Dear PoP – Is Petworth Safe


“Dear PoP,

I have found a lot of affordable places in the Petworth area but have gotten a lot of conflicting opinions on its level of safety. I was wondering if you had any solid advice and if moving there would be a wise decision. Thank you for your time.”

Well since I live in Petworth and am an unabashed fan, I’d say it’s great. As we’ve discussed a million times, when living in a city you need to have common sense and this applies for nearly all of DC’s neighborhoods. You can read a guest post from Eric Nuzum about moving to Petworth here.

However, I must warn you about the perils that do exist in Petworth. If you move to Petworth and fall off your roof it is likely you will break your leg. If you move to Petworth and someone with H1N1 coughs on you it is likely you will catch the Swine flu. If you move to Petworth and fall off your bike it is possible you may break your collarbone. Since I’ve moved to Petworth, I’ve sprained my ankle twice playing soccer and smashed my foot once in a terrible breakdancing injury. All of the above is 100% true. Petworth can be rough.

I’m sorry for being a bit snarky but I receive this question quite frequently and always find it frustrating. We all have our comfort levels. What is “safe” for one person is not considered “safe” for another. I highly recommend you visit it and see for yourself if you feel comfortable. And I have to say, (knock wood, knock wood) I’ve lived here for 6 and a half years and have had 99% positive experiences.

108 Comment

  • The major peril I face on a daily basis in Petworth is crossing Rock Creek Church Road and not getting runned over. Other than that it’s gravy.

  • That is an awesome tree.

  • I would think it twice; even more if you have children.

  • All of Petworth, every block, every house = total sketch. Beware the camera wielding foyer and vestibule obsessed PoP-arazzi.

    I’ve heard if you park illegally in Petworth, you might get a parking ticket. Stay skeptical of neighbors saying hello – it’s a Masonic code word for “we’ll get you, and your pretty dog too”

  • “I’m sorry for being a bit snarky but I receive this question quite frequently and always find it frustrating….”

    Really? perhaps your readers thought you live in petworth, thus knowledgeable… I don’t see anything frustrating in that. Patient my friend.

  • Do these 2 things and you’ll have a better idea than most of what Petworth is about.

    1)Walk around Sherman or Grant circle [with a dog if you have one, but you’re all good without] on a Saturday or Sunday morning and talk to as many folks as you can.

    2)Stop by or call the 4D police station at 6001 Georgia Ave and ask to do a ride-along, preferably evenings or midnight tour on a Friday or Saturday night with a PSA 403 or 404 officer.

    The answer to “is Petworth safe” is to be found somewhere in between.

  • I bet bums ask you for money all the time too, but do you get snarky? Just ignore these reader requests. Nothing useful is going to be accomplished by either posting them nor by getting irritated with them.

  • what does level of safety mean? does that mean you can go running in the neighborhood after dark by yourself?

  • Just answer the question! It ain’t Kansas, Dorothy. Not as many winos as Adams Morgan. There are car break-ins, teen-on-teen shootings, and, my impression is, lots of young thugs who live with an ineffective grandparent around here. I found a lighter and a lot of broken bottles ON the play equipment at the Clark Elementary playground. The school test scores are in the shitter. A woman offered to “get” me some crack when I went to buy a gallon of milk at the 24-hour convenience store up north on Georgia Ave. The loud lady at the park on 8th and Upshur who schools her kids with yelling, swear words and arm yanking. On the other hand, most of my neighbors I’ve met are all nice – lawyers, cops, roofers, construction, retirees. Lots of people working on their yard and going to church on Sundays. There’s a lot of turnover near us from 89-year-olds to young families with babies and little kids.

  • “What is ‘safe’ for one person is not considered ‘safe’ for another. I highly recommend you visit it and see for yourself if you feel comfortable.”

    This is the dumbest response on crime. The idea that safety is a subjective thing is ludicrous. If someone asked you if not wearing a seatbelt was safe, or if having unprotected sex with strangers was safe, and you responded “it all depends on how comfortable you feel”, you would be called an idiot.

    What this response really means is that the person knows it’s unsafe, but just doesn’t want to admit it.

  • Our city life in 2009 continues its decline with political correctness b.s.

    Under political correctness, the obvious is never spoken or admitted to for fear of offending someone delicate sensibilities out there.

    In this modern dance of fools, political correctness supersedes and trumps basic public safety.

    It obviates any serious discussion, absolves any responsibilities or accountability, and precludes any sought solutions.

    Like too many of these threads, it is folly.

  • A lot of people won’t hesitate to move to places like Columbia Heights and U street, but don’t know what to think about Petworth. Here is my take: their friends don’t live there, and it’s a lot cheaper, so it must be bad, right? There is a lot of crime in Petworth, but I feel safer being further away from the craziness of the 1300 block of columbia road and elsewhere further downtown. If your level of comfort is Cleveland Park, you won’t be comfortable in Petworth. One thing Petworth does have, is neighbors who are always on the lookout, more than most neighborhoods in DC I would imagine.

  • At risk of setting off one of the various trolls that seem to have colonized PoP comments:

    Safer than Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights (give or take), Shaw, Anacostia, anywhere along North Cap, whatever the hell we call that stuff down by H St NE (Atlas? NoMa? I dunno).

    Less safe than Mount Pleasant, Dupont, Kalorama, anywhere west of the park.

    Of course, if you could afford to live in any of those neighbourhoods, you probably wouldn’t be be looking at Petworth.

    Oh, also, in case you were thinking about it: it’s a whole lot safer than driving in from the suburbs every day. Always worth getting your risk analysis in order.

  • Simple answer: You will not find a safer neighborhood in DC that is in Petworth’s price range with a similar proximity to hot spots.

  • Your 99 percent positive experiences for 6 1/2 years translates to 23 days of negative experiences. That’s a lot of negativity!

  • It’s a fair question, and the honest answer is Petworth is a high crime area, so be aware of that. The other honest answer is that it’s very much up and coming, so if you can keep it together a while, you’ll be happy in the long run with your investment. Check out the DC crime map. It’s a pretty great tool:

  • Right on, Just J. Except maybe near H Street NE. I’d argue Shaw and Bloomingdale are maybe more convenient to downtown but slightly more sketchy..I think. I remember when Logan Circle was too dicey. And when 3-4 bedroom homes in Clarendon went for 250K. You kids get off of my lawn!

