Friday Question of the Day – How Do You Decide if a Neighborhood is “Safe” to move to?

by Prince Of Petworth April 5, 2012 at 10:22 pm 89 Comments

Dear PoPville,

My wife and I just put an offer in on a house in Brightwood and the offer was accepted. We’re going to be settling on the house in early May. I was just curious what you think of the neighborhood, if it’s safe, can you walk around at night and not worry about anything? Like I said, I hope this doesn’t sound too ignorant, I just have a lot of people saying, “what are you doing?” As for me and my wife, we are all about culture and mixing it up and getting to know everyone in any neighborhood we live. Currently we are in Dupont. I know it’s not nearly the same as Dupont as far as bars, restaurants, just being able to walk right out your door and get a coffee, etc… but is it “up and coming” in any way as far as retail and all goes? And more importantly, is it safe? Is there something I’m missing/not seeing? Because we don’t see any problems, but others are warning us for some reason. Saying a lot of drug dealing activity, etc…

This question comes up every month or so about a different section of the city. You can simply substitute Brightwood with Petworth, Columbia Heights, Hill East, SW Waterfront, H St, NE, Bloomingdale, Truxton Circle, Shaw, Mt. Vernon Square… My answer always remains the same. Everyone has their own comfort level.

The very first Dear PoP posted in Aug. 2007 addressed this issue. I standby what I wrote then:

“So how does one feel safe? Only you can answer that. Some people like to get a dog. Some have an alarm system. Some don’t walk the streets past a certain hour. But I really believe the best way to feel safe is to become a part of the community. Talk to all of your neighbors. Talk to people in the street. Attend community events. Street smarts are learned. If you are walking around late at night don’t have ear phones in, don’t talk on your cell phone, be aware of your surroundings and walk confidently. There are precautions to be taken but don’t obsess about it. It is important to find your own comfort level. By and large you are living in a safe and welcoming community. Enjoy it!”

In the almost 10 years I’ve lived in Petworth (knock wood, knock wood) I have not personally experienced any crime. Though I’ve seen and heard about plenty. In the nearly 10 years I’ve lived here the quality of life overall and retail options have increased. I expect they will continue to improve. If you had told me that something like Three Little Pigs would be in northern Petworth 10 years ago, I would’ve assumed you were high.

When I moved to Petworth most of my friends had never heard of Petworth and thought I was crazy. Hell, I had never heard of Petworth. I’m not saying I’ll live here forever but moving here was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. What I think is essential to feel that way, is to really like where you live right away. Because if you think things are gonna “change in 5 years” – well you’ll be miserable for 5 years or maybe longer. You should like where you are moving and if things are expected to improve in the future, well, even better. You just gotta recognize, as with life, there will always be ups and downs. The key is keeping things in perspective when the ups are way up and the downs are way down.

So, how did/do you guys determine if you feel safe in your neighborhood? How do you explain to your family and/or friends that you’re not moving to Baghdad? Did they think you were crazy when you first moved to your neighborhood. What are your tips for feeling, and more importantly, being safe in your neighborhood?

  • We moved to Brightwood Park last year and could not be happier here (you’ll find Brightwood very similar if not even more quiet and residential). After living in Columbia Heights for several years we’d gotten sick of constant crime on our street and the surrounding, as well as the general congestion. This part of NW is incredibly friendly, quiet, comfortable and “safe.” We walk the dogs after dark and go running past dusk. We do not leave anything of value unsecured (my bike was locked to a porch rail and the entire rail was sawed off to take the bike…my boyfriends wheel was taken off his bike when it was in our, admittedly not secure, back shed), but other than that we have neither heard of nor experienced anything serious. Our neighbors are incredibly friendly and really do watch out for each other–after one recent grocery shopping trip my wallet fell out of my purse on the street down the block. Later that afternoon it was returned, with everything still inside, by a neighbor who had it passed on by another neighbor further down the street. In my time in DC I’ve lived in 8 different parts of the city and our house now is my favorite not just because it’s our home nut because the neighborhood also feels like home. You’ll love living up this way. Good luck with your move.

    • My wife and I moved to Northern Petworth (just north of Sherman Circle) and couldn’t be happier. I wish I were a little closer to Columbia Heights for biking etc, but as far as safety, we have always felt very comfortable. We do have a solid security system with glass breaks etc, but we have always felt fine.

      Get to know your neighbors, they will keep an eye on things, and don’t leave valuables sitting on your car seat or anything like that, and you will be fine. Welcome to the neighborhood!

    • jman

      I agree. Brightwood and Brightwood Park are both wonderful neighborhoods. I moved to Brightwood about a year and a half ago and love it. It’s a quiet neighborhood with lots of families and a good community feel.

    • I agree – we live in South Manor Park since we are just north of Missouri/Riggs and we love it. The neighbors are awesome and literally welcomed us with open arms. We can sleep with the windows open. I accidentally left my blackberry on the front passenger seat twice overnight and it was still there in the morning. We accidentally left our back door open all day one Saturday when running errands and had no problems (although I don’t recommend pushing your luck!). Sure there are periodic incidents, but this whole area is very family friendly and still has easy access to the rest of DC. And you’ll never have to fight for a parking spot again. The Walmarts opening up soon will help a lot with retail. Plus just north is the old Walter Reed space that is going to be developed soon. I keep hoping the old Brightwood Bistro area will become something good, but that might take a while. I think you will love it here in “North Country.”

