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Friday Question of the Day – How Safe Do You Feel in DC?

by Prince Of Petworth January 10, 2013 at 10:22 pm 63 Comments

We often talk about crime and safety in DC. Despite statistics some people say adamantly that the city and/or their neighborhood has become less safe. Others state just as adamantly that the city and/or their neighborhood has become more safe. Obviously we’re talking about one’s perception of safety. So for today, never mind statistics, I’m just curious how you feel. Do you feel more safe, less safe or the same compared to five years ago?

  • I’m not likely to get shot, but I’m surprised that I haven’t been mugged yet. Only one close call that I know of.

  • Agreed. I don’t think I’m likely to get to shot, but mugged, yes. Also surprised it hasn’t happened yet, after living here 8 of the last 12 years. Then again, If I’m coming home late, I take a taxi, and I’m usually not alone. That said, I think quality of life issues have increased. More trash on the street, loitering, public urination, etc. I think the term “broken windows” has been thrown around a lot on this blog, but it’s true. These minor issues add up, and create an atmosphere that implicitly “condones” more serious offenses.

    Perhaps the most frustrating part is that it seems to always be in the same place. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen a group of loitering men harassing women walking down 14th St. in Columbia Heights.

    • I hear you! I think there should be cops permantely at the corners of 14th street at either iriving or Columbia.

      • Anonymous

        +1, people are smoking weed at the metro station for god’s sake!

        • Anonymous

          Oh yeah? I know where I’m going on lunch break. :)

  • WilliamL

    When I was listening Bush or Cheney talking about terrorist, I thought that was a joke, the terrorist were right here in DC. You could not go down from petworth to Florida avenue on 14th st nw after 10:00pm without something bad happen to you. So yes now we are very safe compare with those days.

  • Charles

    Re: the photo above, I’ve driven by these vehicles several times recently and have wondered which of the many possible agencies or police forces operates them. Anyone know? They look like they’re better fortified than your average humvee in a warzone.

    • Those are FBI. Thats the Washington Field Office behind it there (between 3rd and 4th and F and G).

      • Anonymous

        Ah, thanks!

    • Matt

      This is a version of a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, designed and purchased as a result of road-side bombing in Iraq. The answer to your question of who has them is “Anyone who can afford 500k for one”

      • Matt

        For example, the police department of Wausau, Wisconsin, population, 39,000.

  • I first moved to DC exactly 20 years ago this month. Maybe it’s the longevity speaking, but I feel the city gets more safe every year.

    • ET

      That’s the only thing I can think of. I moved to the Hill in 1994 (to the metro area in 1992) from New Orleans . I feel more safe than I felt in 1994 but no more or less safe than 5 years ago.

      I grew up in New Orleans in the 1980’s making sure that I did what I could to minimize risk to myself and that was how everyone lived. That hasn’t changed for me just because there is less crime now and it won’t change if there is none (like that is ever going to happen).

  • Irving Streete

    I felt pretty damn safe until somebody crawled through an unsecured back window, shoved a pistol in my face as I lay in bed and demanded my cash and my late wife’s jewelry. I’ve been a little jumpy ever since.

    • Hhhmm

      So someone “knew” you had this jewerly or was it out in plain view? Same goes for the cash. Was it cash you had stashed or just from pocket/wallet?

      If nothing was visible, they weren’t getting squat except what was in my pockets/wallet.

      • Irving Streete

        Very bold of you. I expect you’d be a little less assertive than you pretend, however, if you were lying in your bed literally looking down the barrel of a loaded gun.

        • TG

          Exactly. There is a difference between “I would have taken RGIII out of the game” and “If I had a gun in my face after being awoken from a sleep I would have assuredly protected my most precious possessions.”

        • Absolute right. Big difference between being a blog tough guy (there’s a lot of those) and real life. A gun pointed in your face is no time to think about material objects.

