Dear PoPville – Lack of Police presence at Petworth Metro

Photo by PoPville flickr user [F]oxymoron

“Dear PoPville,

Has anyone inquired about the constant clump of loiterers outside the Petworth metro station within the past few months? It’s gotten pretty bad, and now they’re smoking weed in broad daylight. There never seems to be any police presence there and quite frankly my concern is that it’s going to take a mugging or something to bring awareness rather than stepping it up and taking care of the issue before it happens.

In addition to the blatant disregard for the area during the day, I’ve also witnessed prostitutes right outside the subway after midnight on the weekends. I’m all for this neighborhood taking a turn for the better and it appeared as tho it was. Now I’m not so sure since it doesn’t seem like anyone is really monitoring things.”

87 Comment

  • Despite the fact that most people there appear to be waiting on buses… I think it is a good question.

  • Smoking weed = muggers! Reefer madness runs amok in Petworth!

  • This is a great question. I don’t use the Petworth metro station, but I get off at Columbia Heights all the time. Lots of loitering and sketchy people, and I have even smelled weed there too at all times of the day. However, no prostitutes (at least I could not tell). No police presence. There have been recent muggings in that area too. It seems like police should be patrolling these high traffic metro stops often, but they don’t.

    • I live in Columbia Heights, 1 block from the Metro, and there is a TON of police presence at the Metro, usually multiple officers hanging out by the exit on the east side of 14th Street. They’re all up and down that street.

  • Hide yo kids! Hide yo wives! They rapin’ errrybody in here!

  • andy

    That place has had a lot of people hanging around for years. Not that I love that people loiter, but I haven’t noticed an uptick of problems. Just some people with nothing better to do for some period of time.

  • I agree with the concern as well. I get out at the NH Ave exit everyday after work between 5 and 6:00 at night and proceed along NH… within that first block are always loiterers drinking and smoking in broad daylight. Sometimes, when my husband picks me up we call the police and file a complaint. In fact, we’ve done the same when we smell folks smoking pot in the alley behind our house too. Maybe the more people who call, the more presence we will see!

  • jim_ed

    I’m calling bullshit on the hookers. I’ve waited for the bus heading further uptown outside this metro at all hours of the night and day, and I’ve never once seen anyone looking to pick up johns anywhere around here. I think our pearl clutching OP is letting their imagination run wild.

    • Yeah I’d be surprised if hookers were plying their trade right there at the metro but I swear there’s some kind of house of ill repute a couple blocks up at NH and Shepherd. Unless I just happened to walk by when they were having some crazy costume party.

    • I haven’t noticed hookers around the Petworth Metro in years, but I have noticed a lot of graffiti on the platform lately. In general, it just feels like that area is backsliding a bit.

  • You know it will be llegal soon…

  • I disagree that there is never any police presence there. I see both MPD and Metro police there pretty often. I do agree that there are “loiterers” but the vast vast majority of them aren’t doing anything problematic, and certainly nothing illegal. I can’t stand the blatant weed-smoking and groups of kids using the bus shelters as hangouts, but those are relatively rare as far as I’ve seen.

  • I don’t get this complaint – there’s MPD or Metro transit police at the east entrance a few times a week.

    There people sitting by the empty retail bay are just hanging out. Do I wish they’d stop littering? Yes. Do I think one of them is going to randomly mug me when there’s 200 other people in that intersection? No.

    • epric002

      +1 i commute daily on metro using the northbound entrance. there are usually groups of teenagers loitering around, but i’ve never seen them causing any problems. there are also police there at least a few times a week in the afternoons/evenings. i can’t recall a time when they’ve been openly smoking pot (i don’t particularly care if they are, but i haven’t observed it), and i’ve certainly never seen any prostitutes there. what i REALLY wish for is a tenant in that vacant retail space- any scuttlebutt on that???

  • I’m surprised by how cavalier the responses are here. Yes, ostensible American ideals glorify freedom from government overreach; and having no laws against loitering in the nation’s capital, the last thing anyone should be calling for is a police state in response to the act of standing around in public. But in reality, this is an extremely hierarchical society, and though not explicit, the status conflict is clear in the letter. Anyone with standing should have the reasonable expectation, if not the right, to have those without clout removed from sight.