      • jt

        My experience in South Manor Park has been similar. The neighborhood has a great combination of friendly new and longtime residents.

        • +1 on Petworth…I have lived Webster and Georgia for a little under a year and it has been a safe, crime free experience. Love my neighbors, love the neighborhood.

  • I totally hear you on this! And am interested in hearing feedback as I’m in same boat with considering buying outside of my “safe zone” of Logan Circle (while remaining a DC resident). Keep us posted on you results. Thanks for posing question! And thanks POP for posting, I’m sure many DC residents think about this….and their budgets!

  • AND if you’re looking for an english basement responsible/established renter, let me know!

  • Anonymous

    I know this is water under the bridge at this point but why would you buy a house if you didn’t already have an answer to this question? When I bought (off H St in 1999), I visited the street in the morning, afternoon and evening. I sat on the porch of my prospective house for a couple of hours, I walked around the block, I talked to the neighbors, I brought friends with me and visited alone. The area was rough back then but I felt comfortable on my block and had lived in urban areas before (Detroit, Chicago, London) so I bought and am glad I did, but as others have noted you have to determine your own comfort level and preferably before you invest all the money and time a house will cost you.

    Best of luck

    • SF

      Nailed it.

    • I’m six months pregnant but I’m worried because I read that sometimes people turn out bad – like Hitler – so a lot of people are saying “what are you doing?”

      This posting is ridiculous!!! Why would you ever put an offer on a house without checking all this out before?

      • monkeyrotica

        People actually buy a house without first checking if the neighborhood is safe? Bewildering. If you feel safe walking around at 2am on a Saturday, it’s probably safe.

        • Yeah, sounds like you put the proverbial cart before the horse on this one. I see it all the time and am amazed 12-18 months later when folks who didn’t think or investigate things like this before they bought the house, are continually complaining about how they are “shocked” at “insert level of crime or trash here”.

          There are also the academic ways of looking at it…pulling up a crime map around your address, as well as the ways people have already mentioned.

          The last time I bought a house I probably spent 8 or 9 hours at the house, walking around the neighborhood at all times of day and week.

          Brightwood certainly ain’t Dupont, in any form or fashion. Best of luck to you.

          • Florista

            Indeed – I have very smart friends who just moved from the quiet of Lothian MD to the Reston VA area. They are looking to buy a house, and continue to say how “amazed” they are at what their money will buy in VA vs. MD. Why didn’t they look into that before the move?! Maddening.

          • John


            Even when renting, I did the same furious search online for crime stats and even walked around the neighborhood one Saturday talking to people. It always amazes me how careless some people are when they purchase houses.

      • To Victoria who wrote.. “I’m six months pregnant but I’m worried because I read that sometimes people turn out bad – like Hitler – so a lot of people are saying what are you doing? This posting is ridiculous!!! Why would you ever put an offer on a house without checking all this out before?”

        Response: You are obviously way smarter than us of course. Why would we go and check out the neighborhood of the biggest investment of our lives? That sounds absurd to me. Actually, we went on Craigslist, saw a listing, emailed the poster, emailed an offer and that was that and here we are! Unbelievable. Of course we have done all of our due diligence and frankly those of you who think that we haven’t done all the research before making an offer are whackos. Also, I think if you DON’T ask these types of questions as we are right now, well then, you’re really just more uninformed than the rest of us on here. Victoria, you should think more before you post. Everyone else with the positive responses and helpful thoughts… thanks and I hope to meet you in the new neighborhood someday soon!

    • JRL

      If it’s water under the bridge then why bring it up? Other then to feel superior and to make the OP feel bad…

    • classic_six

      While I agree that the OP should do what they need to do before buying a home and determining if they can live in said neighborhood within their comfort zone/tolerance for what they consider to be safe, it sounds as if they are in that period of contingencies, etc. where they could “back out” of the deal before it goes to settlement; settlement is in early May, I think. It’s not ideal and they could lose money on the table for doing so b/c I doubt there would be a feeling-safe contingency clause in the contract. To be fair, RE agents do not say anything with respect to safety/crime issues for a neighborhood/block; they are not able to do so (legally). I think the OP’s would be moving from the Dupont area, so they wouldn’t necessarily be newcomers to the DC area but I think they might be second guessing their decision based upon their friends/neighbors in Dupont. You could have cool friends/neighbors in Dupont but they may have different tolerance levels for crime and safety (for a variety of reasons – obvious or not) and that really is an individual question.

    • To Anonymous and others that replied to this question similarly… yes, of course we have checked out the neighborhood, walked around at night, done everything possible to research the area, etc… so yes we do have an answer to our question, however, we were curious what others thought. We are in the contract phase and have some final questions before settlement and personally I think we are doing more than enough before we settle. Classic Six you are absolutely correct with your thoughts. And JRL – thank you for the response tho these posts as I agree with you. Thanks to everyone else for their positive responses, much appreciated. Thanks!

