PoP Pontificates

Tivoli Corner, originally uploaded by M.V. Jantzen.

Well it’s been a while. Yesterday there was a post in the great H Street, NE blog, Frozen Tropics where, I feel, the author unfairly maligns Columbia Heights. I can understand her frustration but is it really necessary to make the point of defending one neighborhood by cutting on another? I can’t accept that provincial way of thinking. The author writes:

“But, to be frank, I feel safer living here than in Columbia Heights. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I know too many people who have been robbed in Columbia Heights. And when I say robbed, I mean pistol whipped, punched, or hit in the head with a brick. None of these people were resisting. By contrast, I only know (personally) one guy who was ever violently attacked during a robbery in this area.”

I really don’t mean to start a neighborhood war here. I’m a big fan of H Street, NE (in fact I just filmed a PoPtrekker there, stay tuned). I think what makes Washington DC great is that it has many great diverse neighborhoods that each have much to offer. You know, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” and all.

Nevertheless, let me make a few points in defense of Columbia Heights. You see Columbia Heights is a huge neighborhood. And lots of people live there. So yes, there is crime. In fact I was hit in the head with a rock not too long ago. But it has in no way diminished my love for it. I mean if we’re going to use the scientific method of how many people we personally know who’ve been mugged then I’d say it’s one of the safest neighborhoods in the city. Yeah, I don’t know anyone personally who’s been mugged there. Ok, obviously I don’t think it’s the safest neighborhood in the city but just making a point.

Here at PoP we’ve often discussed that everyone has their own comfort level. I happen to feel comfortable in Columbia Heights and H Street, NE. That doesn’t mean I walk the streets at 3am with dollars sticking out of my ears and a fresh can of airplane glue. I also happen to feel comfortable on Georgia Ave. And H Street, NE reminds me a lot of Georgia Ave. (except H St. has more new restaurants). But when I was recently filming the PoPtrekker there I couldn’t help but notice how many boarded up storefronts there were. It didn’t bother me. But I can see how some people might feel uncomfortable. It is what I call gritty. Which is far different, in my mind, than unsafe. Crime is a citywide problem. It may occur on some streets more than others but it is a problem we need to battle as a city.

But like I said, I love Columbia Heights. And I love H Street, NE. No need to justify loving one by taking down the other.

40 Comment

  • maybe we should challenge this blog/neighborhood to some type of contest/duel – like a neighborhood clean-up or some demonstration of feats of strength? I am half joking, but it would be kind of cool to coduct some sort of neighborhood/blog contest. maybe we could have a contest in which 10 reps from each local blog get [email protected] up at a neighborhood watering hole and then walk home with ipods on. whichever team has less people getting mugged wins and can claim best (better) neighborhood bragging rights. just an idea.

  • I’ve lived here in Columbia Heights 7 years, and have never been mugged, or had my car or home broken into.

  • I feel safe here because we are 3 people with varying schedules so the house is fairly covered. We do not have bars on the windows. The garage has been broken into 3 times with loss of about 2K of bicycles and tools. A contractor working for me had his truck broken into on the street in front of my house while we ate lunch and 400$ tools stolen. It’s a mix.

  • H Street is much closer to Virginia which causes the average IQ to freefall. But I bet they can get fresh possum meat a lot easier.

  • The official robbery and assault statistics are a much more objective measure of your relative safety than some emotional “comfort level”. And the crime stats ain’t real good for CH.

    Ignore objective evidence at your own risk.

  • I love the vibe of the newer places on H Street but I feel like it is FAR more sketch than CH … I have definitely felt uncomfortable walking around there in the evenings; the streets are far quieter than in CH, and there are far more people around who appear to be under the influence of something (indeed, the one time a rock was thrown at me in this city was on H street, by someone out of his skull who was upset when I refused to honor his panhandling request). Also, transportation this is very spotty with no metro nearby, few cabs around, and only sporadic bus service.

    Yes, CH has a lot of violent crime, but the difference is that you can generally enjoy the main commercial areas (from the Metro to Monroe street on 14th, Park Road, and 11th Street) in normal hours (up to, say, midnight) without feeling particularly nervous — a lot more foot traffic, a lot denser development, a lot better lighting, etc. It is also much easier to find transportation if someone is sketching you out. So long as you avoid a few blocks around what has unfortunately turned into a gang war centered on 14th and Girard, especially during evening hours, CH has a FAR safer feel than H Street in my view. It sucks that you have to avoid walking around certain areas, but that unfortunately has become reality in light of the recent spate of violence.

  • That doesn’t mean I walk the streets at 3am with dollars sticking out of my ears and a fresh can of airplane glue.

    Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

  • Someone stole the windshield wipers off my car on H Street. I guess that can happen anywhere, though.

  • That happens a lot on this blog, too – people talking smack about certain blocks because it somehow makes them feel better about their own.

    And, since when has airplane glue come in cans? I’ve missed so much.

