Friday Question of the Day – Does Hearing About Violent Crime Affect Where You’ll Visit?

Last night I saw the smallest message from MPD:

“MPD is working a shooting at 8th and V St NW.”

Then a reader sent the following from The Washington Post:

“Three young men were shot and seriously wounded Wednesday night in the Shaw neighborhood of Northwest Washington, D.C. police said.

Several off-duty officers near the 9:30 club, a popular music venue, heard gunshots about 7:40 p.m., said assistant police chief Diane Groomes. The off-duty officers then ran about two blocks to Eighth and V streets, where they found two victims, Groomes said. The third wounded man, who had also been shot around Eighth and V, ran a few blocks to a nearby McDonald’s.”

I have to admit, hearing about a triple shooting doesn’t have the same effect on me as it used to. Sadly. I’ve become a bit emotionally numb to stories about violence like this. It still upsets me terribly initially but then before I even realize it, I sorta shrug it off. Sadly. But since this one was near 9:30 Club it got me wondering if/how it affects others.

Whether folks like it or not, from time to time there is violence all over the city, on U St, in other parts of Shaw, Columbia Heights, Chinatown, Petworth, Park View, Mt. Vernon Square, Mt. Pleasant, Adams Morgan, H St, NE, Hill East even Georgetown and Cleveland Park etc etc. Nearly all neighborhoods in DC experience violence at one time or another. Sadly.

But my question is – when you read about events like this does it ever stop you from going somewhere like a particular neighborhood? Is there a cumulative effect?  When you hear about fights/violence and/or shootings in a neighborhood are you less likely to visit that neighborhood? (I’m not even talking about moving to, I’m just talking about visiting.) Does reading about violent incidents in the city make you change your behavior at all? Or do you sorta shake your head in disgust and sadness and carry on? And what if you happen to live in that neighborhood, how do you cope with hearing about violence like this?

86 Comment

  • Pisses me off initially…..then I think of what it was like 10 years ago. The ghetto thug is a dying breed.

    • Think again.

      • second that. ghetto thugs are being baked fresh every day.
        crime is always a problem in dc, and something you always need to keep an eye out for.

        and no, the “crime happens everywhere” yelling crowd have obviously not been everywhere.
        and i’m not hatin. i love dc to the bone. but you got to be real.

        • Well, the rate has gone down drastically over the past 20 years. Not that it’s gone, but it’s getting better in just about every neighborhood in the city.


          • true.
            sometimes its really hard to comprehend how much this city has changed.
            its like getting whiplash thinking about it.

            there is actually something amazing to me about people saying ” i can’t understand why people are so scared of trinidad”.

            and really, there is no reason to explain why. cuz its a whole new game these days.

        • Glad someone else took issue with that statement on a purely factual basis. DC’s gentrification model has been one that tries to avoid displacement as much as possible. The ghetto thug is alive and well in all these neighborhoods that people consider to be gentrifying. They’re not going anywhere.

  • I think reports of violence reinforce my unwillingness to go to places I don’t normally go. However, reports of violence in places I often go do not seem to change my willingness to go there.

    So – I hear, for example, that Trinidad is unsafe. So I don’t go. Then I hear someone was shot. So then I’m really sure I don’t want to go.

    But – I go to Union Station and want to go again. I hear someone shot somebody else in Union Station. I think, huh. Then I go anyway, reasoning that the risk no longer remains.

    It’s an illogical double standard.

    But I think a lot of people think and act like this if they are honest with themselves.

    • I agree with Andy. Hearing about crime in areas that I frequent makes me more cautious when I am there – I won’t stop walking up a particular street at night, but I will put away my ipod and remain “alert” during the walk.

  • Well of course, in DC, when you leave your house in certain neighborhoods at night you are risking some very odd encounters. The most recent violent image in my mind is a 12 year old pretending to shoot me and my wife as we left a nice establishment along the eastern U St corridor. 12 yo pretending to be tough a cool, pretending to shoot white adults in his little possy. Is that child destined for DYRS? Another recent up here in Peeworth, some old brothers sending threatening vibes as I passed their porch. The ongoing racism violence sucks. But, does everyone realize we used to have racial coventants in our real estate contracts?? What is with that?