  • anon

    When I moved to Capitol Hill my father pronounced the neighborhood safe when he noticed the ally was full of empty vodka bottles instead of needles and crack vials. In other words; the amount, and nature of, the trash on streets says a lot.

    • Anonymous

      Other indicators besides the litter are graffiti and unkempt yards. If the neighborhood’s a mess it’s a sign that the residents have just given up.

  • I bought my house in Brightwood three years ago (two blocks east of the Piney Branch Safeway, close to the Maryland border) and have found it to be a great place to live. Everyone on my street has lived here for a million years and they couldn’t be friendlier. About a week ago my iPod fell out of my pocket and was literally lying in the street all night; the next morning, a neighbor knocked on my door and asked if it was mine. All of that said, I don’t make a habit of strolling through the rec center grounds in the middle of the night. But bad things can happen anywhere. Brightwood’s a great neighborhood. Don’t worry about it.

  • 11th

    i don’t think brightwood should set off any alarms. [necessary note that bad things can happen everywhere and it’s all about what you feel.]

    anonymous at 11:46 did it right in terms of knowing if he/she’d be good there. i kind of did a less-intense version of that before moving to NE columbia heights in 2009.

  • SF

    Brightwood is fine. As others have said, everyone has their own level of tolerance… but in all likelihood you’ll join the ranks on this site who have discovered that most of this city does not live in Dupont, and life is pretty good. I mean, a lot of people decide to live in Dupont (or Georgetown, or Logan) for good reasons, but a lot do it because they are unreasonably scared or uniformed about what it means to live outside of their comfort zone. They will continue paying exorbitant rents and fail to put down roots, while you will in all likelihood sit in a good investment gaining equity and getting to know your neighbors. I guess that sounds a little harsh but that’s been my experience with friends who were shocked when I decided to buy a house near H Street NE (Rosedale). Now they visit regularly and laugh about how they used to worry about it.

    Yeah, you should have answered this before buying, but now that it’s done… you’ll be fine in Brightwood. It’s a lovely neighborhood.

  • Really?

    Do these friends giving you all this grief ever leave their “safe” neighborhoods or are they basing this advice on the their perception of any area outside of Dupont Circle, Logan Circle etc. as being crime-riddled? I’m finding it hard to believe anybody who has ever been to there thinks Brightwood is an area where drug dealing is rampant.

  • Maire

    I always, always advise people to go park their car and walk around the neighborhood late at night on a weekend. Do some thing that would be within your routine – walk to the metro and back, stop inside the corner store to grab some milk, etc. Don’t just drive around and don’t just walk around during the day. When you live there, you will be walking around at all hours so you need to get that feel.

    And don’t just rely on the crime stats. Crimemap.dc.gov is great for reported felony crime but what it won’t tell you is whether or not groups of people are hanging out on the corners, smoking drugs on porches, harassing people trying to walk down the street, peeing in yards, etc. The crime stats don’t indicate anything about quality of life-based crime and that’s what a lot of people are concerned about.

    And finally, I would say be honest about your personal level of risk tolerance. It’s always disturbing to me that sometimes people seem to have such little awareness as to what goes on outside their own front door. You need to know the good and the bad and be honest about what you are willing to live with. Knowing that a neighborhood is borderline might feel okay to you in an abstract, romantic way, and you might assume that the neighborhood will improve in a couple of years (I would ask how you know that) but getting a gun pointed at you or being intimidated whenever you walk your dog is going to feel horrible if you aren’t prepared to handle that.

    I personally have a low level of risk tolerance and I live in a safe neighborhood and I don’t feel ashamed of that. I just think it’s awful when people aren’t honest with themselves about what they’re willing to deal with and commit to living in a marginal neighborhood and are then scared to leave their homes. That would be an awful feeling and I don’t wish that on anyone.

    tl,dr: spend time in your target neighborhood at all hours and on all days, and not just a few minutes here and there but really dig in and see what it’s like. At the end of the day there are a lot of unknowns anyway.

  • When we were putting in an offer on our Petworth house in 2004, we drove the area a couple of times at night. Even though it was winter, you get a sense of who is out walking at night. Our area was and is more residential than other area, and we’ve always been happy here (except the 4th of July – which I hate.)

    • Haha – we hate the 4th also. My dogs just freaked out our first year here and it went on ALL NIGHT. Since then we make a point of spending the holiday at my parent’s house in Va. Beach. And hope our house isn’t burned to the ground when we return….

      • We had the same experience this past year. AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL. Our beagle was shaking all night. I felt so bad for her. We will be spending this 4th at my parents house in Tappahannock, on the river :)

    • IrvingStreete

      I loooove the 4th in less gentrified neighborhoods. When I lived near U Street back in the day, I didn’t consider the party to have started until the official fireworks were over and we all lit up the neighborhood with the home brew stuff. When we moved to Mt. Pleasant, the asshat in the alley behind threatened to call the cops on us for setting off a few bottle rockets. Now, we make it a point to head over to the less condo-ized sections of Columbia Heights on the 4th to be part of a proper, down home party.

