of crime because of victim demographics, yes.

    I remember back when Lean On Me came out in the late 80’s, violence in inner city, predominantly minority schools was accepted as status quo…only when suburban, predominantly white schools started having troubled students show up with guns to murder their classmates did “school violence” become something newsworthy…similarly, when a Virginia resident threatened to boycott DC after being cited for DUI in DC after blowing a blood alcohol content level below the level of intoxication, the Council decided that it should no longer be at the officer’s discretion to determine who is cited…before that, the people complaining about officer’s abusing their discretion fell on deaf ears.

  • Laugh as they might, it’s high time for a Peace March, Petworth to City Hall, demanding tranparency and accountability from the City Council and Mayor, especially for underage violent offenders, and a youth violent offender registry NOW!

  • StubsDC Says:

    April 23rd, 2009 at 1:28 pm
    Nate – I’m beginning to think we shouldn’t offer to be friends with you. They seem to get mugged a lot!!!
    He’s not my friend. he is a renter/roommate. One of these days I am going to tell you why these things are happening. Sometimes it is difficult to get my thoughts while working. But I have watched this degeneration in the black community for the last 20 years. I am dead on sure I know why. Unfortunately, I do not think that it can be solved. Too many tentacles.

  • anon12:09, welcome to the city, where you don’t walk alone at night. You just DON’T. Full stop.

  • Hah! Peace march! So you can get to city hall and Fenty after promising to speak to the group is two or three hours late or doesn’t show up at all, and the city council members give you lip service til you go home and then it’s business as usual.

    great idea.

  • LNic,

    Don’t patronize me. I’ve lived in this city for a pretty long time. But just becuase it’s not always safe (nor did I say it was) does NOT mean we should blame the victim. Nor should we simply accept the danger without trying to fight back.

    Why shouldn’t we be able to have a city that is safe? Other places are? If we all accepted crime as a fact of life, where does that end? Why shouldn’t we strive for more than just what we’ve got?

    Frankly, I find the attitude of “just put up with it, it’s just the way it is” to be extremely pathetic. But more importantly, every time someone takes that attitude it makes all that much harder for the rest of us, who do give a FUCK about our city and our lives to make it better.

    So…take your apathy elsewhere. I live here, and I have for some time, and I have no desire to put up with crime and all the other crap. And I see no inherent reason why I or anyone should.

    If you’re not part of the solution, you’re not part of the problem. Either help out, or stay out of the way. But don’t go around telling people that they should just “not walk alone at night” because it’s the “city.” They’re not stupid. But they do want things to be better.

  • Edit to my above post: please delete “Other places are?” and replace it with “Other places are.”

  • Jimmy D: How do you explain high crime rates in poorer parts of the city, e.g., Southeast? One word: drugs. Addiction causes large numbers of poor people to rob each other, usually for only as much as it takes to get high.

  • Personally I think the people getting mugged are the problem, not the muggers.


    Here’s some good raw data about youth offenders in OUR community…..

    I am amazed at the resistance to the idea of a peace march. The kids can go around with guns scot free terrorizing the neighborhoods, yet adults who want to march for change get laughed at with scorn and apathy. Tupac’s and Biggie’s legacy I guess.

  • As a 52-year-old black man, I am anxiously awaiting Nate’s thesis on the black community. And no, I don’t mean to be sarcastic-but I would hesitate to cast the singular net.

  • POP, seems that we have an outbreak of agorophobia in the neighborhood. According to most on this list, I’d should never walk outside alone at night lest something bad might happen to me.

    One effective protection while walking outside is to bring a dog with you. One that looks particularly vicious and barks meanly on command. Most people will stay away from you.

    While you’re looking for your new dog put in a good word from more dog parks!! We need more of them. Oh, and please pick up your dog poo should your new pal and protector should defecate in front of the the would be muggers, graffiti vandals. There is no excuse for not picking up the poo!

  • Reuben, I’m a white man and my mother grew up in coal/steel country. She could tell you exactly why people on her block got the hell out of Appalachia and people three blocks away didn’t. White people call this “white trash” or “redneck.”

    It’s not just a financial component, it’s a cultural component.

