Dear PoP – Peeping Tom/Sketchy Guy in Columbia Heights

Photo by PoPville flickr user fromcaliw/love

“Dear PoP,

I’m not sure who else to report this to (other than the cops) so I thought I should tell you so that the wider neighborhood would know. I live on the 3600 block of 11th St NW and tonight we had a second incidence of someone peeping in our window. We are in the basement unit of a row house, and thus the windows are pretty small. I don’t know for a fact that it is the same person who has done this first two weeks ago and then again tonight. The first time they attempted to get in through our gate, and then creeped through our yard and peeped in the window. This time, I only saw their face in the window, though not well enough to give a description because it was dark and I called the police.

The cops have been helpful and responsive each time, but it’s unnerving to have someone looking into your bedroom window after midnight, and also unsure if they have other motives.

MPD said they thought it might be someone drunk not going into the right house… but I’m not so sure about that.

They said I could cover up my windows more completely, but that would mean no natural light. He said many people use cardboard, just at night. We already have bars on our windows, so I don’t think there’s much of a chance he could get in through them, but it’s still creepy.

I wanted to report it so that if it has happened to anyone else we can know it’s a trend and also to keep people aware/solicit advice about security for basement apartments.”

Earlier in the week we discussed some security options here. And remember when the weather warms up please don’t forget to lock your lower level windows especially when you leave the house.

Unfortunately there have been some more disturbing reports, another reader writes:

“I was just wondering if anyone else has emailed you about a legitimately crazy guy that roams around Fairmont Street in between 11th and 13th? He’s a short (about 5’6-5’8), black male who is in his early to mid 30s. I’ve talked to some neighbors about him and they say he’s relatively innocuous, but I have my doubts. I’ve encountered him a few times and he just gives me the creeps. He tried to follow me home once and yelled things from his bike that are sexual, but at the same time don’t make a whole lot of sense (hence, the crazy hypothesis). There was also a time when he tried to follow me again and I just ran into my house as he watched me from not that far away. I get that he’s probably just crazy because he hasn’t caused me any physical harm (yet). At the same time, he could be capable of more and as a young woman, it’s hard not to feel vulnerable. Just thought that this may be worth posting to the blog as a kind of head’s up, etc.”

47 Comment

  • my boyfriend caught someone looking through my windows about a month ago – i live at 16th and U. I was really creeped out because i face an alley and live on the ground floor and it is dark outside…i wouldn’t have seen him unless he pointed him out. when i got up to the window to look for him he hid behind a column in the alley…i was very creeped out.

  • Maybe the peeping Tom was just a guy from Petworth tyring to get shots of cool doors and sweet transoms. 🙂

  • I’m more than a little offended that the term “Peeping Tom” persists.

  • I feel like the woman in the second case should have done something (i.e. call the police/ mental health services) if this is truly a mental health issue and she feared for her safety. Instead of you know, writing into a blog.

    She could do both, but definitely should have done the first.

  • Isn’t the obvious thing to get some curtains or shades for the window? Open during the day (to allow in natural light) and closed during the night (when there is no natural light anyway)?

  • not saying that this isn’t creepy, but to the first poster – Why are you against installing some sort of window covering – blinds, shades, curtains. I get wanting natural light, but living in a city where people can walk by and see you and your possessions i’d rather have some privacy. There are so many options out there that give you both privacy and light.

  • I have seen the guy in the second post a lot around that corner. Sometimes he is carrying and old-school boombox, listening to it loudly, and darting in and out of traffic talking oddly. I don’t think he is necessarily harmless, but neither has he ever seemed dangerous. I just ignore him, and he leaves me alone. However, I am a guy. He might be different towards women.

  • The guy on Fairmont seems harmless to me. I’ve encountered him a couple of times and the impression I got is that he just likes to flirt and wants some attention (he is usually riding around on his bicycle in booty shorts). For example, I saw him this weekend and he said something like “you know I look good in these shorts.” I just smile and keep walking and never have any problems.