  • I think I almost always hear some neighborhoods in a negative context (i.e. crime reports) and don’t know enough about the neighborhoods themselves. Petworth would be a mystery to me if this blog didn’t exist. Trinidad is still unvisited by me, 18 months into my tenure here.. really don’t know what exists in that neighborhood. (i shoulder lot of the blame here)

  • I stay out of Bloomingdale because of this.

  • Not really. It just makes me wonder if I should wear my undershirt made out of used kevlar bike tires on certain nights.

  • Crime didn’t used to keep me away from any place in DC. However after being mugged and beaten unconscious by two kids (one of whom had a gun), I now avoid alot of places primarily at night.

  • Well, I’m moving to DC (Capitol Hill near Lincoln Park) from Park Slope Brooklyn and I’m nervous. I keep reading about crime near H street and Trinidad and I’m worried that I’m too close to those neighborhoods. Brownstone Brooklyn is great and violent crime is almost non-existent because of gentrification. We were considering the Shaw or Columbia Heights area, but I couldn’t bring myself to consider living there because of the crime maps and reports I keep seeing. I know I’m being irrational, but I can’t raise a kid in that environment.

    • Where near Lincoln Park? If it’s legitimately near, particularly west of the Park, your concerns are completely unfounded. If you’re truly (like a block or two) off the park in any direction, you’re nowhere near Trinidad (which as a recent post here shows, is really not as unsafe as it’s portrayed to be).

      I live a block west of the park and the idea of being afraid of violent crime in my neighborhood is actually kind of laughable.

      • Unfounded is a bit of a stretch. My wife had a man follow her and her friend into the alley at night who then took off sprinting when I showed up. My cousin (female) was also robbed at knife point walking into Lincoln Park (again at night) along N Carolina from Eastern market. Last summer there were 2-3 car jackings on 12th and C/D targeting moms with their kids.

        It never feels unsafe, but you still have to use your street sense. A fair amount of the crime has been people from MD/VA or other pars of DC driving into the neighborhood to target residents, but there’s also the riff raff associated with your friendly neighborhood drug dealers and then the HS kids with nothing better to do.

        It’s really up to your comfort level but look at One of the most telling stats is to turn on crimereports and look at only “assaults” over the past 3 months for the city (you’ll have to adjust the calendar). That will give you a relative sense of what neighborhoods are still transitioning. For me, it blows the “I live in trinidad, trinidad is completely safe” argument out of the water, but that’s my comfort level.

        • Yeah, it was late and I didn’t want to get into the carjackings thing, especially since there hasn’t been one in months and they caught almost all responsible (and none of them lived in the neighborhood – they could have been targeting G’town just as easily). Does stuff happen? Sure. But I feel as safe walking around here (I’ve lived in this spot for 9 yrs) as I do in my suburban/borderline rural hometown. There is crime everywhere, in all types of settings – the violent crime in this area (west of Lincoln Park) is no worse than in a lot of suburbs.

          • Having a decent sized dog to walk around with makes quite a difference. People are much less likely to mess with you when they have to deal with a dog too. I walk around at night in the area, but I observe basic precautions like not having my ipod in my ears and being aware of my surroundings. We usually walk our single friends home in the late evenings.

            The police response to the uptick in robberies in CapHill has been outstanding. I’m not sure how long it will last, but you see cop cars all over the place and their response time is fantastic. Kudos to the local commander and his people.

            I never heard that they definitively caught the folks doing the car jacking, but they stopped happening.

          • Yeah, the carjackings thing (that almost all of the suspects where caught) was updated on the MPD listserv and at an MPD meeting back in the fall. I think we also got a press release or some other statement sent to the writer we had covering it at The Hill is Home.

    • I lived in Fort Greene Brooklyn 7-8 years ago and felt violent crime to be much more prevalent there then than it is here (Park View/Petworth/Columbia Heights) now. When I lived there, I would here gunfire at least once every other week. Here, it’s rare enough that I notice it.

      • You don’t hear gunfire almost every night here? It’s almost like clockwork in Columbia Heights. Thankfully, most of it seems to be kids just shooting off guns in alleys…if you can qualify that at as “thankfully”.