  • I would guess (I’m not actually looking at crime statistics here, just going off of general rules) that you are less likely to be a victim of a mugging in Petworth than in Columbia Heights or some other popular neighborhoods.

    Honestly I think the best way to gauge how comfortable you’ll feel in a place is to see it at night. My barrier to living someplace or not living there is “do I feel comfortable walking from the metro/bus to my house at 1AM?” Take a friend and check out the neighborhood at night. And as with any neighborhood in a city, if you’re actually paying attention to your surroundings you are less likely to have something happen to you.

  • “What this response really means is that the person knows it’s unsafe, but just doesn’t want to admit it.”

    I don’t think that response is invalid. We have a friend staying with us and he commented that there are no neighborhoods like Petworth in Chicago. There may not be I really have no idea. However, when I asked him if he would have considered moving to Petworth (prior to staying with us) he said, “no way.” So I suspect, that he never even ventured into a similar neighborhood in Chicago….. for whatever reason.

    He actually really loves the neighborhood and it is precisely because he spent time here and didn’t just take other people’s opinions as true (especially people that don’t live here or have never set foot in the neighborhood.)

    Petworth is a fairly diverse place and the affordability is great. We just bought after renting here for 1 year.

  • I know I’m going to get a lot of crap for this, but I don’t feel particularly safe in Petworth. Your reader didn’t say whether they were male or female, but as a particularly small female I have had bad experiences in Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, and Petworth, with men saying extremely dirty things to me, following me, not leaving me alone, trying to grab me, etc.. These leave to feeling that — even if I don’t get physically assaulted — I am unsafe in these areas. This is obviously an individual opinion, and I do live somewhere where I do feel safe, but I wanted to add my dissenting view.

  • JW, your response is: “my friend tried had never tried driving without a seatbelt before, but when he finally did, he did not feel particularly unsafe, so therefore driving without a seatbelt is safe.”

  • “Neighborhood is as safe as you are,” is my new answer to those questions. Because as far as I know the person asking the question likes to walk down dark streets at 4AM talking loudly on their cell phone about how they got a $200 tip while wearing 5 inch heels. Or leaves their front door unlocked (there are people like that) often. I’m a single woman in Shaw and after 8 years, so far so good. I try to remain aware of my surroundings, avoid bad situations, take cabs or pick up buses in other areas to get home after certain hours, and generally practice safety. I love my hood but I understand others may see it as an unsafe warzone, screw em.

  • These questions probably come from a newcomer to DC, perhaps a newcomer to city living in general. I’d say Petworth is relatively safe for DC, but would probably be horrifying to someone coming from smalltown Virginia or whereever. So, if the questioner has experience in DC they’ll be fine in Petworth. If they are totally new to DC and its culture and crime, Petworth might be a bit much. Of course, like most of DC, Petworth changes block to block, with some blocks being horrifying and others being gorgeous, and some blocks mostly gorgeous with 1-2 “problem” houses that will be annoying and possibly dangerous. So, the renter should just case their possible place, hang out there for a couple hours during the day, then a couple hours at night, and see what goes on.

  • I think the appropriate response to this article woudl be some statistics to compare Petorth to other neighborhoods in the area and those in the same price range (purchase and rental).
    Sorry PoP your response was a not a bit snarky but 100% snarky. When I was looking to move to DC I looked at Petworth. I could quickly tell it wasn’t suburb safe but that was only one (small) reason I didn’t move there.
    As an ambassador to your neighborhood (its in your blog title afterall) I think you owe it to your reader, this letter writer and most importantly to your neighborhood to respond with as objective an answer as possible.
    So may I ask that you do a quick compilation of crime stats for Petworth comparing it to CH, Adams Morgan, U Street, Shaw, Capitol Hill and others?

  • @wimpy

    How hot are you?

  • anon at 7:18 – right on.
    To the person who asked the question: Do not do it – do not move to Petworth. You will be so dissolutioned in about one week of living there. Sure it looks great during the day time, quiet, nice big trees, not much traffic – but at night forget about it. No one cares about living amoung each other with common decency. People throw their trash anywhere, dog poop is seldom picked up, crack pipes laying about and don’t forget condoms hanging from fences. These are all things I have seen with my own eyes. It’s just not a place I would chose to live. And I chose to live there and hated every minute of it – couldn’t wait to get out.

  • Most of the crime happens after I am asleep. So the CH/Petworth I live in, which is the 6:00 am to 11:00 pm Petworth is safe. Not suburban gated community safe or rural farm country safe, but safe. However, if you are a night owl and like to hang out with friends outside after midnight, beware of the wolves.

    I agree with PoP, safety is very subjective. People fear what they don’t know, and stories of crime spread faster than stories of safety. (Who reads stories about how “nothing” happened to them that day?) Some people prefer to live in fear (Fox News reporters for example) while others choose to overcome their fears to realize that their neighbors aren’t out to hurt them.

    Petworth is a great place to live. Diverse, interesting, and convenient. This city, like all cities, can change quickly from block to block, though, so you should walk around, talk to folks.

  • No sh*t you’re going to get a lot of conflicting opinions with a question like this. It’s all relative. Safer than what? (Courthouse? No. Bethesda? No. Woodley? No. Columbia Heights? Maybe.) There’s no denying that DC has a crime problem that is worse in certain neighborhoods than others. But it’s all personal — there’s no threshold of “absolute safety.” Consider what you’re really looking for (your time horizon, money situation, family needs, etc.), get a feel for the neighborhood by walking/driving around, stop a few people who strike you as your kind of people (whatever that may be) and ask for their thoughts, and then make a decision.

  • RD makes a good point. I know a lot of people who don’t think twice about hanging out on U Street, Columbia Heights, and Adams Morgan but when it comes to Petworth they get irrationally worried. The fact is all of those places are way more crime-prone than Petworth. The Pethworth Metro area up to Shepherd, like a lot of Metro station areas including places like Cleveland Park, is a hot spot for robbery. But the vast majority of Petworth is quiet residential streets.