        • Hhhmm

          Well I wasn’t being insensitive. Sorry you felt that way. You said specifically “late wife’s jewelry” so I asked a question, which you didn’t answer…Oh well No Sweat.

          • Anonymous

            They were probably scared sh*tless and began volunteering unnecessary information to the robber. Or it could have been one crazy nightmare. The poster isn’t entirely sure.

          • Irving Street

            he asked where the jewelry was in a manner that suggested that it might go poorly for me if I didn’t cough something up (since he only got $30 in cash). I did not, for what it’s worth, give up the diamond my mother-in-law had given my wife, or her wedding ring, which were still in a hospital pill bottle and at one point inches from his face. So there’s that.

          • Irving Streete

            Actually, anonymous, among the many things that went through my head during what was probably a very short time was: “Nah, it can’t be. This isn’t really isn’t happening five days after the funeral.” Alas it apparently was.

            Hhhmmm — you can always be insensitive with me. I’ll react defensively, you can come back on it, and we’ll generate a few hits for PoP. ;)

    • Anon_

      Dang Irving Streete, that is just brutal. Speechless…sorry that happened to you.

  • Anonymous

    I was not here 5 years ago, but I do not feel safe in this city. Have not felt safe since I got mugged about three years ago.

  • TG

    I have been in DC for 20 years. Started in Brookland in the early 90’s at a time when North Capitol street made me pee in my pants a little. Now I go to home depot right near the same Rhode Island Avenue Metro stop I would never have dreamed of going to right near and what we used to affectionately refer to as the Unsafeway. In the past five years I was in Columbia Heights and have seen DC USA open, new restaurants along 11th, 14th etc. Definitely feel safer.

  • anonymous

    i grew up around 17th st. (when 14th st was a dump), and yesterday i watched Walking Dead for the first time. the atlanta scene reminded me of DC under Barry, there were walkers everywhere. i feel perfectly safe, but i do wish i could roll around in an mrap…

  • anonymous

    Given that one of my old neighbors was murdered a couple years ago on NY Ave, I’ve felt a little less safe than when I first moved here in 2003. With TC Maslin’s awful assault near Eastern Market (very close to where I live), that has made me even more wary. That said, I still haven’t been mugged or assaulted (knock on wood), but I’ve had close calls on the metro coming back into the city from Greenbelt where my aunt lives. I avoid the metro at night as much as possible, steer clear of sketchy people, and am constantly alert and aware of people and my surroundings. It’s worked for me for the past 10 years, but I don’t think I’d like to do this for the rest of my life.

    • anonymous

      Addendum: Ten years ago, 8th St (Barracks Row) was a scary place. I remember driving with friends to the Blockbuster with everyone being nervous. Now, that place has cleaned up rather nicely with Sweet Lobby, the Spring Mill Bakery, the Turkish and Greek restaurants, etc… Totally different from ’03 and better.

      • Absolutely. I started working near Barracks Row in 2006 and in the past 7 years alone that strip has changed dramatically.

        Although I feel safer in DC in general (and especially in some areas like SW where I used to live) I feel a little less safe in my day-to-day life because Capitol Hill has seen so many violent robberies lately and a few have ended tragically.

  • David Sachdev

    I think that is a big part of the equation….much more of the city has “opened up” to the average person that I believe reads popville. In some ways I miss the days when 14th street and places like the Black Cat were only frequented by the the die-hard music fans – but all in all, the changes throughout the city have been great.

    I think a better question might be to compare a single neighborhood 5 years ago to now….and then the follow-up might be, at what cost did that safety come. Do you enjoy that neighborhood more or less now. How about costs, choice of businesses, diversity, etc.

  • aa

    We are safer than 10 years ago – certainly 20. DC used to always be in the top three for top murder cities – up there with Detroit, Baltimore etc. Now we don’t even crack the teens.

