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“The Subtle Terrorism of D.C.”

by Prince Of Petworth November 23, 2015 at 2:25 pm 104 Comments

dc terror
Photo by PoPville flickr user Mike Maguire

“Dear Popville,

This morning I woke up to find an email from the D.C. police online forum titled “Preventing Terrorism is everybody’s business”. And admittedly it was darkly funny to me. For most of my life I lived in a country which has seen a lot of terrorist attacks and have had at least one narrow escape. I have also had the unfortunate experience of watching on TV, my favorite pub, a scene of a grenade and AK 47 attack. But, never felt terrorized and it certainly never changed anything for me. In fact I remember drinking beer in the pub soon after (they even sold mugs commemorating the attack!). Probably the only silver lining of terrorism is that it only shows up occasionally and, unless you are in some really unfortunate countries, terrorists do not rule the streets.

In contrast, having recently moved to D.C., life has changed drastically.

The dog no longer gets late night walks and has to be content relieving himself in our rather small backyard. Three days after moving into our Petworth house we heard gunshots on our street. Another round of fire in two more days. And then a constant stream of reports from police forums and PoPville about gunshots, which we simply didn’t hear, within blocks of our house. And also plenty of reports about robberies, burglaries, stabbings, drug houses etc.

To their credit the police seems to be responding. People in online forums thanked the police for a cop car parked on the street. And while mildly comforting, gun shots on a nightly basis would have citizens calling for a flag-march in most civilized cities! Agreed, the flag-march is not an American concept, but look it up. However it seems like all this is treated as a status quo situation. Even people’s standards for ‘safe’ neighborhoods in the nation’s capital are so mediocre it’s shocking. Gun shots & violent crime, to the administration here seems like ‘business as usual’. It seems the message from the authorities is, “Of course the citizenry will change their lifestyle.” People and police would call you an idiot if you walked in most parts of D.C at 11 P.M. The MPDC website’s page on ‘Safety for Runners, Walkers and Bicyclists’ reads like an essay on low urban self-esteem. It has gems like “It’s also a good idea to check with police about any criminal activity in the area you plan to run/walk/bike.” This sentence should not be part of any self-respecting police website and certainly not one which won’t allow citizens to carry pepper spray, as if it’s some upscale Menlo Park walled community! Also, can someone please share the D.C. pre-walk criminal activity check hotline number with me?

I’d like to tell Chief Lanier and Mayor Bowser, that in my eight years in America, I never heard gun shots or called 911; in less than two weeks in D.C. I had called 911 twice and heard too many gun shots (in most parts of the world, more than zero =too many). I wonder if either would walk their dog in a different Ward every night and still claim that it’s a ‘perception’ problem. An old neighbor kindly offered consolation that it was much worse in the 90s, which may be good in relative terms but in absolute terms means absolutely nothing. And it means that it can get back to being much worse and still be status quo.

So preventing terrorism may be ‘everybody’s business’ but some of us are already pretty terrorized. Speaking about terrorism, Chief Lanier said yesterday, “It’s really just ‘be vigilant’ — not alter [your] way of life.”(Insert laughter here?).

One must ask, how will an administration that cannot end the nightly terror by untrained criminals deal with an attack by motivated, trained, and suicidal killers on your average soft target?”

  • Ann Onymous

    The suburbs are calling you home.

    • Plotkkn

      Just because we choose to live in a city doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to feel safe in our own neighborhoods.

    • monkeyrotica

      No crime in Ward 9. AMIRITE.

    • me

      B, pz. This person makes some very good points. “go to the burbs” is a lazy, unsatisfying response. Try again.

      • anon


    • Ann Ony – we should put up with the crime/gunshots OR move to the suburbs?? Your view of the world seems very short sighted. This is one of the problem that got DC where it was in after the riots. Lots of people moved out and the criminals flourished. Perhaps rather than being so flippant, you should think about what is overall best for this city.

      • It’s a basic, obligatory troll comment that gets posted to almost any rant anyone has about any form of unpleasant city life. No need to actually analyze it further.

        • bruno

          The 2002 sniper only attacked people in the suburbs. In that instance, living downtown was the safest option. And let’s face it, weird stuff happens in the burbs too.

          • ClevelandDave

            That is just not true. It was still safer to be in the suburbs, but they were not used to random violence like that.

          • bruno

            It is true. All of the people the sniper attacked were in the burbs.