    The facts aren’t hard to come by:,a,1239,q,545471,mpdcNav_GID,1537.asp,a,1239,q,544953.asp

    In 4D theft, burglary, and car theft have basically been cut in half since ’01 and violent crime is stable or dropping quite a bit in the case of assaults.

    In contrast, 3D while a smaller area geographically (but similar in population), has much higher violent crime and WAY higher property crime. Robbery, probably the crime most people are worried about vis-a-vis walking the streets, hasn’t dropped at all in 3D since ’01 – in 4D it’s been cut in half.

    Statistically you are almost twice as likely to be a victim of crime in 3D (AM, Mt.P, CH) than in 4D (Petworth, Brightwood). There as twice as many thefts and almost twice as many robberies in 3D. Two of most common crimes (along with auto theft which is roughly comparable though higher in 3D).

    I think there are reasons why many people feel more “comfortable” in Adams Morgan over Petworth. Georgia Ave. has not visually “transformed” like the main drags south of here, and most people don’t dig any deeper than the area around the Metro. Also the reality is if you are paranoid about crime you’ll find a reason to be worried wherever you live. A lot of people are irrationally scared of home invasions and stranger abductions, for example, and such crimes are extremely rare. Are the chances of being a victim measurably higher in Petworth versus AU Park? Sure. Measurably. But any Metro station area in upper NW is measurably more “dangerous” than Fairfax County. There are benefits to living in CH and AM over Petworth. There are benefits to living in the city in a nice home versus spending two hours daily on a train or in a car. Things like stores, bars, and other amenities make some neighborhoods more attractive to single people and people who are interested in spending time out and about (CH and AM win out there). The malls out in MD and VA sure are nice. But Petworth is a different sort of place than AM, and the city is a different sort of place from the suburbia of NoVa. To me the more important decision someone needs to make is not what the % chance of being mugged is, but what sort of life you want to live? Do you want to live somewhere where there is a slightly higher % chance you’ll be the victim of crime or die by inches in suburban hell. Everyone has a choice.

    All that being said, if you are a parent of children that need to go to school, Petworth, like much of DC, presents a whole other problem. But if the focus is just livability for an individual or a couple, the obsession with “crime” as a personal safety issue is overblown with regards to Petworth. Come up here. Walk around. If I see you I’ll say “howdy”.

  • Being pedantic about it:

    Safe – 1. Free of danger or injury. 2. secure; not risky. 3. reliable; certain (as defined by OED Desk Reference edition)

    So no, strictly speaking Petworth is not safe. But neither would any block in the metro area – maybe any where. That being the case, the answer that it depends upon your own level of comfort with risk, stress and interaction with your environment is a fairly valid response. For example, I would never feel comfortable living somewhere where I would spend a lot of time driving because, 1. I generally hate to drive, 2. your chances of injury go up the more you drive, 3. I think most people drive badly and 4. there are a lot of drunk drivers out there. Remember more people are killed in automobile accidents than in murders. That said, the number of murders in Petworth is higher than in some other neighborhoods in DC. So is it safe?…no. But for me, that doesn’t make it a bad place to live – I have accepted some of the trade offs – It’s safe enough. I do really hate some of my neighbors because they are thugs, cretins, inconsiderate louts and jerks. But most of my neighbors are pretty cool…fairly easy to deal with, cordial, helpful, maybe a bit odd sometimes but OK. The thing is, visiting a neighborhood, walking around it, etc. is not going to tell you much. Really you have to just take the chance and jump in to see if you like a place. I can’t for the life of me figure out why people think that if they research enough, ask enough, check it out enough, etc. they will find the “perfect” community. Communities are not static, they change and morph, this way, then that, sometimes good, sometimes bad.
    Good luck to you…I hope it goes well whatever you decide to do.

  • I’ve lived in DC for 16 years, in Dupont, Adams Morgan, Mt. Pleasant, and now Petworth. The difference b/w all those neighborhoods + Petworth is that everywhere else I’ve lived I feel like a target for petty crime like car-breakins and the like. In Petworth I have no problems–i have even accidentally left my purse in the car by accident several and no problems. There are very few muggings along my walk home from the metro along NH Ave–have there been ANY in the last 6 months? I don’t think so. Stuff happens here (mainly crimes related to drug dealing) but it’s not about me or aimed at me. I’ve also noticed a huge decrease in that crime in the 4 yrs I’ve lived here, as the drug nuisance properties are sold (and in 2 cases near me inthe last year, forced to evict). The impact is huge–there is less crime on my block now than anywhere I have ever lived in DC.

  • I was going to raise the same issue as wimpy — what feels safe to a man may not feel safe to a woman, who face issues of street harassment and have to constantly be alert for whether a guy means anything threatening by it every time it happens.

  • > I would think it twice; even more if you have children.

    Disagree. Barnard ES (4th and Decatur) made AYP this year. (Not sure about the other schools in Petworth since this is our neighborhood school.)

    You can also enter the lottery for a slot at a Public Charter, one of which is EL Haynes on GA Ave. They’ll be expanding into the former Clark ES next year.

  • @ Anonymous @9:25: You say, “No one cares about living amoung each other with common decency.” Really? Even if you overlook the atrocious spelling, this statement is ridiculous. What a silly thing to say. Not ONE?

    To the person who asked the question: I’ve lived in Petworth for 10 years and love it. Yes, if I had tons of money, I’d probably live in a nicer neighborhood with big lawns, no punks, and nice parks. But what I’d never trade is my awesome neighbors — who have my housekeys, for chrissake. I have seen little but decency and kindness. I have a mortgage I can afford, a gorgeous three-bedroom house, tons of neighbors I adore, and have been the victim of two crimes in the decade I’ve been here: my hubcaps were stolen off my car, and our household electronics were stolen the day I left the back door open on Georgia Avenue Day. (We kinda deserved that one.)