  • anon

    Been here for just north of 10 years, and I feel safer over in Ledroit now than I did on 17th/Q 10 years ago. I’ve never actually been mugged, but had more “close calls” walking around Dupont/Logan late at night than I do in my current ‘hood. And I walk/bike pretty much everywhere.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve lived in DC over ten years and I feel less safe now than I used to. I think part of that has to do with perception and getting older/more aware of crime (i.e. less young and stupid).

    I moved to Shaw in early 2006, long before it was fashionable to live there- never had any problems. By contrast, I moved to the H St area two years ago (Trinidad area) and felt far more unsafe than I ever did in Shaw before it “got nice.” Now I live in NoMA and I’m still pretty on edge (though I do love the neighborhood).

  • Anonymous

    I’ve lived in DC for 15 years, and the city is much safer now than before. But the threat is still there and in some hoods it’s getting worse beacuse we have more affluent folks mixing in (which is a good thing). I fully support the Mayor’s call for adding 100 new foot beat cops to patrol these areas and hope the Council rethinks it’s opposition.

  • 8 Years of DC

    While some neighborhoods are safer in general from what they used to be, there are more and more muggings at knife or gun point. And because of that I believe it’s less safe.

  • DC is safer than it was. 7-8 years ago a friend of mine and I were walking through Lincoln Park to get to a USA soccer game at RFK & we agreed that no way would we have done that a few years earlier. There are parts of the city I seldom went to 10 years ago that now are centers of frantic real estate speculation. Things have been changing for the better in DC for almost 20 years, and while I’m not convinced that this housing market is entirely sound, I think the city will continue to improve. That doesn’t mean that DC is safe, though. While it’s so much better than it was in the 90’s, in many parts of the city, you’ve really got to be careful. Obviously this discussion will be driven by anecdotal evidence, so it’s all subjective.

  • I’ve lived in the area for just under 8 years (hell, how did that happen?) and feel less safe than I did back in 2005. I think that has to do with ME more than it does the city. I first lived on the corner of 14th and Harvard, and as a 23 year-old fresh from the Midwest, actually had no fear of my neighborhood. Looking back, I was an idiot for walking home from the CH metro by myself at 2 a.m. (pre-DC USA, a bit scarier). I moved to Bethesda in 2006 out of necessity and have remained there ever since. Now I’m used to my (relatively) safe neighborhood and the ability to walk home at 2 a.m. by myself with no fear…and am terrified of DC after dark.

    • Anonymous

      “pre-DC USA, a bit scarier”

      I dunno, I think columbia heights is a bigger s***hole since DC USA opened. it’s total chaos now and it makes me really uncomfortable. I never go that way anymore when 8 years ago I would often head over that way to hit up some local restaurants.

      • D

        It may be more chaotic with DCUSA around, but the only time I felt unsafe in DC was walking around Columbia Heights late at night in 05-06, before the new development. There were so few eyes on the street at that time that it was easy to feel vulnerable. Interesting that the Bethesdaite now feels unsafe in DC – guess it comes down to what you’re used to.

      • what places did you used to go to then?

      • Anony

        DC USA doesn’t make the difference but the 1000 extra eyes of people and some that would actually help in case of a crime makes the difference. Post DC USA is a much safer neighborhood, you’re smoking crack much like they did right on 14 street pre-DCUSA (before you say it I’m sure there is still crack smoked on occasion :))

  • I’ve lived in Mt. Pleasant 17 years (yikes!). It was never that unsafe. Never been mugged; never had serious proprty crime. Yes, Columbia Heights was a lot sketchier then than it is now, and yes it COULD have happened to me…but it didn’t, and I’m not more than reasonably careful and aware of what’s going on around me. I think a lot of people are unduly paranoid and think that street crime is GOING to happen to them, especially in neighborhoods they’re less comfortable with because of the residents – not necessarily because of the crime rates. When I first moved to Mt. Pleasant, shortly after the riot, I used to point out to people who looked at me like I was crazy that street crime rates were much higher in Dupont Circle – which was true, but you didn’t hear people saying “oh, how could you live/go there?”