  • The pearl clutching in this thread is pretty comical.

    People are seriously freaking out because of pot smokers? You really don’t have anything better to do?

    • Right, it’s the folks *not* hanging around the metro smoking pot that have nothing better to do. That makes a ton of sense.

    • I don’t know. I don’t necessarily like the idea of my 7 year old daughter thinking that’s the way people should act, and that it’s perfectly normal to walk through wafts of smoke, piles of litter, and a raft of cursing in a casual walk through her neighborhood.

  • I have seen/ talked to a woman around the neighborhood who is most definitely a prostitute. Last time I saw her she was sporting an ankle bracelet. I did see her at the Petworth metro one time but I don’t think she was soliciting.

  • Making something out of nothing.

  • gotryit

    It’s the next columbia heights!

  • Just wait until the stuff is legalized! What will people do with themselves?!?!?!

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you! What is the deal? I hope our council members and mayor take notice of this post. It’s ridiculous. Tis has been brought up at the last several ANC meetings (which have not been attended by the council members) yet nothing has been done. People are being harassed, I have seen drugs being dealt and people generally up to no good. Please help! It’s not safe for women or children.

  • I agree there needs to be a police presence at Petworth, but I don’t think there is any danger for anyone waiting for a bus, or walking by. They are mostly just teens, young adults, and older folks just sitting around with nothing better to do with their time. Why they don’t just stay in the house and find loitering entertaining, who knows.

    • I can’t speak to this specific group of individuals, but staying in the house gets boring, too. One person’s loitering is another person’s socializing. There’s a long urban tradition of people hanging out on stoops, sidewalks, or in public spaces, especially where there are high housing costs and small apartments/houses, residents of modest means, or multigenerational households. (And by “urban” I do mean “city”–that wasn’t a euphemism for any particular race or culture.) I’ve seen this in every city neighborhood where I’ve lived. Maybe a few individuals were congregating to smoke or do drug deals, but the overwhelming majority were harmless. If you don’t have a lot of money, open-air hanging out is a lot cheaper than a restaurant or bar. It’s also a free way to get out of the house and maybe have a respite if you live with a bunch of siblings, a nosy mother-in-law, noisy grandkids, or whatever.

  • I’m guessing that the problem people have with the blatant pot smoking is the same that I have. Listen, I’ve done my fair share in the past, but behind closed doors with the window open and the fan blaring the smoke out the window. The fact that these loiterers do it in the broad daylight is a big “Eff You!” to everyone else. They think they’re above the law and don’t care who is around. I’ve seen it in the Girard Street Playground, while children were running right by them. Just the other day, I was walking along 11th Street, south of U, strolling my 1 year old baby. A man walked behind me, smoking a joint and blowing it, hopefully unknowingly, in our direction. I stopped to let him pass. He looked confused, so I told him that I didn’t want to be surrounded by his pot smoke. Again, he seemed confused so I just turned down another street to get away from him. That’s my problem with it.

    • OMG, you may need to get over yourself or move to the suburbs. I agree, I wouldn’t want to walk my baby past pot-smokers blowing weed in his direction, but that’s also why I wouldn’t raise a kid in Petworth or Columbia Heights if I had a choice. I don’t know how long you’ve lived there, but chances are the neighborhood wasn’t any “cleaner” before you moved in, so caveat emptor.

  • I don’t mind the weed smoking but it’s the total disregard for the law, disrespecting others, littering, fighting… it doesn’t make it a place most people want to be or even walk by. No wonder these store fronts remain empty. I wouldn’t want a bunch of stoned loiterers who look like prostitutes hanging in front of my business.

  • Guyz, I saw someone smoking weed outside the Petworth Metro. Should I call 911, 311 or a text message to 50411?

  • All of the above. And then turn on the Bat Signal.

