New Apartments At Georgia Ave. and New Hampshire Gets Tagged And I Get Intimidated By Street Thugs

by Prince Of Petworth — March 2, 2009 at 11:17 pm 109 Comments

DSCN6827, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

A reader tipped me off to some graffiti on the back of the new Park Place apartment building. I went by last Friday around 4 pm. I take a series of photos and when I turn around there are two thugs probably around 16-17 years old. They are looking at me with eyes of pure hate. If you’ve seen those eyes before you know what I’m talking about. One of them, looking at me with very hard eyes, says “what you doing taking pictures of that?” I’m caught totally off guard. Even though the area is close to New Hampshire Ave., as I was in the back I was completely cut off from an escape route. Despite the fact that I was 126 pound all campus wrestling champion, Miami Ohio, 1996 in these situations my first instinct is always flight. That was not an option. So in my most casual manner I say, I just like taking photos of art around town. The thugs do not respond. So with my heart pounding I walk very quickly past them so that if necessary I could run. This is wrong on so many levels. I have no doubt that the two thugs were affiliated with one of the crews that tagged the building. But what is this? Are we living in the wild west where I have to fear for my safety at 4pm on a Friday afternoon simply for taking a few photos. Who owns the streets, regular citizens or the thugs? I know MPD has a lot on its plate with the shootings at 13th and Columbia but this behavior is also totally unacceptable.

Anyway, you’ll see a reader’s comments below. So do you think this type of graffiti deters new businesses from opening up? Personally, I don’t think it does. It’s certainly not pleasant but there has been lots of graffiti on 14th Street in the Logan Circle area and that didn’t seem to effect new businesses moving in.

A reader writes:

“so as you know graffiti is our hood is an issue. teenage hoodlums in our hood is an issue too, but i digress. anyway, walking to the metro today i noticed that on the back side of the new park place the building is completely graffitied. i cannot tell you how disappointed and upset by this i was, seriously i almost cried. on your post most people have expressed how excited they are to have new retail choices and how hopeful they are that these developments will become an anchor for more development in the community. well that’s not going to happen if before the thing is even finished it’s completely tagged with gang/hoodlum graffiti. what can we do about it? everytime i walk by the metro i get excited for the place to open. after seeing that nasty graffiti today, all i feel is sadness.”

More photos after the jump.




  • i don’t get what people expect when they build a totally windowless blank canvas on an alley. that was asking to be tagged. Windows On The Street, people!

  • Golden Silence

    This is that new building being built over the Metro? Unbelievable. These thugs do this because they are allowed to get away with so much. I hope you called the police when you saw them doing this. This is disgusting. How would they feel if someone came and wrote all over their house? Knowing how callous these kids are nowadays, they probably wouldn’t give a damn.

  • Anonymous

    Tagged? Vandalized is more the word. Of course they didn’t respond when their spray painting was called art. It’s not art, it’s destruction of property.

  • New2CH

    The graffiti just drives me crazy. It contributes to a general air of lawlessness when these relatively minor crimes happen daily with no repurcussions, a sense that young men in D.C. can behave however they want, and no one will stop them. They also contribute to gang problems via marking of territory and so on. And they are just a major annoyance and expense for property owners. The only things we can do is try to encourage installation of more cameras to catch / deter these crimes and be vigilant to call the city immediately after we find graffiti and hound the city until they clean it up — the faster it goes away, the less psyched people will be to spend time doing it. But really, the main issue is we need some sort of deterrence, and now there is none. I am sure DC would never, god forbid, actually detain someone based on a property crime, but how about anyone who is caught doing graffiti gets to spend six straight saturdays, eight hours a day, cleaning up graffiti all over the city? Maybe if word got around kids would hesitate a little. But I am all for some broken windows type approach with the teenagers run amok.

    I also loved the idea of investing more in boarding schools for local kids — but not just troubled kids (as the school posted the other wink seemed to be directed to) but also kids who have never been in trouble, with potential, to keep them from getting corrupted / discouraged by the less-than-conducive learning environment in area schools. Obviously the parents will have to be on board, but I imagine those who will be will be (1) parents of kids who are just out of control and are bad influences on the rest and (2) parents who really care but can’t afford to remove their kids from a dangerous situation. Also glad that the new Sec. of Education is for extending the school year — the more time kids are in school, the less time they have to roam around the streets with nothing to do but cause trouble. Also needs to be an emphasis on investing in after school activities that can engage kids, and policies such as, if you get caught committing even minor crimes, you lose your place on sports teams and other such attractive activities. We need both carrots and sticks approach, and right now DC seems to offer neither.

  • New2CH

    This also ties in to the Georgia Ave. rehab, generally. It is a shame the city is lollygagging on this — the more well-lit, the more attractive an area generally is, the less inviting it will be for vandals and taggers. Abandoned buildings, poorly lit areas, low pedestrian foot traffic, are all basically an invitation to tag. It will certainly help when the buildings around the metro are actually open, but more importantly, the city needs to follow through on its Georgia Ave. promises to create a climate that is conducive to foot traffic and where pedestrians feels free to roam. Again, the model I have seen this is Washington St. in the South End of Boston, which was just like Georgia Ave. — red light district, open air drug market, violence center, etc., which transformed dramatically in character (even though there were still plenty of housing projects on or near it) thanks to a massive infrastructure investment and subsequent opening of new businesses and increase in pedestrian traffic.

  • eric in ledroit

    did someone call this in to the city? they’re pretty good about cleaning graffiti up.

    sorry this happened to you PoP…

  • Redhead

    There are many, many afterschool programs for youth. I work for one of them. Perhaps the thing to do here is reach out to one of the many who engage youth to help create a mural for public space. I agree with the first poster. Blank walls in alleys cry out to be tagged. But there can be ways to engage youth and community members to take ownership of the community through art. The DC Commission for the Arts gives grants for this kind of project.