        • Where do you live? I don’t think I’ve heard shots in a couple years in Holmead Village. Maybe I just hear the sirens and helicopters going to your gunshots…

        • I don’t know what part of Columbia Heights you live in, but at 11th and Lamont, I haven’t heard gunfire in a pretty long time.

          • I heard something at Sherman and Lamont the other night at around 2am. I’m really hoping it was just really weirdly timed early 4th of July fireworks. Any one else run into firework fever yet this year?

            To the poster contemplating a NYC-DC move, prior to Columbia Heights I lived in the Bronx and I can easily say I feel 100000% safer here. Crime reports can be scary to look at, but feet on the ground and a little street sense will give you a totally different view.

        • Yeah, I don’t know about all that. I rarely hear gunshots in lower CH.

          • In 4 years, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard gunshots in lower CH. A couple of times I thought I did, but it turned out to be firecrackers.

          • Yeah, I never hear any shots in CH either. I know someone who used to live in CH a few years ago though and he says he heard them often.

    • “I know I’m being irrational, but I can’t raise a kid in that environment.”


      You must offer irrationality as pretense for desiring to raise your children in a safe, clean, and socially hospitable neighborhood?

      Let’s stop shying away from the truth! I’ll go first:

      My desire is to live, work, and play in a clean, non-violent, civil, and libertarian city!

      • My exact sentiment… that was a disclaimer for not wanting to be chastised as a racist, classist, or whatever else people call those of us that try to hold society to a higher standard. I’m talking to you “go back to the suburbs” people.

        • “libertarian city”

          Those don’t exist in the US.

          Also, what is your basis for that higher societal standard to which you want to hold the city, man’s inherent goodness?

          • Not hold the city, try to hold the people of the city… I understand the concept of personal responsibility and consequence doesn’t resonate with certain people, but when law/government further promotes adverse behavior with poor policy and regulation of law, society does less to promote that “inherent goodness”. The juvenile justice system and guns come to mind…

    • LP. Plenty of us are raising kids in Columbia Heigths. Brownstone Brooklyn would be my dream neighborhood, but I am unemployable outside of DC. So we settle for Columbia Heights. Cap Hill/LP is wonderful too, but you might get more house for your money up here in the heights.

    • I lived on the east side of Lincoln park for a year (basically NC and 15th). We rented from a young family with a toddler who had never had any problems (they had to leave the country for diplomatic work, not because they didnt want to raise a kid there). I loved the area and I think it would be a great place to raise a family.

      That being said, as you go east of Lincoln Park, things get a little shady. We lived right on the edge. Id say past 15th St you have to be a bit more careful. Also, We had our house burglarized by some local kids. So, Id say its a good area violent crime wise, but maybe not property crimes. Make sure you have a working alarm in your house (we didnt) and don’t leave anything valuable in your car. But really those go for anywhere in the city. In our situation we were cased by local kids who knew we had expensive electronics and would not be home during the day. luckily their stupid asses got caught and we got most of our stuff back.

      • It’s a good idea not to have your TV visible from your windows and not to throw away your electronics boxes in your normal trash. I’m sure that’s self evident, but sometimes folks don’t think about it.

        I also don’t show off my Christmas tree lights in my windows during the holidays.

        • Also, as we learned the hard way, when you go out and buy a flat screen TV, or an XBOX, or a giant RockBand box or something, dont carry it in the frotn door in broad daylight for everyone to see what cool crap you have

          unfortunately you have to take efforts to be a little mroe discrete

      • That holds true no matter where you live. I got my house burglarized in the suburbs — twice. and when I lived by Dupont Circle, cars suffered on a regular basis from smash and grabs.

    • I lived in Capitol Hill for 6 months, right on 10th St and Independence. Nothing bad ever happened to me, but I was definitely sketched out. The neighborhood was always just so empty at night.

      That said, every single person I know that lived in Capitol Hill had been mugged at some point.

      • 10th and Independence sketched you out? Seriously? It’s quiet, but not at all sketchy? WTF? It’s a residential neighborhood – there’s no foot traffic wandering around that doesn’t belong there. How is that ever a bad thing?!

