From the Forum – Men Soliciting in Columbia Heights/Petworth

Men Soliciting in Columbia Heights/Petworth:

“So tonight [Nov. 27] on my way home, for the second time this week, a man presumably tried to solicit me on my way home from the Petworth Metro. On Sunday night around 11 or 11:30, a car slowed to a stop shortly ahead of where I was walking. People double park on this street all the time, so I didn’t think much of it. I glanced over and he rolled down the window and motioned for me. It was dark and I honestly thought I knew the guy (and admittedly I sometimes do gullible things.) He asked where I was going and then if I wanted to go with him. He’d “take care of me” he says. I refuse and turn away and he offers me $100. I laughed at him and walked off. He immediately drove off. I didn’t feel unsafe, just skeeved and a little confused as to how that just happened. It was cold, I was bundled up, silly toboggan hat and all…what was he thinking?

Fast forward to tonight, I am walking down Quincy from Petworth metro again at about 12:15. About 2 blocks from the metro, a car slows to a stop next to me (different car, different guy) and honks. I turn my head and the guy motions for me. I keep walking and he pulls away. Again, I don’t feel unsafe, but don’t like this trend. I called 4th District and reported it, but I don’t know if it’ll do any good.

Both guys were in mid 90′s cars, one a blue or green Civic, the other a white Corolla(?), both appeared to be in their 40′s, medium complexion, perhaps Indian?

Just thought I would get the word out in case any other ladies are approached while on their way home at night. Please keep an eye out!”

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36 Comment

  • Legit non-sarcastic question: are there streetwalkers plying their trade in this area?
    If so, these guys just have cases of mistaken identity.

    • Mistaken identity? Do streetwalkers normally wear “silly toboggan hats”, as the OP put it?

      • Never take a ride from strangers or unlicensed cabbies. I’m a guy and this has happened to me (admittedly in Dupont). I took the ride (and declined the sex) because I was drunk and didnt feel physically threatened but in retrospect the guy could have had a gun or something.

  • binpetworth

    I also had this happen to me, one street over on Randolph. I was dressed in lots of wool for a cold night so really didn’t see it as solicitation, but thought maybe it was an illegal cabbie trying to get a customer. In my case the guy said something about needing a ride and I just kept walking. I too didn’t feel unsafe, but thought it was odd.

  • I’m a woman living in Petworth. Please be safe. No matter what you feel, it really is not very safe to walk alone late at night.

    • I hear people say this, but what are you supposed to do if you need to get home? Especially with it being dark so early, it’s late every single day when I leave work. I take a bus so I have the least amount of walking time possible, but it’s not financially feasible for me to either own a car or take a cab every night.

    • Christine, I acknowledge your good intentions, but honestly, this advice is worse than useless. Please give me a detailed plan of how I should: get home from work, go to/from the grocery store, the gym, home from seeing friends, etc etc. Even if I owned a car (I don’t), I’d have to walk home from where I parked it. I know you don’t expect me to take cabs everywhere, every day. Should I just stay in my house until I have a male escort? (Presumably any female friend joinging me for an outing would have to walk alone to meet me).

      I said it’s worse than useless because it invites blaming the victim if something does happen. (The only time I’ve been mugged, I was NOT alone.)

      Thanks for the venting oppty.

  • I have had this happen to me multiple times. I does not matter what you are wearing or what you look like. The bar these men have is pretty low… they are just looking for an orifice, basically. Likely, it is an area that used to be “known” for streetwalkers plying their trade.

    • This happens to me on Warder at least once a month – and it has been pretty clear they weren’t just trying to be an illeagal cab.

  • When we first moved to Petworth 9 years ago, I saw streetwalkers around the metro area from time to time. Not a lot, but sometimes late at night on the weekends. Maybe these guys just moved back and didn’t get the memo.

  • It’s been at least a couple of years, but there was clear evidence of prostitution at a house on Shepherd between 4th and 5th. I can’t say which house it was because I live around the corner but I often saw young women in cheap/scant clothing walking to and from that block, sometimes walking with men who didn’t seem match the women they were with–if that makes sense. Something about their attire, and/or their body language screamed “pimp and prostitute.”