    • say what

      I find it so frustrating when people respond like that. So what? People who are worried about crime should abandon our cities and leave them to the criminals? America already tried that in the 60s, 70s and 80s and that was a disaster. I hate that people everywhere just casually accept that Cities=crime. DC has hundreds of millions infrastructure and investment, we should all leave because we don’t want to get shot? Its a cop out. Its time to deal with the crime. DC has to get tougher on juvenile crime as the number one priority. The biggest is issue is NOT police brutality. Is that an issue, yes, but its not even close to being the biggest crime in DC. People of all races feel terrorized in DC right now and our elected officials have no explanations and no solutions. And other folks just say “oh well, move the suburbs”–hell no.

      • java


    • city guy

      I’ve lived in cities for 25-30 years, including 6 in Columbia Heights. I was fortunate enough to never hear gun shots in those 6 years. Only time I heard gun shots in any city was in Sanaa Yemen, and that was a next door neighbor family dispute.

      I doubt I’m an anamoly. While I find the OP’s tone to be a little off-putting, I also think it is rather petty and lazy to dismiss his complaint that way.

      • bruno

        The 911 attack here was in Virginia at the Pentagon. It was not in Washington DC. It was in Virginia, in the bubs. Nothing happened downtown on 9/11.

        • DC CapHill

          Because the plane bound for “Downtown” was taken over and crashed in Pennsylvania. You realize that, right?

          “Just don’t go there” or “avoid that area at X-hour” doesn’t even cut it anymore, when people are getting shot in broad daylight in Adams Morgan, or robbed at knife-point while with their toddler on Capitol Hill on an otherwise unremarkable afternoon. It’s absurd what some fellow citizens in this area are willing to turn a blind eye to! Until they are the one in need of help, unfortunately, and then we’ll get the diatribe about how far we’ve fallen as a Society.

          I’m with OP, things SHOULD be expected to be so much better.

          • bruno

            My remarks refer to terrorism specifically and the facts. As it has played out, the suburbs have had it worse than has DC. Ergo, the burbs are not as safe as posters imply when it comes to terrorism. In my experience, the suburbs are worse. Yes, I am aware a plane was taken out, but the one that was not hit Virginia. So, Virginia is not so safe. Is it? What about the whacko in Alexandria who went around knocking on people’s doors and shooting them?

    • el

      I’ve lived in bigger east coast cities where I’ve felt *much* safer. Next.

    • anon

      I don’t understand comments like this. What are you, a super tough guy, proud of yourself for not caring about gunshots, violence, crime? Do you actually think that these things are synonymous with city living? They are not!

      • Anonymous

        Gun shots and violence ARE synonymous with low income, crime-ridden areas of cities. Which Petworth most certainly still is, in spite of people buying $800K flipped houses. Gunshots are not an anomaly in Petworth, or Bed-Stuy, or Brownsville, or NE DC, or Oakland, or many areas in Chicago. Those places have had serious crime for 50+ years.
        Maybe they are an anomaly to your particular block, but only because that crime was still happening in another area of Petworth and now it’s been pushed toward you (most ironically due to pro-active policing).

    • Anon5

      This has nothing to do with the suburbs. Most major cities in developed countries don’t have this sort of violence; it’s pretty much an American phenomenon.

      I’ve visited more than two dozen countries and many large cities and I never, ever felt unsafe, even walking around at night.

      Even Medellin, Colombia – a city once known as the most dangerous on Earth – now has a murder rate of 26.7 per 100,000, which is very close to the murder rate in the District so far this year.

      It’s pretty sad when a major city in the United States has crime rates on par with undeveloped countries.

      • ClevelandDave

        Medellin isn’t what it once was, and it simply isn’t true that bad sections of Seoul, London, Paris, Athens, etc don’t suffer from high rates of crime comparable to similar sections of American cities. Yes, less gun violence, but robberies, larceny, auto theft, rape… all are not terribly different.

        • Anon5

          Yes but guns are the key difference. When I lived in London my friends explained to me that the worst you’re likely to face on the streets of that city is a knife, in which case you can run away.

          Also, the bad sections of most European cities tend to be the public housing areas outside of the city center, while the ‘downtown’ areas are very safe.

    • Standards

      So I wrote this little rant and yes the ‘Go to the burbs’ , ‘Did you not know’ crowd was expected and honestly even appreciated… I like that people are proud of DC and frankly the hardened DC people offer some hope with their snarky criticism, may be I’ll be gutsy enough to turn up the TV volume next time I hear gunshots eh?.. till then Quick points
      1. Moved in here from another city not the burbs
      2. Bcoz of my work we have lived in 3 cities of 5 million plus population in the last 2 years, one was a scene of a recent bloody conflict.
      3. If you look at crime maps the crime in petworth looks deceptively low
      4. A father was attacked near Sherman circle a few days ago…it could have been any one of us.
      5. Look at the red hot crime map of the SE…. when i see the ‘so what’ comments from people who I assume live in Petworth or other relatively safe areas all I can see is people who are effectively saying that minorities must constantly live in fear of crime cause ultimately ‘they must be used to it’. If we could afford to live elsewhere we would.
      6. If anyone, touched or deeply upset by my story wants to donate moving, resale, and closing costs to kick my family out of the D.C. …I will happily eat that humble pie with a side of ketchup.