  • I live in Anacostia, and to be perfectly honest, feel safer here than I do in some other neighborhoods. I guess we feel most comfortable where we know the nuances the neighborhood best.

    I don’t know the nuances of Trinidad, for example, or Congress Heights, and even though I have heard great things, I haven’t really spent a ton of time there so haven’t given myself a chance to UNlearn my negatives learnings.

    Negative stereotypes are hard to unlearn, and not even because we’ve had negative personal experiences.

    ahh, the power of media.

    • Agreed. This more or less sums up my thoughts in response to PoP’s question: the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. There are very few places in the city that I would characterize as “safe” in the absolute sense of that word or even just relative to the immediately surrounding suburbs of the District. But I feel safe in those parts of town with which I am most familiar, regardless of how justified that is. Triple-shooting around the 930 Club isn’t going to keep me from seeing the next show, or even thinking twice about it, but drop the venue in one of the two dozen neighborhoods in the District where I rarely go, and now I’m reticent.

    • saf

      “I guess we feel most comfortable where we know the nuances the neighborhood best. ”


      • and you also balance that with a reason to go somewhere.
        aint really shit in a lot of neighborhoods anyway.

        but u street has tons of reasons to go there, so there could be a lot of crime, but people would still weather it.
        trinidad gets a few shootings, and most of us are like, yeah, didnt really have a reason to go there.

  • I have lived in Anacostia for 6 years and I too feel safer hear than in many neighborhoods in DC.

    I have been hanging in the U St, Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan areas for over 15 years and can say that are not as safe as they appear, despite all of the revitalization and police attention and presence. I was really surprised to see MPD’s crime stats for those areas.

    • I think U St, Adam’s Morgan is an accident waiting to happen every weekend night. It’s fun when you’re in your 20s, but there’s a lot of weekend stupidity that I don’t have the patience for anymore and seems to be encouraged by the nightlife committee.

  • I’ve been in Shaw 10 years. I’ve grown blase about shootings. It is sad and prayers should go out to the families of the victims, but I really don’t fear my own safety. Mainly because statisicly I’m less likely to be shot. I do worry about muggings and try to reduce my risk (taking a cab, not walking home late at night, being aware of my surroundings, etc). When you get into the details of some of the crimes, one can see how likely they’d be the victim and determine the level of fear.
    I got to ColHeights for the Target. Unless several shoppers get shot there is no reason to stop going there. I still want to get to some of the great places on H Street like Dr. Granvilles, so I won’t be avoiding Trinidad. Again, there would have to be a huge spike in restaurant and bar patrons getting beaten/ mugged/ shot while waiting for the shuttle/ bus/ cab for me to even consider avoiding it.
    Several years ago (in the 90s) I was ‘attacked’ by a gang of 12 year olds on bikes several blocks away from Union Station who flung some unknown (probably lotion) on me. This made me not want to be in that area for a while, but years later (the 00s) I went back to that area to visit friends and check out a coffee shop. If there is something you really want to check out or someone you really want to visit, would random crime really keep you away?

  • Umm, my previous comment didn’t post.
    Short of it was if there is something there that you REALLY want to see, eat at, visit, you’ll ignore the crime. You migth even try to take some precautions, but if the desire is there, you’ll go.

  • I live in the heart of Trinidad and I love it. It is much, much more of a community feeling than NW or other “nicer” areas. You walk down the street and everyone says hi, people know me and look out for me. Unfortunately, there is crime everywhere, it just gets reported more negatively in certain areas (NE and SE.

    • This is not really a fair statement. You can create community anywhere you live. If NW people wasn’t your peeps, then that’s on you.

      There isn’t some big media conspiracy to report crime in parts of NE. In fact, I’d say smaller crimes get way more press in G’town than they should actually warrant and stuff in NE gets under reported because it’s considered as part of the package.

    • no, crime does not really happen everywhere. not street crime. not the kind of crime that gives you pause when you walk down the street. not the kind when someone is physically harmed. or left to die in the street. there really are nice neighborhoods in this city. not “nice’, but honestly nice.

      and yes, there are communities in nw. and in nicer areas.
      you may love trinidad, and thats fine, its a great neighborhood, but you are ignorant about the rest of the city.

  • It’s “cumulative effect” not “cumulative affect.”