    Please don’t be so quick to judge all of the young people in our area as hoodlums. There are many who are hardworking, kind and diligent. They tell me all the time how they hate being treated like juvenile delinquents by others in our community.

    Clearly when those two young men were intimidating you that wasn’t a moment for constructive engagement. But the attitude among posters who responded to you is unfortunate. There are youth in our community who are hoodlums and there are others who care just as much as the adults who post here about the neighborhood and issues of safety.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    I purposely called it “art” to extricate myself from the situation. Murals are art. This certainly is not.

  • New2CH

    Redhead, no one is saying all youth are hoodlums — who in this thread judged that ALL young people are? But a substantial minority are, and they screw things up for everyone. Unfortunately, as always, a disproportionate amount of attention and resources necessarily gets tied up with protecting the law-abiders from the law-breakers.

    POP — that was some quick thinking — kudos and glad you escaped safely.

  • Redhead

    PoP – I know you called it art. It wasn’t anything you said that got me down. It was the later posters. It’s the whole “kids these days” thing that pushes buttons for me. I understand the other perspective too and don’t enjoy feeling threatened on the streets, but since I work with so many great kids too I feel I need to put their perspectives out there. Thanks. No hard feelings, I hope.

  • Puchica

    I agree with Redhead, as a teacher I know that many of the kids in our neighborhood are just as angry about graffiti as many of the posters are (and just as intimidated by scary teenagers)

    I also know that many of them were very shaken up by the death of the young man who is memorialized in one of the tags in the picture you posted. I am not excusing the graffiti, but I think it is a symptom of what is going on in our neighborhood, not a cause. After the recent outbreak of violence at 13th and Columbia, I think the police should be focused on catching the folks with guns in their hands, not cans of spray paint.

  • Irving Streete

    I am surprised that you were surprised to menaced by a couple of thugs — you being a veteran of urban life, and all. There’s no justification for violence, of course, and you could write your doctoral thesis on who’s to blame when absent fathers, irresponsible mothers, a political system that hates poor urbanites (changing now, we hope) and the wrong decisions the kids themselves make come together to create a pair of violent little punks.

    But — this isn’t a sociology field trip. It’s real life. If you’re going to hang around gang tags, you’re going to meet some of the kids who write that shit on walls. It’s their city, too, for better or for worse.

    So, it you’re cool enough to live in a “transitional” neighborhood, don’t whine when the pre-transition population gets up in your grill. That’s just the way it goes. A good story, an important tile in our urban mosaic– yes. A big deal? No.

  • As a Shaw resident, I see plenty of graffiti in our ‘hood…it’s very discouraging, but I have to say the city has been very good at getting it cleaned up…and I’ve painted over plenty myself…I do think its helpful to get rid of it as quickly as possible and let the “artists” know their work won’t be shown for very long in your neighborhood…hopefully it dampens their enthusiasm…

  • As a Shaw resident, I see plenty of graffiti in our ‘hood…it’s very discouraging, but I have to say the city has been very good at getting it cleaned up…and I’ve painted over plenty myself…I do think its helpful to get rid of it as quickly as possible and let the “artists” know their work won’t be shown for very long in your neighborhood…hopefully it dampens their enthusiasm…

  • ontarioroader

    They might have thought you were a gang intel officer, hence the threatening looks.

    The best way to stop this crap is just to paint it over – fast. If the kids know their ‘work’ will be gone in a day or two they won’t do it in the first place. Unfortunately I think DPW’s graffiti crew won’t/can’t remove stuff from private property unless the owner gives permission or requests the removal themselves. A call to the management company that runs the building might help get the ball rolling on that.

  • Yes, this graffiti is an eyesore and should simply be painted over immediately. They key is to do it quickly, if possible the very next day. If the tags reappear, paint over them again and again, as many times as it takes. There’s a HUGE difference between street art, such as the officially sanctioned murals that frequently are highlighted in this blog, and the juvenile scrawlings and mindless vandalism on display here. Not only are the kids who did this thugs and criminals, they are talentless ones, at that!

  • New2CH

    Puchica, obviously I agree that apprehending armed felons should be the first police priority. But that doesn’t mean they should ignore other crimes. Part of the problem is that when minor violations are considered OK or excusable or not enforced — truancy, graffiti, street harassment, stealing CD’s from cars, underage drug and alcohol use, that leads to more serious things, like drug dealing, armed robbery, all the way up to serious assault and gang violence. A culture which excuses “minor” crimes will pave the way towards major ones … perhaps some true early intervention can prevent minor offenders from growing up to be permanent jail denizens …

  • Petworth Res

    It’s my hope that once businesses start moving into this space that the graffiti will be painted over. I would think that the landlord would post a guard in this back alley similar to the guards posted over at DC USA in Col Heights…

  • 14stbulletz

    I consider myself to be one of those “kids” – not that I’m the culprit here, but I think DC needs to encourage some more BANKSY like behavior to actually get some cool graffiti to fill the vacuum.

    P.S. What does the clerk at the Ace Hardware think is going to happen when a 13yo buys a can of Krylon at the store – that he/she is going to whitewash a fence for his/her parents?!

  • Anonymous

    14stbulletz – you think these kids are actually buying paint? Come on. I would bet it’s stolen. This is not urban art. This is gang messaging and terrotrial marking. The same as a cat marking terrotory. These kids are animals. This really depresses me. I think it is too late for a lot of them. The majority will end up dead or in jail.

    PoP – maybe its time to invest in some pepper spray, if only to buy yourself a few minutes to break away.

  • “i don’t get what people expect when they build a totally windowless blank canvas on an alley. that was asking to be tagged. ”

    “So, it you’re cool enough to live in a “transitional” neighborhood, don’t whine when the pre-transition population gets up in your grill. That’s just the way it goes.”