    It boiled down to a few things:
    1. An obsession with entertainments. In my mother’s neighborhood if mom and dad liked to hang out at the “honky tonk” then the kids were in trouble. One of my mother’s best friends hung out at those and had to get married in the spring, her senior year of high school. My grandparents absolutely refused to go to such places and refused to allow any of their children to go.
    2. Disregard for education and disregard for wealth and success. Calling wealthy people by names meant to belittle their accomplishments. My mother is an old school union lefty, but on the other hand she has no tolerance at all for badmouthing landlords, CEOs, the elite, etc. Talk about personal issues! In an Appalachian steel town, 5 of their kids got full scholarships to colleges, including U of Chi, Harvard and Stanford (I think) as well as teachers’ colleges. One boy became an Army officer, the goofball became a merchant marine. At one point three owned their own small companies. My mother even attempted a Master’s degree which for a woman in the 1940s was freaking impossible. Her sister married a PhD. I think 2 brothers have masters.
    3. Obsession with things that didn’t matter in life. One of her better friends’ mother was in the order of the eastern star (aka Freemasons). She spent all her time worrying about that stuff and worrying about church and so her kids thought, wow, community groups and church are more important than, you know, doing well in school. So they never moved and worked at the drug store until they were 50, wal mart moved in, and then they went on unemployment.
    4. This is a little trickier, but the lack of acceptance of one’s own fate as being entirely self-directed and not influenced by outside forces. Now, my grandfather was a union man, but on the other side I’m told about all the money making projects that he would set up. He became a foreman and managed his shop floor. He learned English and then taught other hunkie immigrants and DPs English. My mother has friends who still are unwilling to accept their cancer was caused by their smoking. She has friends who still want to blame big money interests in the demise of their town- as if they were blocked from opening their own businesses!

    I just talked about this. The dude who lived behind them became a doctor. The girl across the street got into teacher’s college. The brothers at the other end of the block joined the air force in time for Korea and then got engineering degrees. Another girl went to college and got married. Three blocks over, the white trash got married too young, skipped college, worked in the factory and lost their jobs in 1982. My uncle who never moved out had a functioning home repair company for years, ebbing and flowing with the tide.

    You tell me in the 4 things I mentioned above which are reflective of the African-American community that can’t get itself out of poverty. too much interest in entertainment? Disregard graduate education/PhDs? Too much involvement in church? Belief that external forces keep them from getting ahead? My mother basically described a woman I used to work with to a “Tee.” She loved the soaps, went to church 4 days a week instead of going to school, believed racism kept her from getting ahead, mocked her landlord and her managers, called me a yuppie… you name it.

    I’m sure other issues are at play here, but my guess is that almost universally we can identify the same characteristics that Spotsylvania meth addicts and Deanwood crack addicts share.

  • Of course I meant:
    “You tell me in the 4 things I mentioned above which are reflective of the PART OF African-American community that can’t get itself out of poverty.” I know seeing the word community like that often is used to reflect the entire “community” but that’s not how I meant it.

  • Reuben, without telling too much of my business, I will say that I spent 5 days in DC Jail recently. I accept responsibility for what I did. It was not a crime of violence or domestic violence. Or drug related. I was charged with CPWL. My suspicions on the problems in the black community were confirmed.

    There is a large element of black men that just are not going to work. Not for $6,7,9,15/hour. The problem is that they just do not have any skills to justify being paid anywhere near the $ they feel entitled to earning. I saw guys with tattoos on their face (teardrops), on their arms, hands. Everywhere that would disqualify you for a job they had tattoos. I vividly remember seeing a guy with tattoos of ‘Toga Nue’ on his hands. Toga, I presume, refers to Saratoga in NE. Others with Money, Power, Respect on their hands. Dice. RIP XXXX. Girlfriend/Kids names on their necks. Guys that were so comfortable in jail that it was nothing to them.

    I came away thinking that there is absolutely NO hope for the black community.

    The day I was getting out I was in a holding pen at DC General. Of the 7 or so black men lucky enough to be headed home that day, one was mentally instable. None had a place of their own. Only one other guy beside myself was working. Most had served long stretches in prison. No employment lined up. Yet, all except me and the other working guy had 1+ kids. One guy openly stated he was going back to the ‘block’ to sell ‘working 50 packs’ even though he was facing 20-42 months in prison. One guy was a bit younger than me and had already served 5 years at a prison. Not to mention his most recent stint in DC Jail.

    There were ~2100 inmates in DC Jail. Almost 100% were black. At least 90% were black men. I saw a few women, less than 10 Hispanics, and 3 white men. I could comment more about the stats of the arrested. But the dire state of the black men in there shocked me. I came away thinking that this, as opposed to working black men, is the face of black America men.

    My cell mate was so typical. Like myself, it was his first time in DC Jail. He was 19 y/o. Unwilling to work for minimum wage, he ‘hustled’. According to him, he kept his baby in clothes and bought him stuff. He was in jail for assaulting his “baby mama.” That was typical. Imagine the violence the next generation of kids are seeing.