  • I agree with Richelle. I’ve lived in Trinidad for 7 years and find it to be a friendly, diverse neighbourhoood where I feel safe to be out and about alone. The violence of summer ’08 affected a small segment of the community, whose culture revolves around drugs, guns…

    Did I feel less safe or change my behavior that summer? No. And neither did my neigbhours. When the ‘Post’ declared Trinidad to be a neighbourhood living in fear, they were way off the mark.

  • I dont know why Trinidad has everyone so scared. Ask yourself when was the last time you heard about a shooting in Trinidad compared to Columbia Heights or Petworth.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      A lot of the Trinidad supporters seem very defensive. We had a different post focusing on Trinidad perhaps this is where it is coming from? Nobody has singled out Trinidad here. I’m glad you like it. I like it too. But I also like Columbia Heights and Petworth. And I don’t need to defend my comfort in Columbia Heights or Petworth by comparing it to other neighborhoods with more (allegedly) crime.

      Just saying.

    • Look at and turn on only “assaults” and spread the time frame to 3 months. It follows what you say that Petworth/CH has more problems than Trinidad, but Trinidad is no walk in the park. In fact to me, it matches pretty closely with an outside observers general “feel” of safety of any particular neighborhood.

  • A trend I see in the comments is that people feel safe close to home. I agree. Violence makes me angry, but it doesn’t frighten me. I usually look at the time the crimes occur. More often than not, you’ll notice that the violent stuff happens at 2:00 am on a Sunday morning. So, don’t walk home drunk down a back alley at 2:00am in the morning drunk, and most of the threat is eliminated. Doesn’t matter where you live in DC, there’s a chance of being mugged no matter the street. The bold crimes that occur during pedestrian hours are the crimes that raise my eye.

  • Union Station’s bad? I’ve been taking the Metro there for work for over 4 years and I’ve never had any problems.

    I had my car stolen from NE (Bunker Hill Road, near Eastern Ave., don’t know the name of the neighborhood.) That didn’t stop me from returning to the same place (the Archie Edwards Barbershop blues jam, while the barbershop was still around.)

    Never been mugged or assaulted in the DC, or PG County (where I live) or Baltimore (where my band is based.) But I always try to be aware of my sorroundings and pay attention to what’s going on.

  • Wow. Triple shooting two blocks from my house. Does that mean I’m never going to 930 (or my house for that matter) again? Meh. It sucks. But things have been worse.

  • I live near Logan and the crime in Shaw definitely affects me. I am always a little nervous walking on N Street at night from 11th to 9th, given the robberies that have taken place there (less than there used to be, thankfully). Although I attend mass at Immaculate Conception at 8th and N, I will not walk go anywhere east of IC, because of the constant shootings at 7th and N and especially at 7th and O. The two high-rise affordable housing buildings are thug nests, not to mention the guys who drift from L-W or 2nd NW Coops to cause trouble.

    • And that’s why the Easter Vigil is insanely short and very early. Try the 5:30 Saturday Mass when it’s still light out at 6pm and the 9AM (Sunday) mass.

  • shootings in DC seem pretty targetted and not random for the most part, so those dont affect where I go too much. Its more muggings and property theft that affect me. If people are getting mugged frequently in one area, I’ll probably try to be more careful when I am there, not go alone, etc. I dont think I have ever avoided an area entirely because I thought it was unsafe.

  • The interesting thing is alot of people are afraid of the unknown. Instead of finding out, they believe whatever they are told. Their are people in the suburbs who are afraid to even go into DC. They say look at all the crime, but they dont look at crime in the suburbs the same way.

    I hear DC residents say that they would never venture into SE. But the truth is their are areas in SE that are better than places in NW.

    Bottom line is that if people dont find out for themselves they will miss out on alot. But again ignorance is bliss…

    • Well, the truth is that people have to stop thinking of SE as a single neighborhood. SE encompasses everything from Capitol Hill to Historic Anacostia to Hill Crest to Barry Farm. These neighborhoods all have their own character and people constantly feel like they can lump all of SE together. It’s nonsense. If I lived East of the River I think my head would explode trying to make this argument to people every day.

