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?


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