    • When I first moved to the neighborhood I was scared of the Fairmont guys. He made aggressively racial comments and kind of got in our faces. But, the more I see him, the more I think he is just harmless/crazy. I’ve lived on the block for 7+ years now and never heard about any problem with him more than the verbal confrontation (but he is never tried to follow me home either).

      Now that we have a child, do try harder to avoid him just so the kiddo is not witness to his ugliness.

    • saf

      Again, a male opinion. Things like that are more threatening to women.

    • I live right around the corner and see this guy on the regular. I’m a young woman and at first was a bit unnerved but now I view him as a bit of a nieghborhood fixture as I’ve never seen/heard myself or heard of any violent activity from this guy. I actually find it fairly entertaining to watch/listen to him while he’s riding on his bike with the boom box and booty shorts.

  • From DC’s new “Noise at Night”/disorderly conduct law:

    “(f) It is unlawful for a person to stealthily look into a window or other opening of a
    dwelling, as defined in section 7 of the District of Columbia Alley Dwelling Act, approved June
    12, 1934, (48 Stat. 933; D.C. Official Code § 6-101.07), under circumstances in which an
    occupant would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. It is not necessary that the dwelling
    be occupied at the time the person looks into the window or other opening.”

    • So, my question is did the police in this case actually make a report? Or just tell you to get window shade?

      • They took down information, but couldn’t do a lot without a person. I already have blinds and they were down at the time, but not 100% closed, which is why I couldn’t give a good description.

  • My neighbor was telling me just last night that they’ve had a peeping tom looking into basement rowhouse windows within the same time frame as the OP. We live on an adjacent block (unless this is actually my neighbor who wrote in and fudged the address a bit) so it very well could be the same guy.

    Now that I think about it, I have a suspicion as to who it could be. Another neighbor had a problem with him a year or two ago and I’ve also seen him acting sketchy around a third neighbor’s windows. R, if this is you and you have a drummer roommate, then come next door and I’ll fill you in.

    I also had to yell at a guy a while back for jerking off in the alley in broad daylight… Lovely.

    • I wrote in the OP, and I don’t know you, dreas, so it’s either another guy or he’s visiting multiple blocks.

    • I’d also be happy to talk to the OP, if there’s any way of setting that up. I don’t want to post the guy’s info on here and my description of his would be pretty nondescript, but I can at least give the first name and address of the guy who I know has been really sketchy around some neighborhood women.

  • The guy on Fairmont is not crazy, he has special needs and lives with his mother on that block. Not sure of his real name but we always called him “Mr 100” on account that he is “100% all day everyday” according to him. As a young 20 something woman I might have been initially creeped out too but my husband and his roommate got to know him when they lived on that block And he’s totally harmless. Ther were a couple of occasions where he would scare my husband by yelling “Still 100!” really loudly when he left the house but I think it was because he honestly didn’t know better. He was the only person on the block who would consistently greet us during the day and from my interactions with him he seems like a sweet kid. Also a lot of what he does is hilarious (and please know I don’t mean that in a way that at all demeans the mentally retarded) but he loves to jog around the neighborhood with an umbrella becaus he wants to protect his skin from the sun. How cute is that?

    • Pretty sure his name is Steve. He’s harmless, if occasionally annoying. He basically just wants to brag about how good he looks.

    • Yes, I’ve seen him plenty of times in the past 3 years while living on Girard. I believe he has some learning disabilities, but is harmless. The first time I saw him, he biked next to me for a block while I was walking, and told me I needed to bike more often to look as good as him. I laughed and he laughed back and then kept riding. I’ve seen him surprise several people on the streets with bizarre comments, but nothing besides verbal interaction.

  • I used to live next to that guy(fairmont) and I am pretty sure he has a cognitive disability. He is harmless and likes to flirt and yell stuff to people on the street.