  • bfinpetworth

    To answer PoP’s broader question – After living in Petworth for 2 years, I can look back to see certain changes I’ve implemented to feel safer. I’ve had two incidents of property crime – one being an attempted break in while we were out of town – and that does not bother me much. What freaked me out for the first year was my somewhat irrational fear that a person would bust into our house while we were out and either steal our little dogs or just let them out on their own and them getting lost. So I’ve taken some steps – added steel security doors to all entrances, added motion detector lighting on the back of the house, added a glass break detector alarm so we will know if someone actually breaks in through a window, timer switches on a few interior lights, and a panic fob to trigger the alarm if we hear something while in bed at night. All of this seems extreme to me when I look at it as an outsider, but quite frankly, I feel much safer now. I don’t worry about the dogs and I feel secure in my home.

    I’m a new arrival to this city after living in the suburbs and Vermont my entire first 50 years of life. So life in DC has been a culture shock for me and may have colored my possibly overreaction to fear of intrusion. But now that I’ve taken all those steps, I feel safe. And I love the neighborhood – the people are incredibly friendly and helpful, they look out for each other, we sit on our front porch and chat it up with many of the people walking by , and we engage with everyone willing to engage. The young guys walking around that might be viewed as trouble know us and are respectful and friendly. The select few who are not still get a smile and “good morning” from me when I pass them. We make a practice of not being out walking around late at night, but otherwise we live here comfortably and happily.

    So for me, it is a mixed bag. Extreme steps to feel secure in my home, but overall a great sense of community. I lived in Columbia Heights for one year before buying our house in Petworth, and I like the peacefulness up here so much more than the craziness that is CH. No regrets whatsoever.

    • anonymous

      Good answer, thanks for some of the security specifics, I need to add a couple of these items to my house. Home break-ins can happen anywhere, but if you took all these precautions in the suburbs people would think you were crazy. In the city, I can put up security bars and people who aren’t fools will think that I’m smart for doing it, in the burbs, they’d think I was paranoid and complain about how it hurts their property values. Also having decent neighbors who hang out on their porch adds security that money can’t buy. I am in the market for a glass-break detector that can send a page or SMS without having to resort to ADT or similar service, that would be ideal.

      • Anonymous

        “Home break-ins can happen anywhere, but if you took all these precautions in the suburbs people would think you were crazy. In the city, I can put up security bars and people who aren’t fools will think that I’m smart for doing it, in the burbs, they’d think I was paranoid and complain about how it hurts their property values.”

        I agree completely. I feel much safer in my DC house than I did when I was renting in Annandale. The Annandale place didn’t have door and window bars, nor did it have an alarm, and I was always nervous about someone breaking in. I think all homes should have bars and an alarm!

    • anon in Park View

      “So I’ve taken some steps – added steel security doors to all entrances, added motion detector lighting on the back of the house, added a glass break detector alarm so we will know if someone actually breaks in through a window, timer switches on a few interior lights, and a panic fob to trigger the alarm if we hear something while in bed at night. All of this seems extreme to me when I look at it as an outsider, but quite frankly, I feel much safer now.”

      These measures don’t sound extreme or paranoid to me. They just seem like good ideas!

  • Jay

    The question I pose to my white friends when this questions comes up is “what do you fear?” — asked hoping for some self-reflection on their part, not some rhetorical snarkiness on my part.

    • Anonymous

      My great fear is going bald. Will that happen to me in Brightwood?
      I’ve seen other bald people in the neighborhood while driving around and they look very unhappy.

      • baldy

        LOL. yes, going bald is the first sign of living in brightwood.

    • Anon

      It seems to me from who you addressed your question to, “to my white friends” that you aren’t looking for “helpful” information at all but rather hoping to incite some racially based comments. What difference is there between what your black, white, asian, hispanic, etc fear? I can’t imagine you were being completely innocent and just curious when posing this question.

      • Anon

        Maybe he said that because his “white friends” are the one’s asking him which neighborhoods are safe vs unsafe?
        Why pretend that the racial mix of the neighborhood doesn’t have something to do with whether or not some people will feel safe or comfortable?
        I was fortunate enough to have grown up in a very diverse area, with different nationalities and ethnicities, so I feel safe almost anywhere (even in DC and even when most of my neighbors don’t look like me) but I know that’s not true for everyone.

  • frickorfrack

    I happen to live in Baghdad and find it challenging and beyond it all – enjoyable. Granted, I have 24/7 security and live behind a cordon of 12 foot high blast walls.

    Where’s my tee-shirt?

  • I’ve only had one home break-in, and that was in Dupont, at 18th & T NW. Shaw was fine (except for a “neighbors using their own backyard to poop – it was a church, of course, and got quite busy on Sundays back there), and Eckington seems to be no problem.

    I used the crime maps before I bought my place in Eckington, and walked around the neighborhood, talked to neighbors, all that stuff, before I bought.

    It is very helpful to walk around a potential new neighborhood and yell “OMAR COMIN’! OMAR COMIN’!” and see what the residents do.

    More good advice: never, ever have a bicycle, in any neighborhood. The world hates you when you have it, and you hate & bore the world when someone inevitably steals it.