    • Stats

      You may be misinterpreting the street crime rates in Dupont. The number of people walking around/density are relevant considerations. This is a simplistic hypothetical example, but if there are 200 people walking around Mount Pleasant and 20 robberies and 1000 people walking around Dupont and 50 robberies, you are twice as likely to get robbed in Mt. P.

      • Fair but speculative. If you look at the five census tracts surrounding Dupont Circle and the five in Mt. Pleasant, the ratio of thefts plus robberies is about 5 to 1 in favor of Dupont. What’s the per capita rate? No data, but it isn’t obviously skewed toward Mt. Pleasant. There’s a fair amount of population density and foot traffic there too.

    • Anonymous

      I love mt p, but I live in dupont/logan now and feel mt p is less safe. I never hear gunshots in my new neighborhood and I don’t see as many people walking around obviously up to no good.

  • Anonymous

    I feel just as safe as five years ago, but I wish I didn’t have to walk around with my head on a swivel. I live in Mt. Pleasant and even when I walk around during the day I make sure I know who is behind me and I steer clear of alleys. This might be street sense, but I used to live in NYC and I felt much safer there, even when walking home at 2am.

  • The big difference between now and five years ago is that access to crime information is much easier. With text alerts I know much more about crime than I would care to. The result is I am more cautious – especially with electronic devices. My rule that it is always cheaper to take a taxi versus replace phone/wallet/teeth still applies.

  • Anonymous

    Said it before and I’ll say it again. The quickest way to make a safe hood is to make people work for what they get. If you are busting your chops to pay for your own home, your own food, your own pleasures then you ain’t got time or the inclination to mess with other people. Too many people in DC getting free handouts. Hand outs should only go to those who CANT help themselves, the elderly, mentally challenged, handicapped. I don’t see to many of those causing me problems in DC. Everybody else needs to work or walk. In this area of the country if you don’t have better it is simply because you do not want to work for better.

    • Anonymous


    • Anonymous

      Well said

    • Anonymous

      I’m not saying I disagree with your statement, but I don’t believe it is the correct response toward creating a safer neighborhood. How do you explain how that would solve the crimes of opportunity and general street crime committed by juveniles who are still in high school? The only handouts that are on the minds of these kids are those that they might want to rob from another person. Clearly there are other things that need to be addressed.

  • Anonymous

    Adl- I think the area one live in makes a differences. I’m not sure what you mean by (Gtown v. NE). I lived in NE (Lincoln Park area) all my life and never had an issue with having a gun pulled on me. Now, I will say that I’ve had times where some crackheads who used to live in the area coming back and stealing items from my garage, but my garage is old and needs to be redone which I plan to do this year. However, I noticed that a lot of the crime comments on this site are generally focused on areas such as Florida Ave, H Street, U St, etc., but what some of you don’t understand is that the areas I mentioned have always had issues with crime when I was growing up. So, I’m not surprised. Gentrification is not going to keep the bad people who once lived here from coming back to an area they know so well.

  • i feel equally safe 5 years ago as i do now. things have gotten more and more fixed up, fewer and fewer drug users and prostitutes in my alley, but they never bothered me. still, lots of lots people people still getting assaulted and mugged. seems more random nowadays.

  • Anonymous

    I think the average citizen here is a lot less likely to get murdered than they were 10-15 years ago, but I have a feeling that the muggings/robberies/burglaries are not going anywhere, as the divide between the haves and the have-nots in DC grows wider by the day. Unless the real estate market takes a turn, soon this city will be populated only by the rich and the very poor, and with no signs of improvement in law enforcement on the horizon, things could very well get worse.