  • People break laws that they know generally won’t be enforced. They speed in their cars, run stop signs on their bikes, jaywalk as pedestrians, bend financial rules, yada yada yada–all of these items and many more have a much higher potential impact on your life than somebody smoking pot in public. I literally can’t think of one bad thing that can happen to you and your 1 year old by somebody smoking pot. Now if these hoodlums were clear headed, then you should really watch out!!!

  • I don’t understand the ridicule for the OP’s complaints about pot smoking. Though I haven’t personally witnessed pot smoking at the metro, I have seen and smelled it around the neighborhood and at the local parks. Personally, I have no problem with someone smoking pot in their own house or yard, but I don’t understand why no one else seems to mind that they are smoking somewhere public. I take my kids on the metro frequently. I’d be pretty pissed if I had to walk them through a cloud of pot smoke to get there.

  • Ha!

  • I’ve noticed an uptick in police presence outside the Columbia Heights metro in the past couple of weeks. There’ve often been two or three officers hanging out by the east entrance when I’ve come home recent evenings.

  • It’s funny – one person’s “loitering” is another person’s “socializing” and being “connected” to their community.
    I see this more as a fundamental clash of cultural expectations of the use of public property.


  • First, is someone paying you by the letter? Second, the writer seems bothered by an atmosphere of lawlessness (weed and hookers) breeding further lawlessness. I don’t think you do your own non controversial argument (that people shouldn’t be arrested without cause) favors by misrepresenting the original author’s complaint.

  • Who would want to rent this space knowing you have to deal with a bunch of kids fighting on your front steps everyday. The probelm isn’t the store vacancy.

  • Wait wait, I think I just figured it out! The pearl-clutching lady is just upset that folks don’t seem to be willing to share with her.

  • Once again, I’m not sure where the OP is coming from. I’ve noticed MPDC and Metro Transit Police near the station 2-3 times per week, which seems to be appropriate for that area. I’ve only seen kids fighting once, but it was barely a fight…the kid got two punches in, and then noticed about 10 bystanders looking at him, and him and his crew were on their way.

  • At least that law degree comes in handy for commenting on local blogs, doesn’t it?

  • I think you just misunderstood the OP. They’re outside the SUBWAY. The restaurant across GA ave from the metro station. 😉

  • I hear where this lady is coming from. When people spend $750K on a renovated townhouse, I guess you probably feel entitled to peace, quiet, “upscale” amenities, and no riff-raff. That’s upper middle class money right there (i.e. you’re probably pulling in at least $150-200K in HH income to comfortably afford that mortgage and associate housing costs). And furthermore, if you were raised in a nice suburb (as most DC gentrifying DC residents are), you expect a lot of privacy for that kind of money

    That said, you moved into an urban area. Additionally, you just paid $750K to live in the ‘hood. Ok, maybe it’s not Anacostia levels of ‘hood’ness, but it’s definitely a marginal area with a long history of lots of issues. And yes, it’s getting better, but rapidly inflated real estate prices aren’t going to solve any of these issues.

    So have a little perspective here. We can wish for things to be better, but it’s going to take a LONG time. And it’s going to take A LOT more effort on your part than simply complaining on a neighborhood blog and calling the police.

    • You assume a lot based on nothing. The OP must be wealthy, from the suburbs, and new to the neighborhood, because he or she wishes there weren’t large groups of people smoking pot and drinking alcohol in front of the Metro station.

      I have a friend who has lived on Rock Creek Church Rd., 2 blocks east of Georgia, since the 1960’s. She is in her mid 70’s, and has raised 2 generations of her family in that house. She absolutely did not pay anything like $750,000 for that house (her parents bought it in the 60s), she is not from the suburbs, she has no source of income other than a very modest retirement from nearly 50 years of service to our city in a relatively low-paying DC govt job, she is of the same race as the majority of people who loiter in front the Metro station drinking alcohol and smoking pot, she shares many if not all of the OP’s original concerns, and has not left her house after dark for years because of concerns about safety in her neighborhood. These concerns are not unique to twenty-something pearl-clutching newbie homeowners from the suburbs.

