Ed. note this is my final Dear Pop on whether or not a particular neighborhood is safe. This is what inspired last Friday’s question of the day. I’m going to give my final opinion on crime in DC. If there are more specific questions, of course I’ll still address them, but no longer neighborhood wide safety questions.
“Can you tell me a bit about your opinion of Columbia Heights? Do women walk around by themselves at night? I know the area is improving but how safe is it really? Finally, have you ever been mugged in DC and where? What about if I went to Adams Morgan on a Saturday, drank too much, and decided to walk home to Columbia Heights at 3AM? Would you just take a cab?”
Moving from KC to DC
Dear KC to DC,
I would guess that crime and safety are the number one issues people are concerned with in certain areas of Washington, DC. However, I believe your question is impossible to answer. It is kind of like asking if the 9:30 club (a great live music venue) hosts good bands? Yes, many of the bands are great but they also host many bands that I don’t like. Similarly, your question requires a much more nuanced answer.
I can easily say that Columbia Heights is by far one of the greatest most vibrant neighborhoods in Washington, DC. It has incredible homes, restaurants, bars, culture and diversity. It also has crime. This is a fact. However, there are certain steps you can take to minimize your potential for becoming a victim. One is most definitely not to walk home drunk at 3am from Adams Morgan. That is an easy one. But it is really common sense. As has been mentioned many times on this site you have to be alert. I.E. after dark it is not advised to walk home with an ipod, talking on a cell phone or drunk. Having said that I have done all three on a few occasions because I am an idiot. Let me repeat that, I am an idiot. And if I did get mugged it would be because I was an idiot not because I was walking through Columbia Heights or living in Petworth. Maybe I am just supremely lucky. I can tell you I have never been mugged in DC (knock wood, knock wood) but I certainly could have been on multiple occasions. I also mention this because there is luck involved – good luck and bad luck. You can follow all the safety rules and still get mugged. It is obviously less likely but it is still possible and it does happen.
Even if it were to happen I don’t think that it can necessarily be attributed to living in Columbia Heights. You may have a slightly higher possibility of it happening in CH but it can happen anywhere in a city. So remember these common sense rules apply to almost all neighborhoods in Washington, DC – particularly Columbia Heights, Petworth, Shaw, Mt. Pleasant etc. Columbia Heights is a neighborhood that has a bar with a Wanted flier (see photo) on the bulletin board. That is saying something.
Like with all life’s decisions you have to weigh the pros versus the cons. And my conclusion, shared by many others, is that if you act responsibly the risk of being a victim of crime in Columbia Heights is far outweighed by all the wonderful options that Columbia Heights offers. If you can visit, you should and walk around a bit to gauge your comfort level. All I’m saying is that I’m 5’6″, 135 pounds soaking wet and I rarely feel happier and more at peace than when I am spending time in Columbia Heights.
Best of luck to you with your decision.