    Seriously, this sounds terribly close to “The way she was dressed, she was asking for it.” There’s no excuse for criminal decisions. None.

    New2CH, good comments; I’m on board at least.

  • saf

    There is no such thing as cool graffiti.

    What does the hardware store clerk have to do with it? At that age, I bought spray paint to paint my bike. Also, to paint the tin can robots I made. (Geek alert)

    I spend considerable time dealing with graffiti on my projects. It’s infuriating, it’s expensive. It needs to stop.

  • Anonymous

    white people..wtf did you expect when you moved to the ghetto. this isn’t bethesda. take your bitching and your prams back to the suburbs.

  • Jay’O

    I agree that this is unacceptable – allowing people to vandalize private property, but I think people are missing something important that was mentioned earlier in the thread. This graffiti is actually a memorial to another kid that was killed. We all know that the kids involved in this stuff have few if any supports in their lives except eachother. There way to deal with the presumed murder of their friend is to paint this wall. In a way, it’s a cry of pain.

    This still can not be tolerated, but it would totally explain why they felt so possessive of this when PoP was taking picture of what to them is a very personal thing. These troubled youth need a ton of help, but we also can’t let thm think they have full run of the neighborhood either.

    Hopefully folks around here can recognize this complexity and push for strong crime enforcement & youth programs.

    P.S. Anyone know who this Latino kid was that is being memorialized on the wall?

  • saf

    Anon 9:54 – You’ve got to be kidding.

  • Ice-Tina

    Does the stimulus bill contain any funds for inner city Sterilization?!

  • Prince Of Petworth

    There are some very good points here (and some crazy ones). But just for the record, while I don’t like this kind of graffiti, I was more upset about the general lawlessness. I’ve walked around the block enough times to know who the kids are versus who the trouble makers are. This was a pure case of street toughs. They could’ve looked at me with contempt and that would’ve been fine. But the fact that they approached and intimidated is unacceptable. And believe me, I’ve been in many an alley in much more unsavory parts of the city and encountered many a character. Most are harmless. This was different. And I will not accept it as normal behavior.

  • Geezer

    I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again – there are too many individuals walking the streets of DC who commit acts of intimidation, violence and destruction. They bring down the entire community, including themselves. Too many have suffered at their hands – emotionally and physically. The “community” is akin to an suicidal or homicidal individual who loses their Constitutional right to self-determination and gets civilly committed due to their inability to effectively govern themselves. So it is time for a new and sadly more invasive law enforcement oversight until the time when a measurable, substantive improvement in public safety can be demonstrated (i.e. sunset provision).

  • Anonymous

    Graffiti, even cat-piss-like tagging, has to be seen as a form of expression, albeit the majority of it (including the stuff pictured here) is quite banal and visually uninteresting. This distinguishes it from outright vandalism and other forms of property crime. This is not to excuse or protect “bad” graffiti, but the distinction should inform efforts to prevent or redirect of the impulse. Why do kids choose such an antisocial means of bringing these inane thoughts into the open? Why don’t they just rant and rave on message boards and blog comment rolls?

  • Anonymous

    After all the killings you might think these thugs would’ve killed each other off, but no. Hopefully some day.

  • PetworthRes

    Sigh, this is probably impossible to prevent – but it’s true the city is being much more aggressive about removing graffiti. Did anyone call it in yet? If not I will.

    But one thing that caught my eye was the “7th N Taylor” graffiti…there used to be a lot of drug dealing in that area but I thought that was for the most part gone. Is there even a 7th & Taylor crew anymore??

  • Irving Streete

    I don’t want to encourage violence, but if more yuppies got back in the faces of the punks, the punks would back off.

    They fuck with you because they can.

    Make it harder for them to do that and they’ll do it less.

  • Steve

    Anon 10:17. What is being expressed? Nothing but marking criminal territory. It is messages to other gangs.

    As for expression. Give me your address, I will come express my self all over your house. We can see how you like that. You seem to be espousing anarchy. Society has rules in the form of laws. Spraying paint on private property without the owners permission is vandalism and is against the law. We can have a different argument about when this happens on public property as to whether it is art or not.

    PoP – the confrontation you had with the thugs and the graffiti are part of the same problem. One that has been argued out in this space time and time again. There are no easy fixes to this problem.

  • christopher

    kudos to irving streete…my thoughts exactly!

  • Prince Of Petworth

    Iriving Streete, one has to assess the situation. In an alley, I’d never get in someone’s face particularly when it is two versus one. Also you have to be careful that they are not carrying weapons. I continue to advocate flight in such situations.

  • matt

    maybe you shouldn’t have been taking pictures of the grafitti? not everything in petworth is intended for your amusement. all the stuff you take pictures of is real life and real people and it means something that sometimes you just don’t understand, it’s not art at a musuem. you’re a voyeur and it’s about time somebody gave you a reality check.

  • anonymous

    Legalize drugs. If drugs are legal, gangs have no reason to protect territory.

  • saf

    Matt – it’s in a public place, and is obviously intended for people to see and react to.

    A voyeur? No, an observant neighbor.

  • Irving Streete

    PoP —

    It’s easy for me for me to tell you what you should have done and I’m going to back off just a little bit because it’s easy to be brave when typing and — over the years — I’ve dealt with punks both by getting in their face and by backing off as fast as possible. Hard to make that call when you’re not standing in the alley with the little thugs, as you were.

    But, I do think you/me/all of us need to be a little assertive here. If we make it harder for people to harass us, they’ll harass us less. It’s their city, but it’s our city, too, and if we’re not willing to fight back, we’ll never actually own our little piece.

  • natedogg

    if it was good graffiti, i wouldn’t care at all.

    this doesn’t bother me too much, though on the busses it does get me v mad.

    don’t tear my head off, but i agree a bit with the “its their neighborhood too, even if they drive out business” argument. not everyone in petworth wants another tavolli north and picket fences, even if the majority of the commenters seem to.

    its not cool they threatened you. but i wouldnt have taken pictures of it while they were there.

    great site and commentary. just wanted to post a bit of a “minority view.”