    I’m happy in Petworth, and it’s getting so much better in terms of services. You have to figure out your comfort level with the relative risk of crime. It’s also important to ask who are the victims of crime; most of the victims of crimes I’ve been aware of are kids who get mixed up in gangs and get shot, not residents minding their business. Yes, carry pepper spray, and stay aware, off the phone, etc. — you should do this anywhere in any city.

  • @wimpy, @DC_Chica – agreed. That said, do you face more harassment in Petworth than in Columbia Heights or Mt. Pleasant? When I moved here from Mt. Pleasant, I noticed a pleasant DROP in street harassment. And conspicuously carrying pepper spray helps.

  • “JW, your response is: “my friend tried had never tried driving without a seatbelt before, but when he finally did, he did not feel particularly unsafe, so therefore driving without a seatbelt is safe.””

    No, hardly.

    Driving without a seatbelt is universally accepted as unsafe. While, living in Petworth is not. Do you tell people not to drive a car? Because, technically, that is more dangerous than walking. Does that mean you refuse to drive or get in a car?

    When I first moved in NYC, I moved to Harlem. I had people left and right asking me if I really wanted to live there. I looked up the crime stats from the small, rural town where I went to college. I had a greater chance statistically speaking of being raped in that town than in Harlem. But not 1 person ever asked me if I felt “unsafe” in BFE, small town.

    I grew up in a town of about 13,000…… there are meth busts, rapes, murders, break ins and burglaries there all the time. In fact, my parent’s business, my car and our house got broken into several times. I have a greater chance of something happening to me there than Petworth, yet again, no one would ever ask me if I felt unsafe there. Granted, there probably are not as many street muggings.

    Does that mean I advocate moving just anywhere because shit happens everywhere? No, because everyone’s tolerance level or perception of crime is different. If you don’t feel safe somewhere then by all means don’t move there but don’t rely on “your friend” or people who don’t live in Petworth to counsel you on whether not to live here. Or for that matter, don’t just take POP’s word (or mine) as truth either.

    You can easily look up crime stats and determine if they fit your tolerance level. The OP was looking for a subjective answer because “unsafe” just based on someone’s opinion is absolutely subjective. Do you think it is as simple as yes or no?

  • I think Petworth is about as good as you are going to get east of the park. I don’t feel threatened walking around the neighborhood at night, but do get nervous right near the metro after 8:00pm or so-it seems like that’s where most of the probems are. It makes me crazy when folks throw trash on the sidewalk, and there is drug dealing going on, but folks are generally considerate, good neighborhors. Even the drug dealers on the block say hello when I walk by. So the question to ask yourself is-is living in the city worth the hassle to me? Cause there is going to be some hassle. For me it is-the suburbs feel like Jail to me-but I can understand that others feel differently. To each there own.

  • 1. Jesus, you people are annoying sometimes. A person with genuine interest in the neighborhood is asking a real question. PoP shame on you for dismissing it and most of the rest of you for being crazy.

    2. Check out and type in the specific area you are interested. Like most of DC (really, 99% of it) it is really block for block. Look at the type of crime on your metro walk, etc. I would not recommend south of the Petworth metro (ParkView) at least in most of the areas as crime tends to be higher. In the area of Petworth near the Soldier’s Home, things tend to be much better and crime is low.

    3. The big deterrent you have in Petworth vs. other neighborhoods is our porch culture. I can have packages delivered to my house and left on my porch all day. No one will take them because everyone knows me and I know my neighbors are looking out for me.

    4. I honestly consider Petworth much safer than Columbia Heights. We have more trash and if that bothers you, probably the wrong place. Sometimes there is drug dealing. But hard crime that will affect you is very low.

    My 2 cents

  • The plain question, “is Petworth safe?” deserves an equally plain, honest answer.

    No, Petworth is not safe.

    Then explain, expand, relate personal experiences, desires, stage of life, compare, rant, etc.

    But any other answer without the premise, “No, Petworth is not safe,” is not an honest answer and a slide and submission to relativism.

    There are some still alive who remember when Petworth was truly safe.

  • I have been living in Columbia Heights for over two years now, and I am not “dissolutioned” yet with the experience. My advice is to try not to do anything stupid, and you will put yourself in a much better position to have a good experience. Of course, it is hard to have the foresight to not do anything stupid! My wife and I were stupid enough to leave our back windows open for days to let the fall breezes in, which resulted in a break-in by opportunists. We are smarter for it, closed windows and an alarm system later, we feel a lot safer. I think you can run into problems in any areas into town, but in neighborhoods like Petworth and Columbia Heights, it is especially important to prepare yourself and know what you are getting into.

  • facts are facts… i love all you “touchy-feely” types who say “spend a few hours there and decide if its safe for you.” Thats great, but, lets be honest… innocent people get shot in Petworth. It could happen to anyone, its a risk we all take by living in the area. Its a much bigger risk here than in other cities, or other parts of DC.

  • but why not chose a neighborhood where you can leave your windows open to let the fall breezes blow in. You had to add an alarm system and close the windows to make yourself “safer” – do you see how silly that is? I think the Centzon just answered the question for the reader.

  • Snark on. Had a gun pulled on me in East Dupont, not yet in Petworth. If you are white and really don’t like blacks, I’d consider somewhere else. If you are white and you like blacks but don’t like being ignored by black safeway staff because you are invading “their” neighborhood, move here anyway cuz times they are a changing and they just need to get over it. If you’re black and you don’t like white gentrys, I’d move to Petworth anyway cuz the gentrys aren’t really that bad are they. You’ll find a lot (A LOT) of unsupervised young punk thugs roaming the street, but they are freakin’ everywhere in this city, but certainly Petworth has more than let’s say kalorama or cleveland park. If you look at the crime maps you get about double the crime in Ward 3 across the board, makes sense with more affluent targets there, and after all the criminals live in Petworth (just joking, they live in PG county and SE don’t they?). It’s quite lovely in Petworth in terms of the birds, trees, open air, but then again that makes it feel very unsecure if you’re walking on a dark street at 1am and come across the infamous 4-5 child bandits with guns ready to jump you. If you are latino, be prepared for the black on brown crime, there apparently was some memo sent out in the black community that I apparently missed, just visit Wendys to hear all about it. And for some odd reason, the culture in Petworth involves lots of littering, I saw a very young (too young) mother the other day screaming bloody murder at her 4 kids and just dumping her trash from her car onto the street. The Yes Organic Food Market is like a ghost town after dark, no one dares risk their life for a gallon of milk.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    @andy I don’t think that statistics “prove” whether or not a neighborhood is “safe”. I know someone who got mugged in Cleveland Park and didn’t feel “safe” there. I know a single woman who walks up and down Georgia Ave. all the time and feels perfectly “safe”. Furthermore, Petworth is a huge geographical area so it’s also difficult to answer. I standby my comments that you have to check it out for oneself. And I think the comments are illustrative of that. As for being an “ambassador” for Petworth, I’ll let the archives of this blog be the judge of that.