  • I’ve been here since 2004 and I would say safer. I lived on Parker St, near the intersection of 2nd and K St NE when I first moved here. It was pretty rough still at the time. None of the new development that is there now was there. It wasn’t even called Noma then. It was called “Near Northeast”. There were lots of boarded up houses in the 200 block of K St NE. There were prostitutes out every night under the bridge. Car break ins were happening frequently. There were squatterers living in the alley and in boarded up houses.

    Lived off of Lincoln Rd and R St NE for a while. Several times came home to find the blocked taped off. There was child murdered around the corner on Quincy St NE. I came out once to find stray bullet holes in my street parked car from an altercation at the chinese carryout the night before.

    No issues since moving to Brookland. I guess I might feel safer because I live in a safer neighborhood.

    It’s funny because all this time I’ve never been mugged or had any issue. I like to skateboard and when I skate past the groups of teenagers on the corner, they all get excited and ask me to do tricks.

    When I ride my motorcycles, the same corner kids all yell at me to do wheelies and such.

    I don’t know, maybe the kids judge the potential victim going by. Maybe they prey upon people they think have money or can’t defend themselves. Maybe they’re cool with me because I skateboard and ride motorcycles and they like that, or maybe I’m just lucky.

    • AI

      I’d keep riding a motorcycle, bigger the better.

  • Anonymous

    I was mugged in a violent assault about three months ago in north Columbia Heights, so I’m inclined to say (despite time passed) that I feel less safe, but that’s the bias of experience speaking.

  • I am still a newcomer (just over a year), and I feel relatively safe. I moved from Adams Morgan to Capitol Hill last fall, though, and it’s definitely different. In some ways it does seem safer than AdMo (more family friendly and quieter overall), but there are still plenty of muggings to go around, and of course horrible events like the shooting near 12th and C NE last month. It seems like there are only few muggings in a couple of weeks’ time, and then all of a sudden there is a rash of them in a just a few nights, but maybe that’s just my perception.

    Overall, I think DC is a relatively safe city, about the same as most American cities. It is just so easy to find out about crimes that it may seem worse than it actually is. And its relatively small geographic size makes it all seem like it’s happening right at your doorstep.

    Related to this, what’s the latest on the phone “bricking” program that the police chief was promoting?

  • AMDCer

    I’ve lived in Adams Morgan for 20 years, and have never been mugged or personally experienced any kind of crime. Like other commenters, I used to routinely walk home by myself at 2-3 am and while I tried to be aware of my surroundings, given that I’d been drinking and am female, I was an easy target. Despite that, I never felt particularly “unsafe”, and I don’t really today either. That said, about 2-3 years ago the AM 18th St scene on Friday/Saturday nights was completely out of control, and I wouldn’t have felt safe in that scenario. Of course, now that I’m no longer a 20-something looking to get drunk, I don’t go out there on the weekends anyway….

  • i feel safer, but like some other posters, it’s because I’m living in a safer place. I haven’t had any problems in Dupont Circle and haven’t ever felt unsafe here. I’ve been lucky to never have been attacked in the 10 or so years I’ve lived in DC, though I did get pickpocketed on the Metro and have a few scares with sketchy guys trying to approach me on the street at night or follow me home. I was always on edge and watching my back when I was living in Columbia Heights and feel the same way when I visit now. Mount Pleasant was fine to live in, but the street harassment could be a bit much on some days. And I never had problems living in Adams Morgan, besides late night noise and difficulty finding a parking space.

  • I feel pretty safe. I don’t live in the best part of NW but I can walk around and know I most likely not going to get mugged. Only time I have been mugged was for a bag of chips. They downside of Columbia Heights, Petworth, Brightwood Park, and other nearly-established neighborhoods, is that safety is mostly a block to block issue.

  • My view

    DC is safer now than it was 10 years ago, despite Phil Mendlessohn’s efforts to weaken crime-prevention. The biggest threat now is that Holmes-Norton’s cronies’ stranglehold on judicial selection will result in more soft-on-crime judges being appointed over the next 4 years.


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