  • Lucretia

    There are always young kids up to no good in that back alley and ones near by. Generally all around that elementary school there. This is a real issue! Why do we not have one of those police surveillance cameras back there? Why do we not have better lighting? Why do kids think this kind of behavior is acceptable? Yes, sure, when you move to the “ghetto” you get what you get, but as comments have made clear here even long time locals are upset at this type of behavior. Everyone deserves to live in a safe and pleasant area. These aren’t crazy demands from middle class white people, these are demands from an entire population to end crime.

  • Cliff

    I was driving down Georgia Avenue and I saw someone spray painting a building on the corner of Kenya. I stopped my car in the middle of the road and yelled at the guy who just started laughing until I started yelling and waving for a police officer, at which time he took off. I am a firm believer in making it known that there is behavior that should be frowned upon. Its the only thing that will make them think twice.

  • scared of DC young punk thugs

    Big question is who is Whitney, Ricco, Raven, and Tay? And who is KDP?

    It seems someone in the community and the youth/gang/violence shop at MDPC would know more about who these thugs are. Seriously, when will the adults in DC get around to figuring out an effective way to address the horrible and widespread violent youth thug mentality in the District? Prosecuters let them go. Residents are scared of them. The police get frustrated when the courts let the violent youth criminals out. It’s time for a change!

    An adult vigilante group collecting intelligence on who the youth criminals are and what they’re up to is desparately needed, with some serious legal assistance? Unfortunately due to the laws in DC, the police will be of little assistance informing a group like this. They know who the violent youth offenders are, they just can’t tell the residents!

    In the meantime, call the Mayor’s hotline, the graffiti will be gone before you know it.

  • matt

    saf- yeah but who’s it intended for? and who understands it? not yuppies. if you want to be a voyeur be my guest, that’s your right, but that’s what it is.

  • Homeland Security

    It’s amazing we spend billions fighting terrorists overseas when our own youth are terrorizing us at home.

  • natedogg


    it would appear that we don’t have to worry about kay, at least.

  • Anonymous

    I just hope that that RIP list grows very long very fast until there is nobody left to add names to it.

  • Anonymous


  • Steve

    Lucretia – Drove by Barnard Elementry the other night. It looked like MPD had a light trailer on Emerson. Funny thing was that the crew they were trying to shed the light of day on had gathered at the Elementry in plain view of the street.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve spent the past two years keeping an upbeat and positive view on how exciting it is to live in Columbia Heights. This winter has made it increasingly hard to keep that attitude, and all I can do now is dread warmer weather.

  • ontarioroader

    Yeah, I also have a feeling it’s going to be a bloody summer…

  • Steve

    With the economy in the crapper, I fear this is going to be a tough summer for crime. I just hope no one catches a stray round like the other day. Keep safe.

  • Anonymous

    Steve —

    “What is being expressed? Nothing but marking criminal territory. It is messages to other gangs.”

    Yes, this is true. It also comprises expressions of condolence, solidarity, amongst other things: most of it, as I said, banal.

    “As for expression. Give me your address, I will come express my self all over your house. We can see how you like that. You seem to be espousing anarchy. Society has rules in the form of laws. Spraying paint on private property without the owners permission is vandalism and is against the law. We can have a different argument about when this happens on public property as to whether it is art or not.”

    Did you even read what I wrote before your explosion of indignation? In what sense is discussing ways to think about (and prevent) graffiti and calling it anti-social “espousing anarchy”? Do you understand the difference between expression (the word I used) and art (which I did not)? You make the illuminating point that unlicensed graffiti is illegal. Well done to you. That is why we should think about ways to prevent it, which include treating it as expression rather than, or perhaps as well as, destruction of property. Lastly, I don’t think your public/private distinction is useful.

  • JTS

    All of this talk of killing vandals, forming vigilante groups, and labeling them terrorists is very disconcerting. These kids were 16 years old. Children! Call the police, complain, but all this talk about eradicating the neighborhood of pestilience is disgusting, ignorant, and childish. Get over yourselves, then, get more involved in your community, volunteer, and facilitate productive endeavors. You’ve moved into a part of the city that was ignored for generations. You deal with the downside, and you lay the foundation for the upside. Anything less than that, and you are part of the problem. Let me rephrase: As a member of the community, your rage and subsequent indifference to the lives of these children makes you equally culpable.

  • Anonymous

    16 year olds aren’t children. I know I wasn’t a child when I was 16. Were you? Especially nowadays, teenagers are more grown up than you’d imagine.

    But I agree with the jist of what you say otherwise. Community-building must be a priority, rather than just locking yourself in your home.

  • Irving Streete

    I don’t want to get all high and mighty but — Steve, Ontarioroader et al — what did you expect when you moved to the city? Not that crime should be tolerated but the whole sense of surprise is ridiculous. Grow up. This ain’t freakin’ Gaithersburg. If you can’t deal with it or — even better — help change it — go away.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry Anon @11:28, but I’m with Steve. Someone else’s right to express himself stops at my property line. Without permission, unlicensed graffiti is vandalism, plain and simple, regardless of what the vandal is trying to express. The attempt to distinguish between vandalism and graffiti of this sort is part of the problem, not the solution. I severely doubt that, had the owners of this building had a big box of sidewalk chalk out there, the vandals would have chosen the less destructive form of expression.

  • Steve

    Irving Streete – I am not suprised in the least. I accepted this when I moved to the city. That does make it right. There are two or three lost generations of kids in this city whose parents don’t give a crap about them. Why do you think they are angry. They turn to the other kids in their neighborhood for friendship and comadradre. These crews become defacto family units. Eventually they drop out of school and get a criminal record, they become more or less a lost cause. We can snip around the edges with various programs, but by this time, I fear the only place left for these kids is either the cemetary or prison. Making it worse, many of these kids are fathering the next generation of thugs.