  • Very good comments so far on this one. Other than seconding the “spend time in the neighborhood” advice (which is crucial), using the MPD crime map will give you an objective view of the crimes that occur there. After that, it’s all subjective. There is, of course, a difference between a neighborhood being generally viewed as being safe by people (think the Palisades or even Cleveland Park) because of ultra-low crime rates, and an individual’s feeling of safety. If most residents are afraid to walk around at night in a neighborhood, it would be irrational to call it “safe” despite the feelings of any particular resident. That said, what’s most important to the home buyer should be his or her individual level of fear (if any) about neighborhood conditions. If the lower home price is worth greater vigilance or precautions, the and personal fear does not ruin quality of life, then things should be fine. As so many have rightly said, it’s all about doing some legwork and making your own decisions, enough of which it doesn’t sound like this buyer did.

    • classic_six


      So true, especially this point: “There is, of course, a difference between a neighborhood being generally viewed as being safe by people (think the Palisades or even Cleveland Park) because of ultra-low crime rates, and an individual’s feeling of safety.”

  • Anonymous

    I think your answer, PoP, pretty much says it all.

  • Petworther

    Here’s a very very simple test.

    Park your car outside the house you’re looking to buy (this can be any time of day). Leave your iPhone on the passenger seat.

    Go talk to your perspective neighbors for 15 minutes.

    Return to your car.

    If your car windows have not been broken, immediately put down a contract for asking price.

    • Anon

      How is that a good test?
      Would you leave your iPhone unattended at a restaurant or airport or mall? Does that mean those places are unsafe.

  • I second PoP’s recc to get to know your neighbors and walk safe. If you know your neighbors, their kids, their friends, the cars that park on your street, etc, it makes it easier to identify when something isn’t right.

    Walking safe is common sense that I think you should practice in Dupont as much as in Brightwood, but it’s important to be extra alert in a place that isn’t as familiar to you. There’s plenty of drug dealing in Dupont too, you’re probably not looking for it they way you would in a new place.

    Welcome to the Petworth/Brightwood neighborhood!

  • Anonymous

    There was some great advice given on 3/22 by anon regarding moving to Trinidad. We moved to Petworth a little over a year ago and could not agree with anon more.

    -Make eye contact and say hi to everyone, especially the corner boys. (THIS IS A MUST)
    -Get to know your neighbors, and make a point to introduce yourselves (even us not-so-new newcomers hate the new crop of newcomers that don’t want to be a part of the neighborhood)
    -Get to know the dynamics of your particular block (they vary widely form each block) and folks’ situations before you go calling city agencies, your ANC, etc. for every little thing
    -Help your neighbors out, sweep the sidewalk, mow each others’ lawns, etc.

    (Back to my thoughts)
    Most of our neighbors have been here for generations. We try to be as friendly as possible with the neighbors and follow the norms of the area. We’ve noticed that some other newcomers have moved in close to us and don’t follow the norms of the neighborhood, such as saying hello, or putting their trash cans away. I think that’s the kind of behavior that makes old-timers hate newcomers, and possibly make the newcomers a target.

    In our situation, we also put in an alarm system, which we use religiously. Great for piece of mind.

    • shy person

      I make eye contact and say hi to everyone… but the thing I’m less sure about how to do is introducing myself to my neighbors.

      I did introduce myself to some of my next-door neighbors, and I recognize some of the other neighbors… but they haven’t introduced themselves to me, nor I to them.

      Occasionally I’ve been bold enough to say, “My name’s ______; what’s yours?”, but a lot of the time I’m just too chicken.

      What do you recommend — go down the street and knock on every door?

  • It’s occurred to me that I have done a few things since I moved to Eckington to increase my sense of security; most of which were touched on above.
    1) changed a deadbolt from single to double cylinder, because it’s within reach of a window
    2) use the alarm
    3) installed glass-break detectors for the alarm system (motion detector can’t be used because of kitties)
    4) clear glass exterior transoms replaced with stained glass
    5) put a decorative glass vase full of marbles on the sill of the window most likely to be entered in a non-door break-in. Perhaps purely psychological, but I like to think of the noise & chaos it will cause under the window on the hardwood floor if someone comes in that way. Hopefully, any intruder will slip and die, and it’s not a “trap” in any legal sense that would have me liable.

  • Angie

    First of all, WELCOME to Brightwood! We have lived here for 3 years now, and we absolutely love it. We’re right next to Rock creek park and love the efficiency of getting to downtown via Georgia, 14th, 16th or RCP depending on the time of day. Our part of Brightwood is very safe, almost all of our neighbors are retired, though I’ve noticed that there is a slow trickle of gentrification coming in, mostly young couples/families looking to own a detached single family home with a decent sized yard for around 500K.

    We moved from a condo in Logan circle and I honestly believe I am safer walking around Brightwood than I was in Logan. While crime does happen here, I find that your neighbors are your best defense. We watch out for each other, we have a street call list with everyone’s phone #, and that helps.

    I sincerely believe that Brightwood is one of the best kept secrets in DC for those looking for space, quiet, afforable city living all in the same location. You’re really going to like it here!