  • This map shows you crime, theft, and other attributes. You can see what areas are safe.

  • Obviously a feeling of safety is a personal thing, but stats tell a lot and can let you know that your perceptions might be off-base or fears unfounded. This Washington Post article from a few months ago compares/contrasts crime rates in Dupont Circle (doubt you ever hear anyone ask, “Is Dupont safe?”) and Petworth.

    Don’t Base Crime Perceptions on Hearsay — Study the Statistics

    From personal experience (I live in Petworth) and watching the crime reports regularly, I notice much more random, mid-day violent or semi-violent crime in “safe” neighborhoods like Dupont. Most of the crime in Petworth is one or a combination of: late at night, when it’s unsafe to be anywhere in any city and a time when most are unlikely to be out anyway; between people that know each other – that is, a beef or a domestic dispute that has gone out of control.

    You live in a major American city. Be smart and you’ll be safe almost anywhere. Put yourself in a position to be a target, and no place is safe for you. Just a fact of urban life – and I’ve lived here, in Richmond (one of the highest crime rates per capita in the country), Manhattan, and Brooklyn. You want ultimate safety, move to the woods. But watch out for bears. 🙂

  • Seems like the annoying cranks have found the PoP website. Maybe it’s time to ask users to register before leaving comments?

  • I agree with Bloomingdale- I’ve noticed a ratchet up in the snark and negativity on the part of the commenters over the past 6 months or so… maybe it’s the economy?

  • well, there’s safe and then there is safe as long as you don’t do x or y. i’m sure you will be able to decide for yourself just by walking around the neighborhood at night (accompanied 🙂 )

  • 10:20 (probably the same as 9:25)- Not leaving first floor windows open all day for a week and having an alarm system for when you leave on vacations in a gentrifying neighborhood is just common sense. Don’t use me as some example for your “dissolutioned” trollery.

    Columbia Heights and Petworth are great neighborhoods, and you can have a great time living here! Just don’t be stupid like me!

  • “but why not chose a neighborhood where you can leave your windows open to let the fall breezes blow in. You had to add an alarm system and close the windows to make yourself “safer” – do you see how silly that is? I think the Centzon just answered the question for the reader.”

    What is silly, is the idea that people choose a neighborhood based on only a single factor. If “safety” was the only reason to live in a place, because somewhere is “less safe” you would be “silly” to live there, the decision would be very easy wouldn’t it?

    We’d all live in Potomac.

    Unfortunately, there are a great number of other factors.

    Proximity to transportation.
    Your desire for space.
    SF home vs. condo.

    If we all had unlimited amounts of money, of course we would all chose to live in the safest place possile that met all of our physical requirement.s

    Reality: We make concession because we do NOT have unlimited amounts of money.

    Petworth is not ideal. It is not as safe as some places that offer similar amenities in terms of proximity to transportation, housing stock, and so on.

    However, a lot of people are willing to make a minor concession on safety — which, practically speaking, can be addressed by, for example, not leaving your window open for weeks at a time, or getting an alarm system, in order to get EVERYTHING ELSE they want at a price they can afford.

    Buying a house is ALWAYS a compromise of some kind unless you are a millionare. Anyone who says it’s stupid to live somewhere that you need an alarm system, I assume lives on their own island surrounded by a forcefield. Can’t you imagine some place safer than where you live? THEN WHY DON’T YOU LIVE THERE?

    Safety is relative. If you don’t mind adjusting your lifestyle slightly to avoid the minor risks in transitional neighborhoods like Petworth, then you can be just as safe as living anywhere else and have a lot of benefits that you do NOT have in, for example, Falls Church.

  • Safe is not a relative. It’s the tolerance for safety risks that is. Petworth is not safe. Some of the existing residents just have a higher tolerance for safety risks than I do.

    Also, don’t only consider personal safety. The risk of theft to your property is also higher. I looked in Petworth and seriously considered Upshur Row (800 block of Upshur). In the end, after monitoring all the crime stats, I was certain my Vespa would have been stolen out of my rear yard even if I locked it to the porch had I moved there. Hell I was reading that some people even had bikes stolen out of locked garages and sheds.

  • I think the calculation might be different if you are a woman, but I’m very comfortable living in Petworth. Make an effort to meet your neighbors, walk fast/confidently after dark, etc. By taking normal proactive measures like that you may actually be safter in Petworth than Dupont or Cleveland Park living with the false sense of security that some people get because their neighborhood is white and tony. There are incidents of violence but most of it seems to be personal not random. For some reason car theft seems to be a bigger problem in Petworth than other places.

  • I’ve lived in Mt. Pleasant, North Columbia Heights and Petworth and never had any personal experience with crime in these neighborhoods. I was mugged and pistol whipped once in my life… and that was in Dupont Circle.

  • I think most people are answering the wrong question. The writer asked if Petworth was safe, not “do you feel safe.” “Feeling safe” is completely subjective, and may be based partly on facts, but mostly, it has nothing to do with facts, as the many answers here bear out. Indeed, I’d bet that much of the “I feel unsafe” comments here are based on irrational subconscious generalizations about a majority minority neighborhood, combined with the insta-blogging about every violent incident that occurs (or purportedly occurs) in a 5 mile radius of Allison and Upshur.

    Secondly, what is “safe”? Is it the chance of being the victim of a crime of violence? Chance of being the victim of any personal or property crimes? If one of those two, you can crunch stats (which in DC, may be misleading, given the penchant of local cops to try and dissuade victims from making them do the paperwork to file a report), and get some idea of comparative crime in various parts of the city. If you look at those more objective measures, most areas of Petworth are pretty safe.