  • Steve

    Ooop – meant to say That does NOT make it right!

  • ontarioroader

    Irving Streete; I was born here and grew up in Mt Pleasant/Adams Morgan/Shaw, so I didn’t move here – just pointing out that if the violent sh*t starts while it’s still this cold, when things heat up it’s only going to get worse.

  • Pennywise

    PoP, I use your blog to gripe and vent about similar such things, as I’m sure many have noticed. I think its good if you use it to vent as well, and I think getting adrenalized and upset and posting it is a normal process for many of us. You obviously know the city better than many and know not to equate these two guys with everyone who may look like them. It is sad that these sorts of guys hold the real power in our streets, and I agree graffiti is infuriating. If given the chance, the city does clean it up very quickly, but many business owners don’t seem to care how tagged they get.

    On the flip side, I think it was the owner of Moroni’s pizza, or maybe Fusion, that indicated that even when they have video of someone, with a clear shot of the face, vandalizing them, MPD won’t follow up. I think its clear that more aggressive tactics could be tried against these guys. And thus we segue into the “Mendelson sucks” discussion in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    Best thing to do in a case like this is have it removed as fast (and often) as possible. That way whoever is doing it won’t bother taking the risk of getting caught in the act of putting it back up.

  • Redhead

    Amen, JTS. Much of this discourse is getting uglier than the original graffiti or intimidation. And it’s interesting to see how many of the truly ugly comments are posted under “Anonymous.”

  • New Hampy

    I just called Donatelli Development and spoke with the Park Place Project Manager named Andy. I informed him of the vandalism to this property and asked Donatelli to take action to remove it asap. Since we are the ones who have to live with this everyday, I encourage the community to call Andy and request they remove the graffitti asap: 301-654-0700

  • Anymouse

    Solution – sharpshooters. I guaran-damn-tee you that it will be an effective deterent.

  • New Hampy:

    Thanks for taking action – prompt removal is the way to go.

  • Anonymous

    JTS — equal culpability??? I don’t think so. We can try to take an active part in being part of a solution and alleviating our own problems, or we can (rightfully) expect the government to do something, even if they never do or only do so slowly, but culpability reflects fault, which people minding their business don’t share with these thugs. I’m not calling for sharpshooters or vigilantism, but I hope people never let go of the rage they have at this type of behavior. We’ll never develop a communal ethos of not tolerating crime if people who see the wrongness in this type of activity start to believe their indignation at this sort of sh*t is misplaced and accept fault as their own.

  • Pennywise

    Anymouse 12:47, I have always said that the most peaceful time in our city was during the Reign of the Sniper. The ‘hood was DESERTED then.

  • Pennywise

    Also, everyone note, PoP needs a beer. Please, someone in range, get him one!

  • anon

    call Donatelli and ask for Andy – we need our voices to be heard! 301-654-0700

  • DCDireWolf

    repeat this one, til you can’t stand it anymore and act:

    “As a member of the community, your rage and subsequent indifference to the lives of these children makes you equally culpable.”

  • Steve

    Why are we calling Donatelli? They were the victim. As far as I can see New Hampy stepped up and called. Given the retail that will be going in, I would hope that there will be video surveillance in that ally. I am actually considering installing a camera at my place since the local crew uses the foreclosure next door for a hang out and stash. Figured maybe that can either deter or prod MPD.

  • superdude

    PoP commenters: calling for snipers since 2002!

    No seriously, naysayers, this summer is definitely going to be a tough one. Historically, bad economies spark higher crime rates. I suggest we arm bears. An armed bear would surely scare off any thug.

  • “As a member of the community, your rage and subsequent indifference to the lives of these children makes you equally culpable.”

    I heartily disagree. They’re not children. They’re f&*ckin’ adults. They’re a plague on the community. Outrage is the only useful response. For too long, acceptance of failure has rotted our community. It’s time to expect more from the “members of our community.”

  • AJL

    First, while this is not an excuse, the vast majority of 16 and 17 year olds do stupid things and, in some cases, illegal things. This is not specific to “hoodlums.” The suburbs are not immune to stupid teenagers. As such, some of the comments on this blog strike me as both classist and racist.

    Second, have you ever been to a city that didn’t have graffiti? Either get over it, or move.

    Third, this particular graffiti is memorializing a 14 YEAR OLD WHO WAS STABBED TO DEATH IN DECEMBER. While that doesn’t excuse the graffiti, let’s not forget what’s most important here. Frankly, a life was taken so who cares about the graffiti? By the way, there is another memorial to Chino on 14th St. at Newton, across the from the firehouse. Stuffed animals, flowers, posters, etc. It’s been up since his death so it looks quite ragged now, but perhaps you all would consider that a more appropriate memorial.

  • JTS

    No, they’re not, springroad. They are children, and despite what The Wire may have told you, they are generally vulnerable and may have no other substantive support system than some petty gang they are affiliated with.

    That aside, you agree with me completely. “Acceptance of failure has rotted our community.” Your words, not mine. You do nothing, you contribute to the decay. If you sit here and bitch and moan without leaving your computer so you can start to interact with these people (or the next group of soon to be mini gang bangers). This is your fault too. I have absolutely zero tolerance for crime, indifference to crime, or inaction to prevent crime, and it seems to me that you do as well.

  • CP

    I would agree with springroadintoaction, not just about the belief that these folks are adults (they are), but about the acceptance of failure making the community a much worse place.

    When my parents were in town recently, my dad commented on the steel mesh covering the windows of every school we passed. Funny to step out of the little DC world for a minute and listen to that. Why, he wondered, isn’t the community so ashamed of a perceived need to protect windows from vandals that it doesn’t just step up and act to prevent vandalism in the first place? Why aren’t citizens who’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in their homes demanding that either police do their jobs or that elected leaders clean house and find people who will?