  • me

    I visited my neighborhood during all hours… late nights on weeknights, late nights on weekends, mornings, afternoons, etc.

    I also compared the crime statistics vs other neighborhoods I’ve lived in, such as Capitol Hill and Georgetown… and other neighborhoods I’ve frequented (Dupont) and felt safe in. I also looked at the kinds of crimes committed (property vs violent, etc). I noticed that there’s a surprising amount of crime in Dupont as compared to other neighborhoods like Mt Pleasant.

    I started feeling really safe in my neighborhood when I noticed the kinds of people walking around at all hours – grandmas, young kids, families, etc… If they were okay, I figured that I should be fine as well.

  • OneCity35

    I brought a home in brightwood in July and I love it here… Back in the day drug use was “Rampant” but that was back during the Crack epidimic when drugs were EVERYWHERE. O.P. you have nothing to worry about Brightwood is a great neighborhood.. but you might wanna stay away from Kennedy St. between 7th and 9th st.

    • Anon

      Sorry, but I’m finally calling BS on this. If you actually live in the neighborhood @ Kennedy between 7th and 9th, you’d know there’s no reason to “stay away.”

      I don’t need to go into a million details of why you’re wrong to suggest that, because I live there and know it for a fact. This section of Brightwood Park is just as safe a neighborhood as Shaw, Columbia Heights, etc., and the crime stats publicly available back that up and then some.

      I don’t claim to know first hand what it was like five or ten years ago, and I’m sure the reputation didn’t come from nowhere. But I’ve been there long enough now to know I feel perfectly safe and happy at that spot, and it’s the result of putting a lot of the good advice on this post to good use.

      Don’t intend to overreact to your comment or attack you personally, but I’m tired of hearing these types of remarks from people who obviously don’t have a clue what they’re talking about.

  • Anonymous

    How do we know we’re safe from you? You could be a serial ponzi schemer, a vengeful curb-box gardener, a bad parallel parker, or a 7 am leaf-blower. Maybe you’re a pedophile or a lawsuit filer. You could be a vegan with attitude, or a person who goes to community meetings just to hear yourself complain?

    People who ask this question always assume they’re gods gift to the neighborhood. What makes you so great?

    • C3PO

      Your back hurting from the weight of that chip on your shoulder?

    • Anonymous


      • Anonymous

        best comment yet

    • What a ridiculous response. I asked the question to be informed.

  • PetworthRes

    The Washington Post had an article a few years back – I’ll post a link if I can find it – that compare people’s perception of crime vs. statistics. They specifically compared Dupont Circle and Petworth and found the two neighborhoods had about the same level of violent crime and Dupont had far higher rates of property crime. But people would see run down buildings in the Petworth neighborhood and assume it had more crime.

    I researched the crime stats a lot and found that the places in DC with the highest crime rates are densely populated – the U Street metro and Columbia Heights had the highest crime rates I could find in DC. But I’d be happy to live in either of those neighborhoods. When you move north to Petworth and Brightwood the crimes get few and far between. I think the only thing you would really have to worry about in Petworth and Brightwood is whether there’s drug dealing on your block. When I first moved to Petworth my block had a very active drug house, but it sold a few years ago. Ever since, the area is so QUIET, it’s unbelievable. If you’re unlucky enough to have drug dealing in your area do everything you can to get the police, your council member, your ANC, the mayor’s office, etc. to pay attention – our block’s drug house was ordered sold by the court in a case brought by the city & Feds against the owners.

    • Great point about Dupont. I’m not sure why people hold it up as the example of a safe neighborhood when evidence says otherwise. My guess is that people are willing to overlook crime in neighborhoods where they like the restaurants/bars/shopping and somewhere along the line that morphs into the idea that the neighborhood is “safe.”

      • PN

        I think part of it is frankly that “Dupont” is used broadly to refer to a large area where some sections are very different than others. I lived in the southwest part of Dupont for several years and never once felt unsafe. I don’t know that I’d feel the same about northeast Dupont.

  • Anon

    Three comments about crime stats:

    1) DC crime stats do NOT include drug arrests or prostitution. Not sure why, but keep in mind it’s only showing violent and property crime.

    2) I found a useful exercise was to compare the prospective new house address with addresses in DC that I know well (friend’s houses/condos or areas that I frequently visit). As another posted mentioned sometimes places that you think are safe (e.g. Dupont) have much higher crime than you think.

    3) The other way to get a handle on crime in a neighborhood is to look at the MPD crime listservers (http://mpdc.dc.gov/mpdc/cwp/view,a,1242,q,565764.asp) which tend to have much more information that just the crime stats database.

  • Anonymous

    Based on the crime reports I’ve read over the past three years there are a few rules that will dramatically reduce the chances you’ll become a victim. 1) Don’t display any valuable gadgets on the metro. 2) Don’t walk down quiet streets or alleys alone after 9pm. 3) Install security gates on all ground floor windows and doors 4) get an alarm system and don’t open your door for strangers.