  • “Safe is not a relative”

    That is absurd. Please, then, define “safe” for us all, if it is absolute. The only definition I can think of would be “no crime has ever occurred in the area in question.” There is no place that is true. If you disagree, then would the one crime victim in a “safe” place also consider that place safe?

  • my response would be: petworth is safe (read: as safe as anywhere else) if you are.

    but nobody asked me.

  • I live on the border of Park View and Petworth. I moved here in June after living in Columbia Heights for two years (a year on Kenyon, a year on Lamont). My two cents:

    1. I experience a lot less catcalling/harassment in my current neighborhood, and my neighbors are generally nice and respectful. I haven’t had anyone grab me or try to follow me back to my house since I moved to Park View.

    2. I hear fewer sirens and fewer gunshots than I did when I lived in Columbia Heights.

    3. While I will probably bail out to a duller, quieter neighborhood when I can afford it, I do enjoy living here, overall. I think the neighborhood is a good fit for people who live modestly and let things roll off their back. I probably wouldn’t like it as much if I owned property or had kids, a car, or other really valuable things to worry about.

  • Seems like the area is generally safe if you are white and are not on the streets after 11:00 pm. If you are African American, it does not seem safe at any time, especially from 11:00 pm till about 6:00 am. That’s just from looking at the crime stats around Ft Totten.

  • Tony, please provide facts that support your conclusion about “innocent” people being shot in Petworth. I call bullshit.

  • It happens – usually robberies gone bad. Can’t recall the most recent shooting, but this robber/stabbing took place on 8/21:

  • In all this talk about crime stats, I would note that it’s not enough to simply look at the number of incidents – the density of population matters too. Even per capita rates tend to only look at the residential population, without taking into account the number of people who come into the neighborhood every day for work, shopping, or entertainment. Sure, Dupont, Adams Morgan, and Columbia Heights have a high crime rates (as does Georgetown), but what is the crime rate when you factor in all the people who visit the neighborhood?

    When I first moved to DC I lived on the border of Dupont and Adams Morgan and felt incredibly safe. Much safer than I had felt living in West Philly, to be sure. Then I moved to Mount Pleasant – and I didn’t feel safe after dark. Empty streets late at night mean no-one is there to notice if someone is robbing you, and all the street harassment (as mentioned by some other women in this thread) didn’t help. I’m now back at 18th & U and couldn’t be happier.

    I think in many ways the safety question is all about perception, and the best response when someone asks if an area is safe is to tell them to go walk around and see how they feel. We all have different comfort levels. I was in New York a few weeks ago with a friend who was sketched out by parts of the West Village and Chinatown, while I felt completely comfortable in those places. On the flip side, she is not at all sketched out by parts of DC where I wouldn’t walk down the street late at night.

  • No, Petworth is not safe by most people’s standards that come from outside D.C.. The neighborhood is beautiful during the day, but if you make a habit of coming home after 10 pm, especially walking from the metro, you are not safe, and I wouldn’t be surprised when urban density is taken into consideration, the area maybe less safe than Columbia Heights.

    To the person touting Barnard ES as a good school for kids- that may be so, but I lived across from the school within the last year for about six months, and heard gun shots weekly, saw numerous drug deals within a few block radius, had three teen neighbors shot (I believe 2 died), and had another set of neighbors promoting a porn business from their house.

    That being said, there are also many wonderful people in the neighborhood, and it’s too bad the area has more than it’s fair share of criminals.

    If you don’t mind the occasional crack pipe, not being able to go to the majority of neighborhood “grocers” and corner stores without harassment, and not being able to safely walk your dog after dark, the area is great. Just be home early, set the alarm, and don’t be surprised if your car window is smashed in the morning.

  • When I lived in Foggy Bottom, I got mugged at gunpoint and ran into a burglar in my house at 4AM within a 6 month period.

    After 3 years in Petworth, still crime-free. There are good blocks and bad blocks, but I find that once the usual suspects recognize you from the neighborhood, they’re not going to mess with you.

    Honestly, any successful city is going to have neighborhoods with mixed-income residents. It’s the only way that all kinds of businesses can survive. Just because DC has historically been so racially segregated, people here have this skewed perception that Black people = bad neighborhood.

    I bought a very nice car with a particularly emblematic hood ornament that I park in an unsecured spot behind my house. Everyone I knew predicted that the ornament wouldn’t last a week in my neighborhood. Eight months in, and not even an inkling of a problem.

  • Is it safe to come out from under the bed yet? Please help . . . CH/Petworth is so scary. Loud noises, lots of people staring at me when I go out for walks, lots of traffic when crossing the street, unfriendly dogs always trying to sniff my bum, vicious stray cats always staring me down and invading my yard, kids playing on their bikes and scooters (or what I like to call the silent killer vehicles), monsters living underground across from Red Rocks on 11th and Park. When will this insanity end!?!

    Too unsafe . . . never leaving the house . . . please don’t make me . . .

  • @ontarioroader, that incident you pointed is actually a really bad example to point out. What few details are provided make it seem like anything other than “a robbery gone bad.”

    How often are people mugged and chased down for a pair of shoes? I’ve never heard of it since NYC about, oh, 20 years ago.

    It seems a lot more likely to me that this was a gang-related beef of some kind — the kind of incident which actually account for the vast majority of violent crime in Cohi and Petworth, and the kind of incident that “people like us” would never likely be involved in.

  • Safety is not relative, nor do we all want to live in Potomac.

    Those that submit to relativism, don’t amount to much in their life or in the lives around them.

  • Jamie – I don’t think you were there and I was. Victim was robbed for a shopping bag containing dress shoes from a dep’t store. I don’t think the robbers knew what was in the bag other than it was marked with the logo of a dep’t store – they were probably hoping it was electronics of some sort. The victim and attackers seemed not to know each other. A random violent robbery gone really bad.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Sadly innocents get shot/stabbed/killed in most neighborhoods of PoPville.