  • Unclear

    Did someone force this person to live in this neighborhood or DC in general? There are many people who feel the same way and choose to live in Maryland or Virginia to avoid dealing with life in the city. Not saying that the issues with crime don’t need to be addressed but we all make individual choices about where we want to live based on our preferences and priorities. I love living in the city and have only lived in cities all my life but I know that when I have kids I will probably end up in the suburbs due to the better schools. If I was this concerned with crime it certainly would have been something I researched before moving here and picking a neighborhood.

    • markus

      Disagree that only choice is “suburbs” or “deal with it.’ (aka certain slow death vs possibly quick death). That’s lazy, there’s no inherit reason leaving in a city should involve crime. There’s no reason a city can’t have the same amount of density and poverty and residents still try at school and love their neighbor. That was OP’s allusion to other overseas cities.

      • Unclear

        My response is not deal with it or move to the suburbs. It also isn’t lazy. City living is different than suburban living. There is typically a certain level of crime you don’t find in other communities. This isn’t true only of DC but many major urban cities in the US and abroad. My point is moreso to understand what you are signing up for when you choose to live in the city. I am from NYC and I see it all the time when people move there and then complain that they didn’t think that the people would be so unfriendly, it would be so unclean, or so expensive. Do your research and determine if it is for you based on your priorities.

    • Newton

      That’s not the point. It’s not about dealing with “city life.” I’ve lived in many cities and none have felt as unsafe as DC has. You can’t keep making excuses for people who commit crimes and chalking that up to city living – that’s illogical; the person who wrote this is on point. Crime here is not being addressed, plain and simple. And as far as cities go, this is no New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, etc….all have managed to get their crime under control…..DC just can’t get it together.

      • tom

        In fairness, Chicago and Philly aren’t much better than DC when it comes to crime. But, yeah, I agree with your larger point: There are lots of dense walkable US cities that have lower crime rates than DC.

        • I grew up in and am now in Philly. I used to go to punk clubs in West Philly when I was a teen, spend time around parts of the city with friends. And I NEVER felt unsafe. Whereas I stopped going to Kennedy Playground in DC with my child because it was no longer safe. I think DC has more “random” crime/crime of opportunity than many cities. Not sure why, or if that’s true, but I never felt uncomfortable in Philly or even my frequent visits to other large cities (NY, Boston, even Chicago….places I used to frequently go before child)

      • TX2DC

        Totally agree. I’ve lived in DC 10+ years, so I’ve seen the ebb and flow of crime rates. The crime seems way worse now than ever before in my time here. And it has definitely altered my life as I don’t walk places I previous did, etc…

        • java

          I agree with your comments. I feel the same. I’ve lived here for many years and always felt relatively safe walking around different wards at various times of day and night. I don’t feel safe walking alone at night anymore in anywhere. I agree with comment re juvenile crime. Big problem.

          • JoDa

            As sad as it is, I do agree. Nearly 15 years ago, not living in the “best” neighborhood in DC, I felt relatively safe coming and going, even coming home from work near midnight many days. Most violence was “beefs,” I didn’t have a beef with anyone, and my neighbors knew me. Sure, there was a risk of being mugged, but that would have been some kids knocking me down and grabbing my purse (good luck, kids…I was poor and you’re going to get exactly nothing out of my purse). A couple months back, there were *5* muggings at *gunpoint* within 3 blocks of my house in a single weekend. I’ve been more nervous out and about in my own neighborhood in the last couple of months than I was in the previous nearly 10-ish years (I first lived here nearly 15 years ago, and then was an off-and-on resident for years before making DC my home about 8 years ago) I’ve lived in various DC neighborhoods.

      • d

        Chicago has its crime under control? That might come as news to Chicagoans. That’s the only other US city I’ve lived in and I’m there frequently visiting family. I feel MUCH safer in DC than I do in most parts of Chicago.

  • Colhi

    I’m not trying to be snarky but what kind of research did you do before moving here? Also, thanks for giving us solutions on how to better DC based upon your 2 weeks here. We really appreciate the input.