    They’re legitimate questions, and before someone steps in with a “police can’t be everywhere all the time” or “grates over our windows are the least of our concerns” remark, why not think for a moment about the lack of a can-do attitude, the willingness to accept anything less than perfection from the local government, and the proven success of broken-windows policing in other cities?

  • Anon 31415926

    When they asked what you were doing, you should have said ‘I’m looking for a place to dispose of two bodies.’

    How about installing CCTV cameras in the alley, and then posting photos of the perps all over the neighborhood?

    I naturally shun violence. However, the fight-or-flight response is a funny thing. Perhaps the key when confronted by some thugs is to make it clear to them that you’re crazy enough to not be messed with. I think you’re less likely to get jumped if you have the ‘crazy eyes’ and appear to be the most badass mofo around. As in, ‘mess with me and your brains will be all over that wall,’ or ‘I’m crazy enough to take on the both of you, whether you’re armed or not.’

    For someone who is ‘touched’ in the head, even 3 vs 1 are pretty good odds. Of course, killing those little bastards isn’t justified. However, if they jumped me, I wouldn’t think it unreasonable to break both of their arms.

    Conclusion: violence undesirable. nonviolence much more desirable. however, sometimes a little ultra-violence is justified for self-defense.

    FYI: did you know that you must have a permit to carry a taser in the city?

    /I’m not a sociopath, but my other personality is.

  • ontarioroader

    Tasers are illegal here. Pepper spray is not.

  • Anon 31415926

    ontarioroader: “Tasers are illegal here”

    So is carrying a loaded Sig Arms P226 in your commuter bag.

    …which I wouldn’t do, even if I owned one.

  • New2CH

    No way I’d ever confront teenagers if I didn’t have a gun and there was a reasonable chance they might. I don’t care how crazy I make my eyes look, no way in hell I am going to take that risk, and I think it is ridiculous to advice POP to have done so in that situation.

    Interesting point no the steel mesh covered windows on the schools. Bars / fencing on school windows drives me crazy. Kids should not feel like they are being educated in a war zone. Take ’em all down. The cost of replacing a few windows from time to time (and/or the costs of actually trying to prevent / punish vandalism) is a lot less than the psychological costs inflicted on kids who equate school with a prison.

  • Pennywise

    On the subject of bad 16 year olds, I was one myself in a far off land and in days of yore. While I recognize that some 16 year olds are devious and criminal masterminds, many are just dumbass teenage boys. I think the problem in DC is that, in the absence of parents for many of them, there is no overarching authority. Ie, they get to run around like animals. Any city that does not recognize the amazing destructive power of teenage boys deserves all the vandalism and crime the cause. It is quite literally the easiest problem in the world to predict: boys become potentially extremely problematic at the onset of puberty, and their base instincts are to defile and make noise all over in order to attract females.

    However, I would point out that if you treat them as criminals from the outset, they will act accordingly for the remainder of their days. You do need to be tough on them, they are young men after all, craving authority, but you cannot cross the line and assume they are just all criminals. Personally I speak from experience on this, and the best thing that ever happened to me was getting in enough trouble that I didn’t seek out much more. Again, I blame the DC government, Mendelson in particular. I know in a perfect world if we all organized and worked together we could overcome this. In many circles such organization is called “government”. However, in DC, our government is the problem. All our wishes are just that.

  • Anon 31415926


    I wasn’t saying that anyone should confront teenagers like these. I prefer non-confrontation personally. However, one must be prepared to utilize all options when confronted by hoodlums.

    I think we should bring back public punishment for crimes. Vandalism should warrant 6 or 8 hours in the stocks. Let set them up on the Mall and let local people throw rotten produce at the guilty.

  • Formica Jones

    Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrl, I’m getting down to the rec center today to get my volunteer on! You really inspired me to be a better resident. If only I could change one life?! Then my work be done. Watch out DC, I’m on the watch and I’m forming action committees to prevent youths from falling through the cracks.

  • NateG

    i think we should legalize graffiti, that will take the thrill out of it and make people not want to do it. in fact, lets legalize all forms of vandalism.

  • Anymouse

    I feel like there is a general lack of respect for people and property in lower income neighborhoods of the city. It ranges from tagging to the guy who thinks it’s ok to simply drop his McDonald’s bag on the street when he’s finished with his value meal. Yes, I’m one of those who moved into the city for the “urban” experience. But I also thought I could help improve my community while I’m here. I’m also the one out on Saturday morning picking up all the trash that seems to accumulate on the streets and sidewalks of my block. I don’t care what your background is, when you decide it’s ok to disrespect others and other people’s property by tagging, bullying, or littering, I don’t want you in my ‘hood. If we could somehow teach these people to respect others and other’s property, we’d go a long way to improving the overall neighborhood feel and everyone’s quality of life.

  • Cities reflect its creators/developers first, then they are enhanced/redacted/molded by those of us who live in it AND choose to have a presence. And, the latter ain’t easy whether regardless of color or place of origin.

    The exchanges above reminded me of a Peter Ackroyd quote I posted elsewhere 20080403:

    Cities do not change over the centuries. They represent the aspirations of particular men and women to lead a common life; as a result their atmosphere, their tone, remain the same. Those people whose relations are founded principally upon commerce and upon the ferocious claims of domestic privacy will construct a city as dark and as ugly as London was. And is. Those people who wish to lead agreeable lives, and in constant intercourse with one another, will build a city as beautiful and as elegant as Paris. (from _Dickens_)

    We live in relationship to our cities and towns. And, each of us has a temperament that reacts differently to the surroundings. I’ve not witnessed a shooting or seen someone killed right before me but there’s been no shortage of shady things or death’s leftovers. I’ve only lived in urban areas. Yet, DC feels the most foreign but that could just be a function of my aging.