  • I used to live on fairmont and was wondering about that same guy. Sometimes he was dressed like he was on his way to the gym circa 1982. He scared me the first couple of times cause he is really in your face with the comments. But if I kept walking he did too. Having said that, he is obviously mentally ill and not in touch with reality too much. Is he too much for his mom to handle? At some point does he snap? not sure what kind of services are even available in DC to help someone who is sort of independent but clearly out of his mind walking down the street.

  • “They said I could cover up my windows more completely, but that would mean no natural light.”


  • i live in a basement as well and have blinds on all my windows. since there is no natural light at night, opening the blinds during the day and closing the blinds at night seems like the obvious answer here.

  • I hate it when pervs are staring at me while I undress. Solid blinds are a good investment.

  • “The Fairmont-Vintage-80s-Tracksuit Guy you are talking about lives on our block of Fairmont. His name is Darnell. (Although, occasionally, he likes to tell people that his name is Steve, so there is some dispute there.)


    He lives with his mother, who we believe takes good care of him. He loves to work out. He bikes and jogs. He looks good. He’s better than you. He loves his bike. It’s always better than yours. Your sunglasses are ugly, you are ugly, but he looks good. ALWAYS. He likes to stay positive, “Gotta be positive and not let life get you down because it will try, but you gotta keep your head in the air.”

    His track suits are the real deal as is his slow-motion, deliberate and sometimes sexy stride. Same goes for his awesome boombox.

    After initially moving here we did not know what to think because he would hurl random insults at passersby. In the neighborhood we generally love him now and can’t wait for our next encounter with whom we have termed “The Heckler” since he usually heckles you.

    If you ever have an encounter with him, please consider yourself lucky as he injects humor and joy into our lives every single time we see him. He is the coolest guy we’ve ever known, and is probably the coolest in DC/MD/VA.

    If you are reading this Steve/Darnell, please … keep it at 100%!

  • “You don’t know what I been through!”

    He is also an amazing dancer. He once ambushed me from behind a parked van and popped out in front of me while I was walking my dog, only to treat me to one of the craziest dance breakdowns I have ever seen. This was sans boombox.

    At first I was a little hesitant about him, but after being int he neighborhood for a year he has grown on me. He is just part of Fairmont, now. Dude has the thickest legs I have ever seen, too, should be a halfback in the NFL or something.

  • For my first floor windows, I bought pieces of frosted glass that are half as tall as the windows and just as wide, had Flash Glass drill holes in the top two corners, and hung them from picture wire hooked to the top of the window frame. I still get all the light, but you can’t see in. It’s an awesome effect, I got the idea from houses in the Netherlands, many of which have front windows directly on the street with no yard and often use the arrangement I described to retain privacy but not block the light.

  • Been on Fairmont St. since the 90’s, Darnell has been here longer. I talk to him occasionally, my sister more frequently. The car he has been going to get for a decade is better than yours and his hair is always Fine! He looks GOOD and we all know it!
    I have heard him get verbally abusive perhaps twice in all these years, maybe missed his meds. He is basically harmless.
    I really cannot think of him peeping in windows. If he did his boom-box would give it away.

  • This is the funniest PoP thread I’ve ever read. I gotta meet this guy.

  • Lately it seems like 90 percent of the people commenting here are from this block of Fairmont and 13th area. Glad to know his name is Darnell. Next time I pass him, I’m gonna say, Darnell, you are looking FINE!

    • I wouldn’t really call him by name…

      I think it might freak him out if he knows that strangers would know who he is.

      Just let him do his thing… and ENJOY!

  • Steve rules. He’s harmless and certainly isn’t peeping in anyone’s windows. He’s keeping it 100%. This scared young woman is probably only keeping it 15%, 20% tops. Have a conversation with him, you’ll see that he’s a pretty rad dude. He’s got two bikes and his hair looks good. 100%

  • I have blinds. But i face an alley that is locked at both ends. Since no one should be back there i dont always keep them closed at night especially when im just watching tv

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