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Three Trees Removed From 1400 Block of R St, NW for Public Safety

by Prince Of Petworth June 6, 2012 at 10:30 am 64 Comments

Yesterday readers emailed and tweeted @PoPville:

“DCgov cut down3 mature trees from N side of 1400R NW in name of “responding to resident concerns about security”.

I took photos yesterday afternoon and saw three trees were removed on the north side of the 1400 block of R St, NW near the alley. I emailed MPD who confirmed the trees were removed for public safety although I do not know if it was a result of “resident concerns.”

This year, on May 6th there was a shooting on the 1400 block of R St, NW. And on May 7th a reader shared a a horrible mugging incident that occurred by the alley on the 1400 block of Q St, NW.

Do you think the removal of these three trees will increase the safety on that block?

Here’s what it looked like before from Google street view. It is the first three trees on the right hand side of the photo near the alley:

Photo via google street view


  • Anonymous

    It ain’t the trees that needed removing to make that strip safe.

    If I had to throw a guess out there I would wonder if there is, or is about to be, a MPD Neighborhood Security Camera system set up for that block.

    Shame you have to cut down trees because people don’t know how to act. We really need to stop putting powder on the pig here and face the hard facts of the issue and set out to solve it. Very few have a question as to what the problem is, so why don’t we step up and handle it?

    • Kam

      Is that a sign for a camera on the light post in the first pic?

      • jch

        Yeah cctv cam monitored by the police. similar one is up by 7th and Florida i believe (over by the Howard theater) last time i checked, think it was a drug dealing zone.

        • Kam

          The CCTV cameras are all over, more than most people realize.

  • Kam

    That has to be dumbest solution ever. Seriously, they could not think of anything better they could do to combat the crime? Just doing stuff, just to say you did something.

  • Identified

    How %&#*$% stupid.

  • Anonymous

    They should’ve cut down the section 8 housing instead!

    (am I doing it right?)

    • Ha! Yes I believe you’re doing it right.

    • Anonymous


    • DC Dave


  • ew

    Were the resident concerns with the trees related to the crime? I’m not sure I make the connection. Can someone explain?

    • Anonymous

      Phase 1: Remove trees

      Phase 2:

      Phase 3: Profit!

    • CoHiGuy

      The thinking goes that, throughout parts of the city–Dupont Circle included–tall trees tend to block out the street lights at night creating dark sidewalks. People feel emboldened to commit crimes such as muggings because of the dark sidewalks … fewer people from say 14th Street can really see what’s going on down R Street. You remove the trees, you add more light to the block from the streetlights at night, meaning fewer people will be brave enough to mug you because it isn’t as dark. As you can see from the photo, there is a streetlight in between the treeboxes where the trees once stood so that’s probably why they did this.

      • So possibly install some auxiliary led lighting below the tree canopy to illuminate the sidewalk? I could even be self-contained/wireless -powered by solar panels up in the tree canopy.

      • Anonymous

        I live right there and the lighting is fine. There is a CCTV camera there, and the trees blocked the camera. That is why the trees were cut. Why put the camera in between two mature trees? I have no idea. Why cut down the trees instead of pruning? No clue either. It’s actually REALLY easy to see everything that is going on on the block. Unfortunately, it seems to be all or nothing with the cops. Either they sit in the cruiser on the corner all day, or are completely absent. I guess it wouldn’t make sense for them to stroll around the neighborhood to see what is going on.

        • Anonymous

          just park a squad car there 24/7 with cameras inside. trees live. problem solved. I’m sure a car costs less than one of those cameras.

  • Wow, and the condos in that new building on the corner of R & 14th start from 400K+ for a studio…

  • Before asking whether we think cutting down the trees was a good idea, it would be helpful to know if they were related to the police camera on that block which someone mentioned above (i.e. were the trees blocking the camera thus making it ineffective, did the police examine options to move the camera rather than get rid of the trees, etc)

    • Prince Of Petworth

      Well, when I asked MPD about it they made no mention of a camera.

  • Anonymous

    Removing trees is not going to make that block safer. What they DO need to remove are some of the thugs that live on the block.

    • Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to remove the trees than the thugs.

      • DC Dave

        Yeah, wait 6 months and then ask them if the lack of trees has made the block safer! I doubt it, but if there is any crime reduction it will be because the police give more attention to the black, not because of any crime camera or tree massacre.

        • Anon

          “Tree massacre”? oh brother.

        • BitterElitist

          Freudian Slip?