  • I would add that it is possible that Frozen Tropics is like me in that I know a lot more people that live in Columbia Heights then H St which would make her statistical analysis a bit skewed.

  • Well, at least we can all agree that Petworth is scarier than Columbia Heights and H street combined.

  • If someone said that they have driven without a seatbelt for 7 years and had never been in accident, or that they “feel” within their comfort zone while driving without a seatbelt,…..you would call this person an idiot.

    Yet people use exactly the same logic with regard to crime all the time on this blog.

  • there is a very good reason for this. im surprised nobody has touched on it. muggings are concentrated in areas with a lot of nightlife, drunk people, cash-ipods. This is why there are a lot in adams morgan and columbia heights but also in georgetown. H street has an up and coming nightlife scene. mark my words. 5 or six more bars open and a couple more good restaurants. and the muggings will rise. there are less muggins in deanwood and brookland and at this point H Street because there are LESS TARGETS. would you waste your time fishing in a river with five fish in it or drive a little further to one where they jump in your boat?

  • as H Street continues its rise and it becomes a true drinking borough destination with a flood of VA and MD people walking along H street (cash in hand) from union station (something people dont even do now cause its so sketch, favoring a five minute cab ride over a 12 minute walk). people will be mugged. oh yes.

  • It’s apples and oranges. H Street is a solid 5-7 years behind CH on the gentrification curve, and it’s not planned for the same types of commercial use. Live where you want, go out where you want — the thugs are everywhere. You accept the hazard of being their target when you choose to live in the District, period. Anon @ 9:16 gets it, and I would add that, if you’re looking at thug-on-hipster/blogger/yuppie crime, my sense is the crime rates in both places are proportionate to the number of hipster/blogger/yuppie-types on the streets in each place. (CH probably has more thug-on-thug crime, however.)

  • I live in Columbia Heights and I say H Street wins this argument. I base this solely on the fact that H St. has Taylor’s deep fried risotto balls. I mean, try eating one of those delicious little treats without smiling. It’s impossible. My new crime reduction initiative is simple: Stand on the street corner and hand these out to anyone that walks by – especially people with frowns on their faces – and watch crime drop precipitously.

  • Way of topic – but not sure where else to put it – the Solea add does weird things to my computer and slows loading PoP. Anyone else having trouble?

  • Oops meant to say way OFF topic

  • I’m with Anon 11:22pm, time for interneighborhood double dare. If we could manage to spread green slime throughout the city perhaps it would slow down the dope boys.

  • I think the all the hipsters and yuppies from Columbia Heights and H St. should just meet up on the national mall for an old school rumble a la `Gangs of New York’ and settle this once and for all. ill supply the pabst and ironic t-shirts.

  • I’m with anon 11:22 too – we could do a combined cleaning – pick 5 blocks. I guess whoever gets the most trash loses… or see who has the most volunteers. I bet we would win.

  • Binkles: Only professional glue-sniffers like PoP buy it in cans.

    I don’t understand what your saying about “smack”. I only ever say that Sherman Circlers are the dumbest and ugliest people on earth because it’s true, and not because I’m trying to feel better about Grant Circle and it’s astonishingly wonderful stupendousness.

  • Both neighborhoods have problems. If someone didn’t know that before signing a lease/title in either neighborhood, no amount of maligning the other one will make it any better.

    That, and H street is just totally jealous of Columbia Height’s awesomeness. Obviously.

  • I think PoP’s point is right on; H St. seems much grittier. Although there is plenty of new business, there aren’t new buildings the way there are in C-Heights and a lot of storefronts are boarded up. To a visitor H St would likely seem less safe just looking at it. I think one reason we all know more crime victims in CH is that we know people who live there, which means they have to walk down side streets away from the various business to get home, which is where the muggings take place. Just like there isn’t all that much crime on 14th (this weekend notwithstanding), there likely isn’t all that much crime on H st proper. Once we know more people who live in that area and walk home from H st, I imagine we’ll know more folks who are crime victims.

  • There’s no smack talk. This is a silly topic and unecessarily sensitive.
    Where’s the door of the day?

  • I noticed a flyer as I was leaving my apartment building this morning in Columbia Heights.

    There will be a meeting tonight at Cardozo High School from 7-9, open to the community, to discuss the recent rash of crime in the neighborhood. Jim Graham will be there as well as some other council members.

    I couldn’t find this information on Graham’s website or elsewhere on the web, but perhaps I’m simply not looking hard enough?

  • You are WAY off, guy. Listing a couple crimes that have been committed in Columbia Heights does not unfairly malign the neighborhood. It’s stating a fact, and it’s doing so in a more tactful way than many people would. I, for instance, would say that Columbia Heights is a crime-ridden hell-hole. That can be considered maligning the neighborhood.