    One kid (I do mean kid) would have been released if only his mom had shown up in court or answered her cell phone. He was sent back to DC Jail instead. Jail doesn’t rehab you. The next time you see him he will likely be headed back for more serious charges. I could tell stories for days. I needed to see it with my own eyes. I came away with an eyeful. I tell you things will get progressively worse for the black males before they get better if this bunch is a representative lot.

  • @Anon (it sure would be nice if you’d write a little name in that space):

    I didn’t mean to patronize you personally, but my frustration with viewpoints like yours spilled over. Sorry about that, I could have worded it in a more polite way.

    However, I have trouble with your logic. “Either help out, or stay out of the way. But don’t go around telling people that they should just “not walk alone at night” because it’s the “city.” They’re not stupid. But they do want things to be better.”

    Well, sadly, wanting things to get better does not mean not getting mugged/robbed/attacked. The simple fact is that walking alone in the status quo of our city crime is just dumb. I’m sorry, it’s DUMB. Not because the victims are to blame, not because I hate black people, blah blah… It’s dumb, man! I grew up in happy slappy Annapolis, and you just didn’t walk alone at night there either. Stop walking alone at night. STOP WALKING ALONE AT NIGHT. STOP WALKING ALONE AT NIIIIGGGGHHHTTTTT.

    Common sense can help anyone avoid many bad situations.

  • Nate, I appreciate your well-told story, and the analysis. Of course I don’t think that the guys you meet in DC jail are at all representative of the larger black community. They’re in jail after all. They are therefore representative of black men who commit crimes.

    Your own situation brings up an interesting point. You say you work, but what happened to your employment situation when you failed to show up for five days? Did your decision to carry a weapon without a permit get you closer to the life of the men you’re talking about? If you had lost your job because of your time away from it, would you have a harder time finding another job with your new rap sheet? I think yes. So an importation question is, what can we do to keep people, whether or not they’re working right now, from committing the crimes that will follow them the rest of their lives? If your neighborhood were safer, would you have foregone the gun that got you locked up? Would others? And isn’t safer neighborhoods the very thing we’re on here pontificating about? Wouldn’t that benefit everyone, right down to the perps, eventually?

  • LNic,

    Its a bit unreasonable to think that people can just stop walking alone at night. I have a different proposal. How about if everyone walk at night. Don’t be afraid anymore and take back the streets. If everyone is out on the streets, enjoying the night, and there will be a ton of eyes to catch and prevent crimes. That suggestion seems about as reasonable as suggesting that folks hole up for the night like we live in a war zone. Columbia Heights is not a war zone. It just a city with crime. Walk smart. But walk.

    Quit trying to scare everyone people.

  • Wow – in spite of the occaisonal bonehead/racist/plain stupid comment on this thread, there is really a lot of good, inciteful, perceptive and compassionate commentary. How do we use that to make things actually change?

  • wow. thanks Nate.

  • I stated, “Stop walking alone at night,” as opposed to, “Stop walking at night.” Walk at night, walk every darn night, enjoy the spring evenings with your dog and partner, but for crying out loud stop walking alone. We can all only hope for and work towards a city in which we can walk alone at night, but for the time being (not matter your point of view on the matter) it has been proven that it’s just not safe to walk alone at night. I am certainly not holed up in my house, but I’m smart enough to bring my dog or partner or friend or whomever when I walk anywhere late at night.

    I feel like we are a baby city. We want to be like the big kids, like New York or Chicago, but we’re little and still need to grow. We have dreams of being a doctor or lawyer, but the big cities are really more like nurses and paralegals… we think we can become something that we won’t ever realistically become. People in those other cities do not walk alone at night without knowing that they are taking a risk, not even in the best of areas. Why do so many people expect something that just will never, ever happen?

  • Oakie,
    I am a software developer. Jobs are actually quite easy for me to find. In my case though, part of my time spent in jail was over the weekend. We could go back and forth regarding if the jail stats are representative of black men in America. But the fact that almost 2100 black men were in jail at any one time in DC speaks VOLUMES. That does not include the ones on probation, unemployed, in prison, on parole, on the lam, and waiting on their court dates while out on personal recognizance. Not to mention the ones that have not been caught yet The ones in the juvenile system. And the young ones that have not entered their life of crime yet. Remember this post is about crime currently being committed by men not in prison.

    Let me say that CPWL sounds worse in some cases than it really is. Remember last year, an aide to Senator Jim Webb (Phillip Thompson) was charged with CPWL for bringing a gun into the Capitol. Noone fretted over their safety when it was an aide to a Senator caught with a gun in DC. Noone was sounding the horn to throw this guy in jail for five years maximum. My case is very similar to his. He claimed that he did not know the gun was in his bag. I echo his claim. It happens. And that is why mandatory minimums do not jive with reality in the real world where everything is not as cut and dry.