  • I live a block from the station. I walk north on NH from the bus stop at CVS every day around 645. There are always people hanging out. From what I can tell, they really arent causing that much of a problem. Some guy once stopped me at the Metro entrance on NH and asked me to “buy his dog”…but he was nice about it.

    Kids are always smoking weed, but that doesn’t bother me too much.

    I’m also gonna call BS on the no police comment. There are Metro and DC cops there at least 4-5 times a week.

  • It is not a big deal and should be legal… that is why people think what they do.

    Give me a break… not 1943 any longer.

    Refer Madness!

  • And this coming for Non-Sense club…

    Not many house selling for 750K around our neighborhood.

    Not to mention you make a lot of leaps in this ramble…

  • Kids have ran into me twice, while chasing each other or just rough housing, at the Petworth southbound side entrance. I was knocked to the ground once, and all these little thugs just laughed. Me, my neighbors, and local businesses don’t need this in the neighborhood. These same kids don’t hang out when the cops are around, so lets get more cops on the scene.

  • They need to play that sound that teenagers can only hear and don’t like.
    Also – the owners of Park Place need to be taxed at blighted rate fro allowing all that retail to sit vacant. Not having a vibrant streetscape contributes to this. If they were not so greedy the new petshop that opened could have opened there instead of further north on Georgia.

    I’m not a fan of busting everyone for smoking dope but also – do it at home. I like public pot smoking as much as drinking in public.

    • As someone who leases commercial spaces I see Park Place is in between a rock and a hard place. The interest level is so low from shop owners in that neighborhood that they can get stuck in a dirt cheap lease for 5-10 years. It seems like they are hoping Petworth becomes Columbia Heights, but it takes a lot to work past such a checkered past. CH was saved by DCUSA (Target etc), once they agreed to that deal every other retailer saw the value.

      As someone who live in CH and has been in DC for years, Petworth has a different feel once the sun goes down. It is light years better than it was, but it has an uphill battle in front of it.

  • It doesn’t have to take a “long time” if enough people are fed up with unlawful and unruly behavior. And I’m not sure how relevant how much someone paid for their house is with wanting to live and raise one’s family in a safe neighborhood. I think both lower and upper income people want this and regardless of income every child deserves to have it.

  • OP, it seems like you could use a little of what they’re smoking. Might put some things into perspective for you.

  • for reals. sit back, relax and unbusy yourself!

  • If you don’t like prostitutes and marijuana you’re in the wrong city. This is city where the mayor has been know to smoke a little crack w/ prostitutes. Be caeful or the bitch will set you up.

  • Come on now – The leaves of the trees help heal the nation!

  • Just left the station, nearly all clear! No teens. Kinda felt lonely. A cop was present.

  • So, do you want your council members and ANC to enact a law that does not allow people that you deem unworthy to hang out around a public space? Will this also include the public parks that you frequent?

    What is your definition of “no good”? I use that metro at least twice a day and have yet to have a problem beside some guy asking “do I want a date”. I walked on. No harm done. Do these people walk up to you in an intimidating manner? Or is it their socioeconomic status that intimidates you?

    I could understand your concern if there were a rash of crimes or if people were being verbally or physically intimidated. Urinating, defecating, actually prostituting. Are they?

  • Whenever I see something like that that causes me to look twice (smoking weed/loitering/alleged “prostitutes”), I always do a mental switch of the races and see if that changes my opinion. The OP should too.

  • Such dismissive snark today.

    Just because you haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean the OP hasn’t. Just because you aren’t bothered, doesn’t mean other people aren’t. And just because you see everything through a fashionable race- and class-obsessed lens, doesn’t mean everyone else is happy about clumps of people endlessly hanging around public conveniences, spouting foul language, drinking, doing drugs, LITTERING, rough housing, and acting projecting a tough, menacing attitude.

    • epric002

      the OP doesn’t mention littering once. if that were really the problem here, i’d be supportive of the complaint. but the OP is upset about alleged pot smoking and prostitution that will apparently lead to muggings due to a lack of police presence, which is blatantly false. please.