    Several of the houses where I suspect the prostitution may have been happening have been shuttered and/or flipped, so it’s not going on now; but it’s what makes me believe yes, it’s going on in the area and you were likely being solicited.

  • I’ve lived at in the Paramount, right there at Georgia and Quincy, for several years. While I haven’t noticed any street prostitutes around, there are some very young (black) women in my building who I often see cavorting with older, very wealthy-looking (white) men, with one middle-aged guy from the building often escorting these girls around.
    Overall it’s a great place to live, but then there’s this kind of stuff…

  • I had a similar experience last week on an early morning run around 7:00 am. A car followed me slowly on Spring Road all the way from 14th street to 10th with the driver yelling out to me things like “can I give you a ride?” “where are you going?” “you are so strong and beautiful” until I finally stopped and firmly yelled at him to leave me alone. He was also of medium complexion and had a foreign accent — if I had to guess East Indian decent. In the end I was more frustrated than anything, but having a car slowly follow you for 4 blocks is never a good feeling.

  • This is just too common then, this also happened to me but around Jefferson and 5th street. It was a white corolla. However, my incident happened early in the morning as i was walking to work around 7 am.
    I know this is really early for the guy to think of streetwalker. The police presence has to increased.

  • How in God’s name are there this many incidents, yet no mention of police response or presence? Where are our law enforcement officials? If this is such a problem, and it appears to be, why is nothing being done? I recommend emailing Muriel Bowser, the DC Police Department, and the Mayor’s Office. You can easily google the email addresses.

    As a tip, if this happens again, you can anonymously send a text to DC Police at 50411. Just send a short text. Or call 311.

  • Sounds like run-of-the-mill street harassment to me. Not necessarily an indicator of prostitute activity in the area, just that some men are creeps and treat women like sex objects. Sorry you had to deal with that.

    • Agreed, the notorious strip club featured in “pimps up hoes down” on HBO is just down Georgia Avenue, DC has a long history of pimp culture, Meridian Hill park was where people would have all kinds of shady night encounters, 14th street was hooker’s alley, this is nothing new folks nor specific to any particular area, we live in a lonely and repressed city, and having street smarts is what keeps you safe in any city. Sad that people are being harassed, but this kind of rumor only creates fear of an area. Now if there’s a rape epidemic, then thats scary news.

      • To be clear, I did not mean in any way to trivialize the OP’s experience or the experience of any women who have been harassed like this. My intent was to counter the assumption that the OP experienced this kind of harassment because she was in an area known for prostitution. It happens to women everywhere.

    • +1

      This has happened to me and every woman I know from the time we were adolescents.

  • There needs to be a heavier police presence at the metro. Georgia Avenue a disaster. Until the police become more proactive, criminals in our city will continue to harass innocent women, children and families. Same thing happens at Raymond Recreation Center. Good work DC!

  • Do not be surprised, for years there were prostitutes around CK Hotel and the customers used to pick up them around Quincy, Spring or Randolph. CK is not there, but the customers keep coming and the prostitutes are all around the neighborhood. We have police patrolling, but they never see anything.

    • Of course the patrolling officers sitting in their cars in uniform doesn’t see anything. They need female officers in plain clothes walking around, getting solicited.

      • figby

        And then what? I was walking my dog on Thanksgiving, all bundled up, and a guy in a car pulled over and asked if I was working, and another guy on a bikeshare in the bike lane offered me $20 to blow him.

        Not sure what the cops could have done. Spoken sternly to these gentlemen? Looked askance? We live in the city, some men are gross. Not to be fatalistic but I don’t mind if the police expend their slim resources on more urgent crimes.

  • I get random dudes honking at me all the time. It’s generally a sly, quiet sort of honk. I’ve mostly found that if I happen to make eye contact with them, an eye roll and walking away ends the interaction. Basically, I compare it to the men on 14th that “psst” at you or talk about how much the love you under the assumption you don’t understand Spanish.

  • It’s not just women that are solicited. While walking down Otis St, I had a guy slow down in his jeep and whistle at me until I looked over. When he didn’t say anything, I kept walking. He slowed next to me again and whistled quietly again until I turned and asked what he wanted. He made an… obscene gesture… to make it clear what he wanted, and I just said “Come on, man!” and he drove off. That was my first time being solicited as a guy.