    As for how my time in jail affected me, I tell you one thing, I would have serious reservations defending myself now if someone were to attempt to rob me. Even if you kill someone in self defense, you are going to spend some serious time in DC Jail. I think I would rather die than go back there while awaiting trial. I couldn’t take it. It was too much for me. And that is exactly my point. For many of the men in that jail, it seemed no big deal. I found it hard to even force a smile. No happy thoughts. For those guys, it was like a friendly gathering. Their friends were there.

    The food served was not much different than what they normally eat on the street. On our way back to DC General for release, I kept thinking about would it be Founding Farmers or Charlie Palmer’s for a nice dinner. For those guys it was Denny’s or a carryout. I had not eaten white bread or bologna in 15 years or so. I have never had grits or oatmeal in my entire life. I have never drank white milk. I don’t eat cereal or cornbread. The water you drank is attached to the toilet. I found myself starving and dehydrated. Other men in the jail were clamoring for my plate, however. Some of these men were not far removed from their home environment. I overheard men talking of having slept in cars or from house to house. Jail was essentially a cake walk for them.

    How can we keep people from committing the crimes that will follow them the rest of their lives? I don’t think you can. As I have just stated, the guys I was released with were openly talking of going back to the block to sell dope. Back to the same block where they were last arrested to try their hand again at a gamble that the house always wins. Part of this is the allure of it. Selling dope gives you a high like no other I am sure. I know it is only music, but listen to some of Jay Z’s rap songs (Allure, Never Change, Hollywood,America Gangster soundtrack) regarding selling drugs. The allure of outsized profits, the women, the respect in the community. Consider this: one of BET’s most celebrated TV show was about idolizing black drug dealers and killers. Look at how Rayful Edmonds is still idolized by many in DC. The Black Mafia Family in Detroit/ATL. People that poisoned their own community are hailed as heroes. You just can not get that kind of adulation in the black community working at CVS. That is where I say the culture in the black community is off the rails.

    I will never forget I was at GA and Shepherd St NW at the Shell when I overheard a guy speaking of a returned prisoner. He stated “bitches love a n—a fresh out.” Translation: women love a man that is recently released from prison. You know your culture is totally out of whack when there is a considerable percentage of your population (men and women) that not only see no wrong in going to prison, but glorify it.

    Not to be long winded. But I carried a gun for self protection. Not to menace anyone or protect any artificial drug turf. I am a landlord. I go into SE and collect rents from tenants. There is a difference between me carrying a gun and a dope boy trying to protect his stash and maintain a reputation. Being in the dope game requires you protecting your turf. There is a reason why a dope boy from NW just can’t ride over to SE and set up shop without guns blazing.

  • This whole post is depressing. I used to live about two or three blocks from Nate (as best I can tell), and know the area well. My ex-fiance still lives there, and I worry for her all the time. A big problem in our relationship was her not being able to accept she bought in the wrong neighborhood for the lifestyle she wanted, and just didn’t want to accept certain truths about living in the city. For chrissakes, don’t walk alone! Don’t walk the dog alone at midnight with a dope house around the corner! Don’t wear a $30,000 ring while walking alone at night! Taking back the night is a great thought, but but really, rationality does not apply in all situations. This whole eyeballs on the street business is pure bologna. Look at this post for the past month, and weekly you will see people talking about crimes midday near the CH or Petworth metro stops. Only once have I read about someone actually intervening (well, there’s also the person who chased down the mail snatchers).

    Just because you spent 350k plus on your home, some much, much more, doesn’t mean the kids living with their grammas down the street are taking ownership of the neighborhood too.

    I understand Nate’s situation, and if I still lived in Petworth, I could easily find myself in the same situation if I had to take the dog out late at night by myself. Be smart, be safe.

  • Thanks Nate for posting your experiences. I guess you validated much of what I already thought, but reading “first person accounts” of your five days in jail has impact. I hope your future is not adversely affected by the experience.

    I’ve remember reading some of your previous posts about legalizing drugs and gun control. Did you experience affect your perspectives? Decriminalizing drugs would clearly change the playing field, but would it be for the better? I appreciate that addition is essentially a public health issue, but the lack of opportunities and the allure of easy money by antisocial means will always be a reaction to whatever legal restrictions (pick any area of criminal law) imposed (by necessity) by the body politic.

  • While “addition” is perhaps a public health issue for many of the math-challenged, I meant to type “addiction”.

  • nate for mayor!

  • I was charged with CPWL.

    NATE! You were warned about your license ON THIS VERY BOARD!

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