  • The bottom line is that the things we are all hope never will happen sometimes happen. The idea that you are ‘safe’ one place versus another is little better than an illusion. Mike and Ginny Spevak are just as dead even though they lived in a ‘safe’ neighborhood with no black faces.

  • @ Anon 12:04: if safety (and really, I would say perception of safety is what we’re talking about here) isn’t relative, then how would you define it? Is it only crime, or is it also risk of bodily injury from things such as auto collisions/freak lawnmower accidents*? How do you measure it? Is there a sliding scale? At what point when someone asks “is it safe” do we say definitively, “no, it isn’t because there were X incidents per capita last year”?

    * These do happen. A friend of mine from rural Sweden is missing the top 1/3 of her pointer finger because her grandmother was mowing the lawn one day and she, as a two year old, decided to stick her finger in the blade. They rushed her and her severed finger to the hospital, but it was a national holiday and there was only 1 doctor on duty and one of their neighbors had decided to shoot himself in the head, so obviously he was first priority. By the time they got to the two year-old with the severed finger, it was too late to reattach it. True story.

  • I have lived a block off of Grant Circle for 5 years, and am a woman and a lesbian. Our neighbors, on the whole, were very welcoming to my partner and I; we are on a first name basis with most folks, and people on our block really do look out for each other. We regularly walk or take the metro from the neighborhood without problems. Neither of us have been a victim of crime in Petworth since we moved. We have a large, beautiful house with plenty of character, a large yard, and a tree lined street. We have relatively modest incomes, and all this was affordable for us. I would make the same decision again if given the opportunity.

    The reality is that there ARE some things we live with that aren’t positive. Tons of litter. Kids with nothing to do, getting in trouble. The occasional police chase/now too familiar sound of the ghetto bird. People letting their dogs use our yard as a toilet. But taken on the whole, the balance sheet works out for me with benefits far outweighing drawbacks. It’s a personal decision, and is really dependent on the block.

    As a footnote, I work in the 14th Street area south of U street, and have had far more problems with street harrassment and feeling “unsafe” there, even during the day. A coworker of mine was mugged at gunpoint in broad daylight on 13th street during the morning rush our. My point is that folks might assume a neighborhood with million dollar townhomes would be safer than a place like Petworth, but you really can’t assume that’s the case.

  • Maybe if PoP reported on every violent crime that happened in the “safer” neighborhoods the same way he does about the more local stuff, the people who read this blog would get a better perspective on reality.

  • “Maybe if PoP reported on every violent crime that happened in the “safer” neighborhoods the same way he does about the more local stuff, the people who read this blog would get a better perspective on reality.”

    Or move to a cabin in the woods in Montana.

  • Violet Says:

    ‘I think Petworth is about as good as you are going to get east of the park’

    I think there are safer neighborhoods East of the park.

  • petworth is safe. unless you don’t think it is. then it’s not.

    this is going to be the answer every time this question is raised. over and over. and over.

    this conversation is pointless.

  • As far as safety you will see what you are looking to see.

    There are times I am discouraged with trash, dog poop, the occasional shooting, the sketchy house on the block (there is ALWAYS a sketchy house)

    I can look at Petworth as being unsafe. However I choose to look at my neighborhood in terms of the people who greet me regularly, the little posse of dogs that my pup likes to play with, the anonymous neighbor who slipped diaper coupons under my windshield wiper (and yes, I am pregnant)

    My husband and I regularly go to neighborhood meetings. We check in on our 90+ year old neighbor across the street. We talk to people. We ask questions. I sometimes get this feeling that people just expect to move into a neighborhood and expect people to come out of their houses, thanking them for moving into the area. Get over it. You get out of it what you put into it.

  • I just read through all the comments and it seems that most people who are writing and who identify as living in Petworth are feeling pretty safe. Not sure where the people live who keep saying it’s outrageously dangerous.

    I’ve lived in Petworth 3 years….no problems. Lived in Adams Morgan, work in Columbia Heights. It’s a totally different scene in Petworth. I feel WAY safer, and I’m out and about a lot. FWIW I’m a single woman, and though I have a dog, she’s not always with me when I’m walking around.

  • Katherine has said it best. It’s what you make it. Those of us who love Petworth might actually be better off is some of you sourpusses stay put where you are…


  • As soon as you hear “it’s all subjective” or similar relativist claptrap, you know that you’re dealing with a bullshit-artist. Buyer beware.

  • Anon 3:05, print this out and pin it to your shirt:

    This coupon is good for one crime-free, 100% SAFE neighborhood surrounded only by happy people where ONLY GOOD THINGS HAPPEN.

    No expiration date. Puppies, kittens, unicorns, and rainbows coming out of your ass are not included.

  • Hey Reader who contacted POP-

    I just moved to Columbia Heights and had really similar concerns that you did. It’s fine to be concerned about a neighborhood, it’s going to be your home! I read blogs, participated in comment sections on this site and read crime reports for the street I found a place on. You want to know what you’re getting into before you move there and regret it.

    I also would recommend doing a night walk. I walked to my new place from the metro at night to be sure that I’d be comfortable doing it. I actually did this about 5 times both by myself and with friends before I signed for the place.

    I absolutely love it now, and I definitely don’t regret the decision. I knew what I was getting into and felt really comfortable when I signed my lease.

    Yea, it’s kind of over cautious, but your other option is to be embarrassed about your concerns, sign for a place you don’t like and regret it for a year.

    Good luck!

  • @Katherine: I don’t get it, please explain.

  • @anon 3:05,

    Why are you so angry? The crime stats are clear. Compared to other areas, CH, for example, Petworth is simply safer. You also seem to misunderstand relativism. I would not use the concept if I were you.

  • Also @dc_chica, @wimpy and @neighbor on quincy… You’re definitely right things are different for men/women. I’m a very petite gal, which is why I was so concerned about muggings/assault. I took a self-defense class last year that I found really helped, and as one of you said, it definitely doesn’t hurt to carry a secret pepper spray 🙂

  • @3:20, how did I show that I misunderstood relativism. Please enlighten.