  • First, welcome to the neighborhood! My husband & I bought a house in Brightwood (near the ft. stevens rec center) two years ago this June. We love the area, feel safe, walk the dog early & late. It really feels like a quiet neighborhood, but we are close enough to dwntwn Silver Spring to go to the movies, grab something to eat, do a little shopping. It’s funny, when we were looking, we had never heard of Brightwood, now all the listings say “up and coming” Brightwood. I think with Walter Reed now closed and the possibilies of what will come there, and the Walmart at GA/Missouri hopefully spurring other businesses and growth, there is tons of potential and excitement. I don’t spend a lot of time specifically on Georgia Ave, and right now it’s a lot of closed/vacant stores, but the developments I mentioned may help get people to care a little more about our stretch of GA. Honestly, I am so glad that we bought our house. I love it and I love the neighborhood. So, welcome!

    • Angie

      I love reading that my neighbors are on this board! We’re on 14th & Somerset!

      • Anonymous

        Angie, we’re at 13th and Tewkesbury. Right around the corner from you!

        • whoops, forgot to sign in. That “anonymous” was me :)

  • goodfriday

    I bought in North Petworth a little over 3 years ago and didn’t know much about the area. A friend of mine who grew up near the area was astounded that I bought there (she bought in PG County). She had the best advice that helped me — drive around the three block radius – each street; each alley and see how many doors and windows have the bars on them. If you see less houses with them, that means they either were never needed or they are coming off. Debates occur about the bars, but I find myself looking at that and it’s helped me learn about other neighborhoods. Congrats and hope you love your new digs!

  • Anon X

    I know a neighborhood is safe if Joker tells me it is.

  • I knew my neighborhood was safe when I started finding empty bottles of Pinot Grigio and Malbec in the tree boxes.

    • textdoc


  • crimes

    One more thing to consider – the neighborhoods people think are “safe” often have more crimes like assault and robbery than the “unsafe” neighborhoods. I was mugged several years ago in Cleveland Park. Within an hour, the bastards were trying to use my debit card to get money out of an ATM in SE. As the police told me then, many criminals go to wealthier neighborhoods, commit their crimes, and then flee out of the area. It kind of makes sense – if you’re going to rob someone, why would you do it in your own neighborhood where the victim may recognize you a week later?

    • Tim

      Definitely makes sense. And it’s not just people recognizing the crooks in their own neighborhoods, it’s about the robbers going to wealthier neighborhoods to rob wealthier people walking down the street.

    • i used to tell my friends that lived in much nicer neighborhoods, oh it’s okay , i live where the muggers live, but not where they work.

    • Interesting theory. Unfortunately, statistics prove it to be wildly wrong. In the last 365 days, MPD records 11 violent crimes for the area near the Cleveland Park Metro. Columbia Heights, on the other hand, had 230 violent crimes during the same period. The area around the Petworth Metro experienced 97 violent crimes during the same period. Now I’m no mathematician, but I’m pretty sure 11 is less (a lot less) than 97 or 230. So you can file your theory under “Fables from PoPville.” That said, I’m sorry that you were attacked in Cleveland Park. As you can see, you were really unlucky and I hope that it doesn’t happen again.

      • classic_six

        To theheights,

        I have agreed with many of your points but I wanted to ask you about something. This isn’t really in direct response to your point here but it’s slightly related. You mention crime report stats in some discussions and I think they can be helpful for a general sense, but I would only use them as a guide to the general b/c, well, stats don’t necessarily tell the whole story. There are some crimes that are underreported or crimes that get underreported by some communities, which can skew stats somewhat.

        • That might be true. But two things come to mind: the person claiming that “the neighborhoods people think are “safe” often have more crimes like assault and robbery than the “unsafe” neighborhoods” has to prove that point, which he or she didn’t do, other than relating one experience he or she had in Cleveland Park. Therefore, objective evidence, in the form of crime statistics, is the only thing to fall back in to prove or disprove the claim. Since the person making the claim dodged the responsibility of backing it up, I disproved it. I’m sure that some crime does go unreported and the numbers get skewed. But this fallacy that Cleveland Park, Georgetown, Friendship Heights, et. al. are more dangerous than Shaw, Petworth, Columbia Heights, et. al. is absurd on its face.

          • classic_six

            Thanks for considering my question. Fair enough – and my question wasn’t trying to challenge the way you argue anything. The numbers you cited here are so overwhelming, that skewed or not, citing them speaks to your point. The one thing that these stats can never do, though, is argue emotionally, which someone who has been a victim will inevitably do to some degree. While emotional arguing may be compelling in some instances, it will often result in panic or hyper exaggerated perceptions.

  • petworthnewbie

    I purchased a condo almost a year ago on Madison Street (edge of Petworth and Brightwood) and I think all my friends thought I was nuts! My parents really enjoy the area (besides the parking enforcement!) and find it sleepy and safe for me since I do live alone . I walk around everywhere and take the 70, 79 and S2’s everywhere and have never had any issues. I did have a break-in which was partly my fault as I overestimated my invisibility and left my storm door locked and hard door cracked for the cat to come in an out. I spent a weekend reviewing PoP, crime reports and literally any article I could find on the area before I moved in. I also walked to and from the metro a few times to make sure it was fine for me. I guess my preceptions were all from people who have never lived there or remember it 15 years ago when I am told all of DC looked like my area of Georgia Avenue where most things are boarded up! So shame on me for being hesitant. I am optimistic that this was a good investment and I am excited to see what the development of WalMart brings because I think other business will see the traffic flow and hopefully open up some new restaurants, coffee shops or retail. Good luck with your house!!