  • Anonymous

    There is unrest in the forest, there is trouble with the trees…

    • for they passed a noble law, and the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe, and saw.

  • matt

    It’s about time the city took action against hoodlum foliage. I was walking by there last week and one of the trees attacked me without provocation. I was yelling for help and the shrubs across the street did nothing except watch. When the police finally arrived they said the tree was just a sapling and they couldn’t do anything about the attack, but could charge him with a curfew violation.

    • Moose

      +1. There were reports of gang related activity between the Maples and Oaks, with random drive-by pollinations.

      • Anonymous

        …just another example of new residents coming in and removing the “bad” trees because they are uncomfortable with the way they look. Well guess what? Those trees have been living there for generations! What gives you the right to come into a neighborhood where trees have just been behaving as trees will and have them removed because a few people are “shot” or “brutally beaten?”

        If you don’t like trees you better stay away from 14th street. The dangerous trees in DC are part of our culture and must be preserved at any cost. You’re probably better off in Bethesda or Arlington where the trees are “safer,” you treeifying treeist.

      • matt

        Those Oaks are a hardened bunch of thugs. And they have no regard for people who might get caught in a cross pollination.

    • HAHAH

    • Oh oh and it was because their ‘Ents wouldn’t do anything about their behavior.

      LOTR joke ftw.

  • Anonymous

    … and they did this because people were hiding behind the trees and jumping out and scaring people?

    • Anonymous

      They were assaulting people and robbing them. I was one of them.

      • Anonymous

        hey anon-

        where you assaulted right by where the trees were removed? if it’s not too traumatic to answer . . .

      • Kam

        Not trying to be mean or insensitive but the point Anon 11:42 was trying to make I believe was that, it doesn’t make a difference. You can’t hide behind those small trees. Unfortunately, you were their target and there was no way around that, tree or no tree. So then the point becomes, why take down the trees, it doesn’t improve anything. Hell, moving the cars is a better tactic if folks are trying to hide…Sorry that happened to you btw.

        • Anonymous

          Anon 11:42 here – Thank you Kam! Someone gets my sarcasm about how ridiculous it is that the trees are the reason that block is not safe.

  • kes

    Apparently, the Latest Research declares that dense vegetation causes crimes but nice leafy trees deters crime: http://m.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2012/05/can-trees-actually-deter-crime/2107/

    Eh, if there’s no solid conclusions either way, I’d take the trees, but it’ll be interesting to see if violent crime goes up or down along that strip after the pruning.

    • Bloomingdude

      If trees are the issue, won’t the criminals just move to where there are trees?

    • Interesting article; thanks for the link!

      From a quick skim (and a look at the map in the article), it looks like trees decrease crime in “good” neighborhods and increase it in “bad” ones. So then the question is how they function in transitional neighborhoods.

      I guess the problem is that although trees and landscaping signify (in general) a community that cares, thug types take advantage of the darkness created by tree canopies to mug people. (Didn’t we discuss this issue when there was a thread about a woman who was mugged on the dark, tree-lined, residential stretch of U Street NW between 17th Street and Florida?)

      It’s too bad that the D.C. government couldn’t have left the trees alone and installed some additional lighting.

      • Louise

        “So then the question is how they function in transitional neighborhoods.” The area in question is not transitional. It’s a bad neighborhood despite the high price tags. Anywhere near public housing = a bad neighborhood. Sorry – it’s the truth!

    • Anonymous

      I’ve never heard of the Atlantic Cities before. Anyway, I read the article or the study and it really doesn’t say anything definitive as far as I’m concerned. Where I do think that green makes a negative difference is when shrubs are planted to be a visual barrier (whether tall or mid-height), that provides a perfect hiding place for any non-do-gooder. This is true. I recently was walking through a neighborhood (can’t recall which one) and noticed a freestanding house with thickly planted shrubs on all three sides of the walkway, making for a great hiding place or being up to no good and no one could see you from the street. I’m sure the homeowners did it for privacy from the street but that one would be a double-edged sword.

      • I hadn’t heard of the Atlantic Cities before either, but it’s affiliated with (rather highly regarded) Atlantic magazine.

        • Oops, omitted a “the” in the above.

        • Anonymous

          Thanks for the enlightenment. I did wonder about a possible connection to The Atlantic, which I used to read and still do somewhat on occasion. It was still kind of odd, the article admits to having or making a casual relationship, “…some genuine relationship between trees and crime” and “The results were not entirely straightforward.” I wholeheartedly agree.