  • Anon 3:20, your comparison of Petworth to CH is exactly the type of bullshit-artistry I was referring to. Once you get into the relativism you prefer, you’re knee-deep in bullshit already.

  • Anon 3:20 —

    Yeah, CH is the gold standard of safety that all neighborhoods should be compared to. Idiot.

  • how about a narrowing question? WHERE in Petworth do you feel safe or unsafe?

  • under the bed. sometimes in the closet.

  • Petworth: Somewhat safe, and definitely filled with snarky jerks.

  • Anon 3:35, why are you so angry? I know a great therapist in the safe neighborhood of DuPont who can help with that. Is this forum the place where you get your enlightment? If you want to see the flaw in your comments, try reading a book on the subject.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Anon 3:05 whom I’ll call the Eagle is an angry person. For several weeks he/she has been posting very negative comments about pretty much everything. While you guys are anonymous to each other, you’re not anonymous to me. Sadly a danger of not requiring a registration process is that one person appears as anonymous and frequently posts negative things. It makes it appear that many folks are negative when in reality it is just one. I personally hate registering so prefer it the way it is. I consider this a small price to pay. There are negative folks in the world and they have every right to leave their opinions. Just keep in the back of your mind that it is often one person and not hordes of angry/negative/snarky people.

  • OK, Dan, who am I? You may not know as much as you think you do.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    @anon 4:03 let’s not have this discussion here. You can email me if you’d like to chat.

  • My wife and I have lived just south of Grant Circle for six years. We have never been victims of crime, though a drug dealer kid was shot on our block a few years ago.

    We have a three year old daughter, who goes to preschool at Barnard ES. We know many other parents with kids/babies. We know most of our neighbors, and socialize often will many of them. We walk around freely, except in the middle of the night. We use the local playground almost every day.

    We use the somewhat dilapidated corner store, where we know the owners and they’re striving to make it better. We go out of our way to patronize Yes Market, so it will survive and prosper and attract more good things to Georgia Ave.

    There was a sketchy Latino house on our block for a couple years, but neighbors banded together, worked with city officials, and had the place shut down.

    We’ve heard gunshots in the middle of the night on occasion, but (knock on wood) not in the last year or so.

    We love parking in front of our house, every time. We have an off-street spot we don’t even use.

    I publish a neighborhood blog, trying to make things better, make people aware of what’s happening in the community.

    We’ve had guests from beautiful European cities who say we’re lucky to live where we do.

    We like being 10-15 minutes from almost anything in the city.

    That’s it, mixed bag. We like it here.

  • My advice is to walk around the area you are thinking of living in during the day, and again at night.

    I think ladies often have a fear that men just can’t relate to, which sucks, but we have to own it and take care of ourselves.

    And Anon, leave PoP alone. This website is wonderful, and is great for the coummunity.

  • PoP…I agree…Petworth can be very dangerous. I bumped my shin the other day, and now I have a SCAB on it! boo hoo.

    This question just blows me away. I used to live in a very…um…upscale part of town, for which people pay exorbitant prices in order to have that address. and let me tell you, it was like living in stop-n-shop for thieves. a young visitor from another country was murdered on the way home from the movies by a gang of hooligans driving around in a car. They slashed his throat and robbed him. And several of the condos in my former residence were burglarized within a span of six months. so my humble opinion is to keep your eyes open and your head up wherever you live. if you don’t like the city, move to western nebraska and watch the tumbleweed.

  • In Columbia Heights here, but close to Petworth.

    Is it safe? I think that’s a complicated question with a complicated answer. I love my neighborhood. I love that I can walk everywhere I need to go. I like my neighbors. I like how alive the area feels.

    Yes, there is crime, but I have not been a victim of any seroius crime. Someone stole a light from my front garden, and someone once walked off with a flower pot from my front stoop, but that’s about it.

    I don’t think it’s an accident that I haven’t been the victim of serious crime. I don’t walk alone late at night. I don’t let people walk behind me. I let them pass me. When passing alleys, I often get off the sidewalk and into the street lest someone jump out. I walk fast and purposefully.

    To get back to the question at hand “is it safe?” It can be safe, but it takes work on your part, and there are risks. Are the risks worth it? Absolutely!

  • M.e.: Places like Nebraska may not be far enough. A man was beheaded by a total stranger on a bus in the middle of nowhere, Manitoba, Canada last year. Beheaded.

    Unless you decide to live by yourself in an underground compound there is always the slight chance that someone might do you wrong. Though, statistically, the persons most likely to do you wrong are people you know very well and not psycho ex-carny workers with sharp knives and a Greyhound “See Canada” Pass.

  • I moved to DC from South Carolina and was scared to death of the ‘big city’. I moved to Petworth after living in Adams Morgan for a year and I will honestly say I like it 100 times better. My neighbors are amazing and the area is growing quickly. It is a good move- And houses are actually affordable!!

  • After over 100 responses it’s clear what the answer is: It depends on one’s personal definition of “safe.” That was also the answer before any responses were posted.

  • Petworth is safe enough, ‘cept for the cannibals.

  • @ Skeletor — Does that include the CHUDs?

  • i lived in a major city in the midwest for a few months between the time i lived in NYC and when i moved here, and i was scared to death. M-F, there was NOBODY on the streets for blocks. everyone was at work. sometimes guys would sit in this one park, and if they saw someone walking past, they’d dodge behind the trees to get closer. i mean, it was weird. all those mammoth houses and gigantic yards and nobody around–certainly nobody walking, hardly any cars driving past. during rush hour, the buses ran every half hour, creeped me out completely. i love petworth. one of the most interesting and enjoyable places i’ve ever lived. and not least of the attractions is this blog. thanks be to PoP for SEEING all the fascinating things and pointing them out.

  • I am born and raised in Adams Morgan. Yes I miss the ease of getting a cab. I miss being able to walk up the block get to restaurants and bars. But the Adams Morgan I grew up in is no more. The block I lived in now has a security guard to protect it. I now live in Petworth and feel just as secure as I did when I was a kid. My roomate has left her windows open in her very nice car open many times and nothing has been stolen. The best thing of all is the amazing views. I can have breakfast and look at much of Rock Creek and the view at dinner time is even more amazing.

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