      • Actually the complaint is the loitering that OP assumes will lead to muggings, etc. The weed smoking and prosititution are just specific examples of what some loiterers are doing that they shouldn’t be doing; littering might well fit into that category as well. I do agree that OP’s entire argument lacks merit though.

  • I prefer to view neighborhood loitterers as a form of neighborhood watch. The more they see your face and you’re not an asshole the less likely you’ll be messed with by anybody. Oh, and I have little kids to — if I wanted pot smoke free parks and streets I would have bought in Arlington. Just walk through it, aint no kid gettin stoned off that.

  • +10000. The more phone calls the more attention will be paid!

  • +100000000 yes thank you

  • +1000000000000000

  • Anastasia Beaverhausen

    So are these people actually doing something to harm you, or is it that you just don’t like looking at them? I’ve never known anyone smoking weed to be violent. Sounds like you’re probably just from the midwest or some square state and need to mind your own business.

  • Anastasia Beaverhausen

    Ugh… you are exactly the kind of person we don’t need more of in this city.

  • If we’re complaining about loiterers and pot smokers, how about we address the ones by Eddie Leonard and by Murray’s “Steak and Other Fine Foods” a few blocks south of the Metro on Georgia. I love walking by there, passing twitching people covered in vomit, others offering me “percs” and conducting blatant drug deals in broad daylight, and still others selling random deodorant sticks and watches out of trash bags.

    At least Petworth metro usually has a good number of commuters around to deter bigger crimes…

  • Just thought I’d pop in and mention that Metro Transit Police were parked at the intersection of NH Ave and Georgia when I exited the Metro around 8pm last night.

  • Hey – leave the midwest out of this.

  • While I’d prefer that the big group of kids sitting in front of the largest vacant Park Place storefront (at NH ave) didn’t hang out there, I’ve never personally run into any trouble passing by/through them. Yes, they’re raucous and loud – but most teenagers are. And no matter where you go, there will be groups of annoying teenagers hanging out.

    I do have to agree with OP somewhat on the public weed smoking. It seems like the broken window theory to me…if it’s illegal and no one does anything to enforce it, I believe that it does promote an attitude of disrespect for laws and rules. I don’t think someone who’s high on weed is going to go mug someone (though PCP is a different story). But I think that people get emboldened by the ability to break the law repeatedly in public while going unpunished.

  • I’m a little confused why everyone here has automatically assumed the OP is referring to anyone in particular of any specific color or class. Why is it that a citizen of this city, regardless of where they are originally from can’t be concerned about their community? Given that most of the neighborhoods in this city (Columbie Heights and Petworth included) were left to rot for so long, EVERYONE in EVERY community in the city should want to feel more of a sense of Pride. If you paid $750K for your home or $150K for your home, the blatant disregard for community is what got this city as run down as it did years ago.

    Just because you have never witnessed doesn’t mean that it’s not happening. I mean, really? There was a stabbing outside of Chipotle over a burrito. Really? People shouldn’t be a bit concerned? And the litter and loitering would not make any business owner want to open up a store in any of those vacant spots. You people need to use your commone sense and realize the bigger picture. There’s nothing wrong with smoking weed in the privacy of your own home or space, but when you’re not concerned with anyone or anything around you that’s when it becomes a problem.

    Now, let’s go ahead and flip this to the Dupont Metro. Or Eastern Market. Regardless of where it is, take some pride in where you live and stop hating on the OP for having some.

  • Having more cops around does increase a sense of security, but won’t change the fact that there is no law in DC against “loitering” and pot is just barely criminalized (arrests aren’t prosecuted). Professional Officers, behaving professionally are great, but don’t expect them to over step the law and try to enforce laws that don’t exist. Those laws are gone for good reasons.

  • Dunno if Metro Transit Police felt their collective ears burning, but when I emerged from the station (east exit) last night just after 7 p.m., there were two MTP officers standing against the fence, no loiterers, and another MTP officer or two in an MTP car by the bus stop.

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