      • oh come on. how many of us that actually live in dc think of SE as a single neighborhood?
        not many. and i can tell you straight up that barracks row gets plenty of the nova crowd. they seem to know the difference too. as for other. so what?

        • People all over DC use “SE,” “East of the River,” and “Anacostia” interchangeably. The blog Congress Heights on the Rise does a great job of taking major news outlets to task when they do it. It’s pervasive.

          • Another reason why DC TV news outlets need to look for more reporters who actually live in the city vs. the suburbs. The reporting on the city becomes more nuanced.

          • I heard a TV news reporter, when talking about the rehab of South Capitol Street bridge, mention something about the north end of the bridge “where it enters the District of Columbia.” I thought, hmm, did ‘east of the river’ secede from the District? The S. Cap. bridge is entirely WITHIN the district.

      • +1 on this comment.

        And PoP people who live in/near Trinidad are defensive because every other person in the City uses it as a convenient meme for a “bad neighborhood”. They don’t say East of the River (all those VARIOUS) neighborhoods, because they don’t even THINK about them as someplace a gentrifier or visitor might want to go. I do a lot of my long training runs (i’m an ironman athlete) over east of the river and have seen great houses/yards/neighbors/parks etc. Same thing in Trinidad or any of the other SCARY PLACES the NEWS reports on negatively if at all.

        Lots of smart commentary on this thread that gives you hope about our city and the intra-city biases, mixed in with some really dumb stuff too that shows you we still have a long way to go…

    • A counter argument is that people in the suburbs have decided that they have zero tolerance for the daily BS we put up with to live in the city. There is not the same density of violent crime in the suburbs that there is in a city. Factually and anecdotally, there just isn’t.

      It’s not ignorance, they just take the calculation that their lives revolve around their families and open space and they don’t need a $5 latte and a yoga shop within walking distance. Some of them don’t like living this close to so many people and some people do it because their job will never exist in an urban downtown. Some people want to walk to their playground after dark without having to worry about whether they will get mugged.

      You don’t win the virtue contest just because you chose to live in a city. It’s just a different choice about your priorities.

      • amen.
        let people be.
        not everyone wants to live in the city., not everyone wants to live in the burbs.

        • But “virtue” arguments have to acknowledge the historical reasons why so many people moved to the suburbs since the 1950s. And it’s not just because of big backyards.

      • Amen, brother. It’s all one big continuum of grays, not just the black-white world the “go back to the suburbs” crowd sees. You find the right balance for you and move there.

    • This argument neglects the limited capacity people have to gather and process information. If you are looking to move, particularly if you’re buying with certain criteria in mind, you will never have perfect information to make that decision — houses simply don’t stay on the market long enough for you to take all the time you would need to do that — and rely on heuristics to make your decisions. I can’t stand it when people make the argument that moving to the ‘burbs for better schools or a safer environment is a cop-out because you never visited Neighborhood X in the city to see how good it actually is. (Usually, this argument is made by somebody in Neighborhood X, or whose kid goes to some school there.) That person may be completely right about Neighborhood X, but I just don’t have the time to learn about it if my lease is up in 3 months, rates are rising, and I just walked through a suburban house I really like.

  • I certainly pay attention and do my best to know where the latest attacks and killings are, I walk and take the bus a lot so you’re really out there in it. I am more concerned about the systemic failures (ie Phil Mendelson) that make DC such a gangsters paradise. We simply have lax laws on a lot of issues important to me, especially regarding violence. We believe in a mythical gun ban while I hear gunfire most nights. Etc etc etc. The fact that I’ve never even heard an honest conversation amongst the council and mayor regarding crime is my bigger worry, and coupled with corruption and other stuff is why I am joyously and finally leaving DC after 20+ years. Life does not have to be this way.

  • I think its fair to say that people reading this blog are probably among the least likely people in metro area to be a victim of the most violent crimes this city has to offer.

    • I’d say the people who read/contribute to the DC Urban Mom “private schools” forum are a bit less likely than PoPsters. Check out the “what is your household income” thread. Ugh.

  • also, I don’t mean that as an assumption of race, rather, I assume that most of you are not engaged in active criminality. feel free to remove excuse yourself from my generalization if you actually do engage in criminal behavior.

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