    I’ve lived in Petworth for over 3 years. Before that it was in Dorchester, MA; and backwards respectively: Jamaica Plain, MA; Providence, RI; and Memphis, TN. The color of my skin is Brown and I am a mom. I was raised to say “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am”. I know how to be a lady and choose to dress for comfort. That means I’ve scared little old ladies when exiting from the women’s restroom; and, once was hassled at the local bodega b/c well…he was certain I was shoplifting (in reality I was rushing, I’d left something simmering on the stove a few blocks away, needed a can of something, and found the store lacking.)

    But when I went to college people often told me that my affect, or demeanor, made them think me from NYC. In discussion, it seem to boil down to the fact that I had good ego boundaries and nothing bothered me. I’m not easily rattled — generally. College is also when I had the epiphany that I was working class. So it is a solidly middle class household into which our child arrived.

    This boy child feels safe in the interiors we control but he’s also privy what he gleans from the streets we walk en route to school, the park, etc. Inside he knows our house where he has some 300+ that are his he knows his life is different from many of his public school peers. He’s come of age in Dorchester and DC, and it’s safe to say he’d rather live in the suburbs, or if in DC be closer to 16th where there’s no grafitti — and, where he imagines that the brown-skinned males he’d see would be less threatening.

    So, my temperament differs remarkedly from my 10 year old who’s only lived in DC and Dorchester. He’s constantly rattled by normal city things — people, sounds, cops — things we’d not expose him to if we had control but when it’s a crime scene in front of your house, or in the block next to you…or the kids who talk of guns in a way that exudes familiarity to him even if I might know it to be bluster…or his keen eyes always spots our neighborhood as we intentionally scan past the TV news channels — that’s how he found out about the body at Ronan Park where he’d no longer go and play. Is it wonder that he doesn’t like being out after dark. He doesn’t run the streets so what he sees confuses him. So he’s truly a kid when he whispers to me that he thinks that girl over there on the bus is too young to be a mom. Or when he’s perplexed by why anyone young or old would smoke. I don’t understand tagging but I love Keith Haring. I can’t skateboard but he wants to so I feel that I can’t just ignore graffiti. It’s ugly (often), it’s communication (sometimes); and, it’s part of living in a city and sometimes is a valid commentary on living and/or feeling ignored.

    Having a child can make you see things differently. And, for him city life is by its very nature much more anxiety-causing. My inclination is to remain uninvolved, and more than once it’s his insistence that’s led to my calling [—] to deal….with the drunk neighbor wandering the street, feral cats, or whatever. DC confuses me more than other places I’ve lived. Yet in the last two, it’s what our child doesn’t see — people involved and caring — that keeps him scared. And, that would be true regardless of what had been tagged.

  • mphs

    I hate graffiti, too. My alley way got tagged recently — pointless, artless, and ugly.

    But, I look at these specific pictures and I see specific content there. It’s rage and grief. The survivors memorializing the dead. To the painters, it does not mean anything about property rights or gentrification, I think, but it is all about their dead friends, killed violently, or just too soon. I think there is an imbalance about what the paintings mean to them and what they think the inconvenience is to the community (or the property owner).

    But, I really hate that they thought they could intimidate the PoP for no reason. That just sucks, and it’s far worse than the paint on the wall, which surely can be painted over.

  • Nick

    Something tells me affecting the ‘crazy eye’ comes pretty easy for Anon 31415926.

  • DCDave

    I’m white, grew up in a middle class family in a small midwest town. My older brother, then a teenager, and his buddies spray painted the year of his high school graduating class on the tin roof of the historic train station in town. The cops in my small town actually investigated this act of vandalism, and somehow were able to identify my brother and his friends as the perpetrators. With the full support of all the parents, their punishment . . . the boys had to buy supplies with their own money and repaint the entire roof of the train station.

    So yes, teenage boys do stupid things regardless of race, class and environment (i.e., city versus suburbs). The difference in my brother’s case is that you had a community that cared, an active police department that took the time to address the issue (perhaps because they had little else to do other than handing out parking tickets, heh), and involved parents that valued respect for others and their property, and taking responsibility for ones actions.

  • Neener

    This story is horrible and the main reason I’m trying to move.

  • Anymouse

    Thanks DCDave. I feel like you distilled exactly how I feel about the graffiti situation vis-a-vis the differences between urban and suburban neighborhoods.

  • DC_Chica

    mphs, that’s what struck me too — pointless graffiti is one thing, but the RIP message saddened me. i remember hearing once (from the health commissioner in baltimore) the % of kids in that city who, once evaluated properly, were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the violence and loss they had experienced in their short lives. that the % was so high (i can’t remember the exact number) truly shocked me, and while i know that there are some kids who may never be saved, there are alot of kids who might benefit from things like learning how to deal with grief, etc, in non-destructive ways. and i agree with New2CH’s initial suggestion to punish kids caught tagging by making them clean up graffiti by hand (and maybe offer them an opportunity to participate in painting an approved mural?) — it could not only show them what a pain graffiti is to remove, but give them a stake in preventing it.

  • Steve

    Does anyone know how the memorialized died? Probably not from natural causes. It is sad they died. It is sad they were put in a situation were the die so easily and so young. It is sad that other kids that age value each other’s lives so little.

  • Joseph Martin

    Dan, very, very sorry to hear about this incident.

    I spoke to Larry Clark of Donatelli Development about the graffiti. We will get this cleaned up.

    The DPW has crews out all over the city on a daily basis, weather permitting, power-washing and painting over graffiti.

    Please call in graffiti when you see it (311) or online: http://src.dc.gov

    If you own property that has been tagged, the DPW site allows you to download a graffiti-abatement waiver form giving the DPW permission to remove or paint over graffiti from your property up to one year after the first treatment.