  • Matt

    I’ve lived in the Brightwood/TakomaDC area for almost 5 years and really enjoy it. Certain blocks do seem to come up again and again in the neighborhood listservs from time to time regarding car break-ins, but those are few and far between when looking at the entire area of Brightwood. Overall, I think it’s a safe neighborhood. As per going out, restaurants, retail, bars, there’s a bit to be desired, but it’s slowly improving. It’ll be interesting how things change with WalMart coming and the re-development of Walter Reed.

  • Anonymous

    “What I think is essential to feel that way, is to really like where you live right away. Because if you think things are gonna “change in 5 years” – well you’ll be miserable for 5 years or maybe longer. You should like where you are moving and if things are expected to improve in the future, well, even better. ”

    Yes, yes, and yes to this. I’m amazed that people buy a house, intending to make it their home, and let economic speculation drive the decision, trumping factors like personal security. If you want to feel truly safe at home, and that’s what is truly important to you, then go where you can feel that way on day 1. Don’t speculate and end up someplace where you’ll be miserable for 4-5 years waiting for some cure-all development that might never come along and make it all feel better.

  • dcassidy29

    I recently moved to Brightwood from Columbia Heights. I love it! The neighborhood is nice and the people are friendly. The first night at my new place my roommate and I were painting the living room. Naturally I thought we should get some beers to make this task a little more enjoyable. I walked down to the closest corner store. I picked up an 18 pack from the cooler and brought it to the counter. I got rang up and handed the gentlemen my debit card. Apparently they were having connection issues because he couldn’t accept cards and the ATM was down as well. I said no problem, and started carrying the beers back to the cooler. The gentlemen asked, “do you live around here?” to which I replied “i just moved in today actually, a block away.” He then said, “don’t worry about it, just pay me later.” Just an example of how much better of a community it is.

  • Mt Vernon

    Actually – I would NOT lump Mt. Vernon Square/Triangle in the same category as Columbia Heights/Brightwood/Petworth etc. Maybe 5 years ago when you wrote the original post, but the area is MUCH safer than those areas and developing at a much quicker pace. I’d consider Mt. Vernon Square a “safe” area – in fact probably safer than Logan Circle.

  • Sigh

    I’m going to make it racial but…the people of color I know never seem to clutch their pearls about traveling to/spending time/buying property in neighborhoods outside of Logan/Dupont circles, Cleveland Park etc. Only white people.

    That’s why when I read questions like this what I really see is, “are there lots of non-white people around who want to rob/rape/kill me and prevent me from making a profit off this house I’m buying that I will later sell when I have a kid?!!!!!!!!”

    • Again, another ridiculous response to my question. There is nothing racial about it. And I also love that you assume I am white without even knowing. Furthermore, I have lived in Dupont for 12 years and have had my car broken into 3 times, have been jumped and punched in the face. With that said, I don’t think these questions are unwarranted especially since I have experienced plenty firsthand in my current neighborhood. Rather it is me acquiring more info.

  • Jade

    I’ve lived in Brightwood (Missouri and 14th) for 2 years. Love my condo and folks in our building. While I’ve never witnessed crime directly in the neighborhood, there can be some questionable characters walking down Missouri from time to time (bus route for 16th and Georgia flank us).

    I get DC police crime alerts via text and emails for crimes that occur within 1000 feet of our house. Needless to say I get about 2 or 3 per day, but I’m sure if you put in an address for other places (Dupont, U Street, Capitol Hill) it would be about the same. I’ve only been worried by one of these crime alerts in the Brightwood area and that was this past weekend.

    Apparently there was a robbery with a gun at 14th and Missouri Ave. by a group of young males with hoodies and masks. This occurred around 1 a.m. on Saturday night. While I don’t know further details on the crime (DC Police alerts are vague), this still doesnt deter me from living in this neighborhood.

    In fact, I would buy again in this neighborhood and there are so many wonderful things about it (i.e. Rock Creek Park two blocks away, Carter Barron, great little restaurants on Georgia, easy access via bus downtown, Second Wind Crossfit gym right on 14th and Colorado, Walmart coming in 2013, Safeway about 1/4 mile away) and its very friendly friendly. Some other places you would like are Healthy Bites, Three Little Pigs charcuterie that just opened.

    Brightwood is great value and I was thrilled to buy my fully updated condo for such a great price, which has already increased in value! I think crime can happen ANYWHERE in the city. From Bethesda to Dupont to Palisades. No one is safe from a criminal who wants to harm or steal from you when they put their minds to it.

  • Josh

    Bought a house in brightwood a year ago. Absolutely love it. Great neighbors, wonderful home, tons of parks to take the dog to and some crazy good take-out places (Andrene’s would be the top of the list). Welcome! :)


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