    • LOL, this is one third creepy, one third funny, and one third pathetic.
      You should have told him to download Grindr.

  • A few times when I have been out running, more on the northern end of Petworth, I have cars slow down or pull over and holler something at me. I usually just ignore them and keep running, or turn down the next street away.

  • When I lived in Atlanta there was a decent, residential neighborhood where this was going on. A neighborhood watch group got together and started recording descriptions of people, cars, and license-plate numbers of men soliciting. The would then get the address associated with the license plate and sending polite postcards:

    ” On {date} at {time} a 40-50 year old of {complection/ethnicity} was observed in a {car description} with license # {#### registered to @@} soliciting for sex. This is illegal and dangerous behavior, and the members of this household should take steps to stop this kind of behavior and protect your health”.

    The obnoxious behavior stopped very quickly. Also, the group doing the surveillance got to know their neighbors better and got healthy outdoor exercise.

  • 1) Ew. Sorry that happened to you and glad they left you alone when you said no.
    2) Are you southern? My husband called winter hats toboggans, which, being from the Northeast cracks me up.

    Good luck + stay safe, everyone.

  • I have been living in this area for 2 1/2 years, and I can say that men on the street, on bicycles, and in cars have cat-called, asked for my number, asked to follow me home, my facebook name, etc. It doesn’t seem to be limited to age or race nor do I look like a prostitute (I work in horticulture so I am usually covered in dirt). I’m over near Georgia, which seems to be a little rougher, but it happens at any hour of the day.

    It does make me feel unsafe and resentful toward people in general. I moved here because it seemed like a great up and coming neighborhood and I found great people to live with, but I will be moving out to virginia shortly. In fact…anyone looking for a room in a group house?

    • Sorry to hear this. If our police and DC government were halfway competent, this should not be happening. Sad. We all need to call our council member and police chief district representative. This behavior by criminals and the lack of response by DC cannot be tolerated. Maybe we should call the local tv station or newspaper? That gets their attention!

  • Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS: leads workshops on empowering people to combat sexual harassment and documents sexual harassment incidents submitted to their blog. I urge those who have experienced harassment like this to share their stories with CASS.

  • I haven’t heard many people say that they actually called the police. Please call them when you feel you are being solicited for sex, even if you don’t feel threatened. I would recommend this for several reasons: (i) they will respond and at least patrol a few blocks; more patrolling is good for the neighborhood in this circumstance, and (ii) if they do find the car that solicited you, they have the opportunity to run names and plates.

  • Yeah, I kinda agree. This sounds like run of the mill street harassment. Something women have had to deal with since Adam and Eve. I’ve lived in D.C. all my life and over time you develop a very thick skin just from dealing with the harassment. I used to say in Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights you can get hit on in 5 different languages in 5 blocks. I have some stories that would curl your toes.

    Here’s some of the things I do to keep sane and safe:

    If you can, walk on the opposite side of the street from the direction of traffic. They can’t drive along side you and proposition you from the other side of the street. They have to make a U turn and hold up traffic in order to follow you.

    If I’m out late at night and the streets are not heavily trafficed with cars – I walk in the middle of the street, not the sidewalk. That way I can see anyone coming towards me and I can run in either direction I need to get away.

    If you’re walking late at night – be alert and stay off the phone. Watch every doorway and car – and again walk on the other side of the street. Because if someone jumps out of a parked car – they still have to get you in the car and drive off – if they’re parked on the opposite side of the street it’s harder for them to drive off with you in the car without doing a lot of manuvering.

    If you see someone you think you can trust – walk with them or close them for as long as possible. I was walking home from the bus one night (3 blocks) and some guy was standing on the corner of my block high on something. He was hallucinating and I generally didn’t feel safe walking by him. I saw another man walking home on the other side of the street so I asked him if it would be OK if I could walk with him and if he would watch me as I walked to my door. He said sure and after we reached my block, he stood on the other side of the street as I made my way pass the guy who was hallucinating and to my front porch. I waved at the other guy and he continued on his way.

    As for the street harassment – sometimes it’s good to tell them to go fuck themselves and sometimes it’s good to just ignore them. Find what works for you in each situation – but don’t be intimidated – they want you to be afraid and get upset. Some of them get off on that.

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