    See: http://dpw.dc.gov/dpw/cwp/view,A,1202,Q,634280.asp

    If you live south of Spring Road & Rock Creek Church Road (in Ward 1), feel free to email Yaiza Burrell, my colleague: [email protected]

    In Ward 4, I’ll be happy to ask for DPW’s help, too. Calling 311 should work as well.

    Joseph Martin
    Executive Office of the Mayor
    Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services / Ward 4
    202-442-9509 direct
    202-442-8150 main
    [email protected]

  • Nate

    Dude. You are going to get yourself killed. And the sad part will be that a lot of people will think that you should have just (a) gave them your stuff, b) should not have been there or the variety of excuses when thugs violate someone.

  • Nate

    Every black person knows that you can stand down the older ones. But you do not f#$k with the young ones. Repeat after me: Do not fu$K with the young ones. PoP you need to learn that rule if you plan to continue this. The young ones will shoot you and go to Wendy’s afterwards.

  • Anonymous

    i used to work in a place where the walls were tagged constantly …and what finally stopped it was removing it as quickly as it went up.

  • Dee Montgomerry Pennyworth

    We all know that this will continue to happen until the government stops subsidizing the ghettos/ghetto people.

  • JTS

    This comment thread is so crazy. It makes me ashamed to be a DC resident. More than any graffiti ever could. ever.

  • NheeGhee’sGonnaGetYa!

    Thugs?? Hoodlums?? Killers?? A plague?? You guys really turn my stomach. Your words imply violence where there was none and reveals your propensity towards fear.
    Hey, PoP! I think you should change your name to The Prince of The Yuppies of Petworth.
    And all this talk of “street art” and “murals”….Good Lord!! I bet you would have been happy to share with us pics with glowing commentary if it had been some cartoonish characters from an educated white girl, like these: http://www.decoyink.com/index.php?sn=336

    Or, no wait! You probably would have peed your pants in delight if it was one of those Andre The Giant thingys…I mean it’s like so cool. Ya know it’s the same guy who made those Obama “Hope” posters. Oh how right on! And while I’m here, I just gotta say I’m totally stoked for that new Thai restaurant to open up, but first I gotta take some pics of some really cool doors…..

    This blog (which I actually enjoy) is full of clichés, but this is the first time that one of those clichés has nearly sickened me.

  • Mrs Mandalicious

    Really sorry to hear this Pop. One thing I noticed in this thread is the reference ghetto. Why do you guys have to call Petworth the ghetto? It’s NOT the ghetto! It’s my neighborhood! Yes there are some bad apples around, but no different than any other city. Do agree the petworth people need to get together and help continue to clean our neighborhood up! What can I do to help in this effort to prep for the coming warmer weather?

  • Victoriam

    I lived on Columbia Road & 14th st. since 1987 overlooking acres of graffitti on empty land that now is Highland Park. (kilty dada yah?) For years I read this one bubble letter tag as “Brown Onion” and I thought, what a really stupid, lame-ass name for a gang! Eventually i learned the gang was actually caled “Brown UNION” and they just had bad “penmenship” This, plus witnessing some cinematic rumbles out my back window, made me realize that these young gangs are essentialy lost boys, not all that bright, not really aware of what they shoud be doing, not even good fighters – (a few body blows and they are crumpled and weepy – but still raging with words – “It ain’t over! It ain’t over” – really embarassing.)

    When one did finally pull out a gun, I opened the window and yelled at him to stop and think about it and suggested they all go away. They did. It was a long barrelled old-western looking pistol, meant for rabid coyotes, rabbit stew and the odd card cheat. I was mostly thinking on how it ever ended up here – pearl handle no less! But ordinary stealth and grandpa going senile probably made it pie, thought anyone could still have come up dead from it.

    So it was Brown Union not Brown Onion. Still makes me laugh. But on meeting the bad glower guys in an alley – PoP – It’s pretty much you and your pick-up sticks. I’ve always done well with the oblique query and disarming directness. Thug: “Ugh, Grrrrr” Me : “Hi there – how you doing? Tell me about your day – and what do you like about this? Is is good? ” You can switch it pretty easily around if you have the right attitude, though I know it’s totally different for me being a woman. With men there is always the whole George of the Jungle energy to contend with., plus your camera to steal. I think you did exactly right for the situation. Alleys are no place for vallor.

    But something true – My first defense in any dodgy situation has always been direct and genuine engagement. Thugs: Ugh – must kill you!” Me – “Well, alright, come on then let’s get a coffee and tell me your life first . . .

    So all that said, I really wish they would come up with more artistic graffiti, and then that juvy had their skankly little butts out there for week scrubbing it up.

  • anon

    wow Victoriam, way to oversimply things. if only we all went out to coffee with criminals, the world would be a much better place.

  • Geezer

    There aren’t any “yuppies” in homely (yet beautiful, of course) Petworth – it’s racist code for whites. Get real – Domku, Looking Glass, Red Derby don’t gentrification make.

  • reuben

    Nate is right. Don’t mess with these young’uns… Just don’t.

  • NheeGhee’sGonnaGetYa!

    Geezer, when I used the word “Yuppy”, it was not a racial reference. The term admitedly is very tired and by Eighties standards would be a joke. Maybe it should be Uppities, by taking the “young” out. I know none of you personally (as far as I know) nor your ages but PoP, I think your first post and story was ugly. Ugly on you sir. You can’t be blamed for the the few nasty replies, but your first was enough for me.
    As for the folks worried about what to do when the weather gets warmer (cause you know those hoodlums just love the heat) either grow some balls or wear some diapers.

  • saf

    NG – ok, first, your name’s pretty ugly. Second, yes, his story was ugly, but because of how he was treated, not how he reacted. You’re not helping here.

  • ANonymous

    there is something seriously wrong with the perspective of someone who thinks the victim of intimidation is ugly for telling about it. perhaps a more appropriate name is NheeGhee’s OuttaLithium!


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