  • whoa CP. easy boy. Columbia Heights a crime-ridden hell-hole? What lilly white bore of suburban town do you come from that you think Columbia Heights is so 3rd world? Im guessing I would take my chances dodging bullets in CH over having to live where ever the hell you are from (quick guess: PA ?). Feel free to head back home anytime. Dont need your hate around these parts. Sheesh. couple Ipods get stolen and some section 8 gun battles and we’re baghdad all the sudden. Get a grip people. Graham will close the section 8 eventually. and ironically probably move it all to NE.

  • i think it would be a good idea to have an H Street / Columbia Heights showdown. The only problem is that the people from H Street can’t get anywhere b/c there is no metro so we’d have to go their home turf.

    since i drink CH Kool aid, i like CH much better and if i had to place a $1,000 bet on which area will be more desirable in 10 years, I’d go with CH all day long and twice on sunday b/c of the metro, DC USA, and the eventual connection of CH to U Street along 14th street.

  • Anon 1:20, actually crime rates are much, much higher in Columbia Heights than in Baghdad. This is a fact.

    (Maybe getting Blackwater to work security in CH would help solve the problems that MPD can’t? I’m only half-joking.)

  • anon 1:44. It must be fact. my god look at sources you’ve cited. Who can refute such rock solid evidence. lol. “crime rates” lol.

  • I don’t know if the crime rates are higher in CH or not, but the “annoying hipster whippersnappers in flip flop rate” is through the roof! Flip flops are for taking showers in prison, not walking around.

    That’s the reason I left CH – that and because Lil’ Gal told me to.

    Now git offa my lawn.

  • say what? I dont think ive ever seen a hipster in flip flops. we. uh. i mean. they. dont roll that way. flip flops are def the footware choice of the preps. a quick toe count in CH vs glover park will tell you that.

  • Anon @ 2:30: Bah! Smartypants generation z-er’s with your iProbes and your re-usable grocery bags! When I get to the front of the line at the store and they say “paper or plastic” I say “both, Junior!” I’ll show you! And it isn’t because I always forget my re-usable bags in the car, neither! And who says that high-waters aren’t a good idea? We’ll see whose pantlegs get the dampest! Damn you Columbia Heights!

    Oh me. Time for a nap.

  • Prince,
    I did not mean to denigrate Columbia Heights in the post. I like Columbia Heights (really). I just get frustrated when people automatically assume that anything in NW is safer than stuff in NE. I only used Columbia Heights as an example because of the news story that day. I certainly don’t think the neighborhood is unsafe (I think my old roommate just acted in a way that made him prone to muggings). A lot of it is about feeling comfortable in places you live and frequent.

    I think the comment (on Frozen Tropics) from a Shaw resident said it best:

    Anonymous Caro said…

    When I say I live in Shaw, I experience the same thing — people will look quizzically at me, or immediately ask, “Wow, do you feel safe there?” And yet, these same people will go out in Adams Morgan, U Street, or Columbia Heights late at night without much thought. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t do this, or that AdMo, U Street, or CH are horrible places, nor do I think that Shaw couldn’t be a lot safer… I just find it odd how people draw little borderlines in their mind to say “This area is safe and this area is sketchy” with total certainty, even when they’re not that much different. I think people just want to feel in control of their safety, and so in order to go to the places they want to go, they decide that that area is safe enough to be worth the risk.

    May 18, 2009 11:20:00 AM

  • Anon 1:20 either went for a swing in the backseat of the Beetle, or isn’t paying attention. Graham will cease to waddle Ward 1 long before public housing leaves CH. Got to keep the right population up for the eventual Wal Mart and Arbys.

  • I mention all the time that Petworth has less crime (especially property crime) than U St., Columbia Heights, or Adams Morgan (easily verifiable at http://crimemap.dc.gov). The point isn’t to put down the other neighborhoods, but I hear comments from people in AM, CH, and U St all the time that they wouldn’t live in Petworth because of crime. Honestly, I think they’re making assumptions based on race, not actual crime statistics, and that really makes me mad…so what I tell people is that if you’re comfortable living in any of those other neighborhoods, then there’s no reason to feel apprehensive about Petworth. And just for the record, while I love Petworth, I would have bought a rowhouse in any of those other neighborhoods if I could have afforded it – they are all great places to live.

  • Anyone catch one of the partners opening up ‘Social’ [new bar at 14th & Meridian] pitching a fit about prostitution, drug dealing and kids on illegal minibikes in an email to Jim Graham on the MPD 3rd District listserv?

  • PetworthRes: According to the mappy thing there hasn’t been a single terrorist attack within 1500 feet of my house in at least 2 years. No murders neither. There have been 5 robberies in the last year but they didn’t even use guns. What kind of American refuses to use a gun? Pinkos. I can’t tell from the mappy thing if the robbers used a frying pan instead or if their victim was a short feller sniffing airplane glue from a can whilst taking pictures of doorways.

  • Extra, extra…the Mayor called Columbia Heights and H Street the two best places in the world to live. Period. This is like debating the ‘taste great’ and ‘less filling.’

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