  • I’m calling an Entmoot.

  • Bloomingdude

    It’s a real shame for a variety of reasons that they chopped down the trees. In fact, I think I’ve read studies that show that less crime tends to take place in neighborhoods with trees. I realize that other factors are at play, but I still don’t think a public good should be destroyed because the authorities are uninterested in or unable to throw the book at the lawless kids in this town. I also wonder how many residents actually requested that the police take this action.

  • Tom

    This is why we can’t have nice things . . .

    • petwurf


  • The trees on my street have always been very courteous to me, but I’m not sure how they act late at night. Sometimes they get a little noisy with their daggum bird friends in the morning, but I can just shut the window.

  • 100% bullshit.

    Trees and landscaping have actually been shown to reduce crime rates, because they give an appearance of a neighborhood that cares. These trees weren’t even particularly large.

    • Anonymous

      Are you serious about this? There’s a direct correlation between landscaping and neighborhood caring equals less crime. I think a pretty good argument could also be made for the reverse.

  • live from Columbia Heights

    next they’ll be tearing up the sidewalks because people were mugged on them.

  • Ellen

    Actually, removing green space from neighborhoods is known to increase crime.

  • MK

    I think it’s time to recruit five of my largest friends for a little stealth tree planting.

  • Sorry but I wouldn’t call those “mature” trees.

    • AnnE

      Some trees don’t get tall – they can be mature understory trees.

  • Anon Y. Mouse

    Were the trees muggers and shooters?
    Well removed then!

  • frickorfrack

    Birth control would be cheaper and the neighborhood would be better

  • actually lives here

    I live on the corner of R st and Johnson, which is the street that runs parallel to 14th between 14th and 15th. We made the request for the camera to be moved, not the trees.

    The concerns expressed to the police were not about the trees being in the way, but that the location of the camera was useless. My boyfriend and I talk to the police who sit on the corner of Johnson and R in their crusiers on a regular basis (as regularly as they are around…which is always inconsistent unless there has been a shooting or street fight within the last week.) We have made comments expressing the uselessness of the camera due to its location, not due to the trees around it. Unfortunately, there is no IQ or listening test to become a police man.

    We have lived there for 7 years and I remember when the camera was installed. For the first summer, there was a marked decrease in muggings and general mischeif on the block. By the next summer, troublemakers had learned how to avoid the camera’s veiw even though the city trimmed the nearby trees. The next summer, the trees no longer got trimmed.

    Since the camera’s installation, crime has switched from on R st, to on the alleyways connecting to R st, most especially Johnson St. We average 2 shootings a summer, several muggings and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a drug bust go down in my driveway behind the house. Its surreal to watch the police spread out baggies of crack on the hood of your car like an episode of COPS. Several times I have had to wait an hour or more to even get to my house because of the police lines.

    After the most recent shooting, which actually occurred on Johnson out of view of the camera (regardless of trees), my boyfriend requested that they considered moving the camera to the intersection so it could observe both R st and Johnson. He made a side comment that its useless where it was because the trees blocking the view. Unfortunately they only heard the second part.

    Now we are left with fewer trees and the camera still can’t see where the crime happens.

    • Anonymousy

      Are the cameras even turned on? Who is even monitoring the cameras? They should be put on the door steps of each of the section 8 buildings as well and drug test alll recipients of subsidized housing and the kids above 8 years old!!!
      I live within a block and I know for a fact one of those trees saved my life one day many years ago during a drive by.
      That tree took a bullet for me! Now she’s gone! Also, since we were re-districted with cops from above ColHgts & AdMo there have not been that many arrests but drug dealing is going on every hour of the day. Can’t wait to get my first legal handgun i can use in self-defense(ha! Ha!) when they finally issue a dealer to open a gun store on 14th Street! That’s what we need not another hipster wannabe foodie restaurant! More guns = less thugs! Not removing trees you iidiots!!!

  • Someone

    I wish the alleged criminals would chime in. This might be exactly what they wanted.

  • David

    This was my fault. I asked them to MOVE THE CAMERA. Then repeatedly asked them NOT TO CUT THE TREES. Dozens of e-mails ignored later, this happened. I am appalled!!!

  • Anonymous

    The same thing happened on my block. My neighbors had several trees removed from the block to make it safer (and I do know that is what happened from talking to them). The street is uglier and not one bit safer. I still get fired up thinking about it years later.


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