  • Mt.P

    So Ann Onymous is OK with high violence crime and homicide? These are just part of city living? This person obviously is not trying to raise a family in a city. The post is right. If any of the stuff happening was connected to religious fundamentalism or terror, there would be headlines and constant news coverage. But it’s just local, so….

  • W Street Resident

    I agree with some of the points in this post. However, the fact is that crime in heavily populated urban areas will always exist. This is true in any city. But, the significant rise in crime (especially violent crimes) in DC cannot be ignored (or painted over with a broad statement about moving back to the suburbs). I lived here in the early 90’s during the crack epidemic. It was definitely worse. But, the recent, long-term, significant increase in violent crimes cannot be ignored. My concern is that this is not being addressed quickly or sufficiently enough by all (and by all I mean – MPD, Mayor’s Office, City Council…..and just as important, the people living within the communities). Meetings are scheduled and two or three people from the community show up. Community involvement equals change!

    • Anonamom

      I sort of feel the same way. We came to the DC area in the late 80s, and it is nothing like it was then. The only thing I can attribute it to is the almost flippant manner in which the OP speaks about terrorism in his former home; we’re just desensitized to it.

      • bruno

        I concur. I came here in 1989 and crime and blight was waaaay worse then. But the current uptick does have a feel of going back to that bad old days — but it’s not as bad as in the 1980s. What I think has happened is that gentrification, etc. has happened relatively quickly and a whole generation of people have moved in thinking that DC is glitzy and safe, when in fact there is still trouble under the surface… trouble that is bubbling up again now. Maybe not super articulate, but that’s my sense as a LTR.

        • Anonamom

          I’m not in anyway excusing the crime. However, the guys hanging out in Park View in the open air drug market didn’t just start. Brightwood Park/Petworth didn’t just suddenly turn up with blighted houses. The name that Columbia Heights has for it’s self was present long before DC USA came around (although, actually, I guess it has cleaned up since I was a kid). Can it be better? Absolutely. But it isn’t anything new. To my point, perhaps this desensitizes me to it. But does that make me any worse of a human being that the OP considering his desensitization to terrorism? No. We are products of our environments. I grew up hearing gun shots (in the burbs, I might add), when I was in high school a friends brother was beat to death for literally no reason but a local wanna be crew. I feel way safer living in DC than where I used to. Does violence and crime happen? Yes. IS it wrong, do I want it to change? Yes, absolutely. But do I recognize that things could be worse? Yup.

      • Crime in the 80-90’s was different. I moved to Columbia Heights (14th & Columbia) in 1987. My street was a major drug market, but there was not the level of random/vicious violence we see today. Drug dealers didn’t want cops around. They just wanted to do business. And no one had enough money to be worth robbing. There were certainly areas of the city where disputed territory led to violence, but again, that was between people who knew each other. And the sheer level of firepower was drastically less. (Think revolvers, or 6 bullet clips.)

        The frightening aspect of crime today is that it is so random and the level of violence so extreme. Shoot-outs with 3 times the ammunition = lots more chance of innocent bystanders being shot. No one can defend against mobs of young people randomly and brutally attacking people.

        • Anonamom

          I would be very interested to see the stats on random/unintended shooting/homicide victims from then versus now. I recall a lot when I was a kid, a lot of kids accidentally shot while playing, cars getting hit while driving south on Pennsylvania, etc. Also, I seem to recall this era as a time when semi-automatic weapons were pretty prevalent. Then again, I’m also thinking back to the areas we went to frequently (we lived in PG County and frequently went to Iverson Mall – which I know is just south of DC – and areas in Southeast and Southwest) vs Columbia Heights, so it’s very possible the crime was different there than in other parts of the city.

    • Anon5

      “However, the fact is that crime in heavily populated urban areas will always exist. This is true in any city.”

      No, it is not.

      New York City, London, Istanbul, Berlin, Munich, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Amsterdam, Vienna, Prague, Copenhagen are all large cities and none of them have the sort of crime we have here in the states.

      • textdoc

        The big difference is the ready availability of guns.
        (You didn’t mean to include New York in that list, right?)

        • anon5

          NYC is one of the safest large cities in the world. So, yes.

          NYC murder rate for 2014 was 4.0 per 100k inhabitants.

          Compare to Amsterdam, 4.4 per 100k; Moscow, 4.6 per 100k and Brussels, 3.0 per 100k.

          • textdoc

            Thanks — that’s not what I would have expected.
            How does NYC compare in violent crime other than murder?

          • ClevelandDave

            Murder isn’t the only category of crime- I’ll take DC over Moscow any day.

  • Do your reaearch

    I’m not the OP but to people saying “Didn’t you do research before moving here?!,” I have this to say:

    Homicide in DC this year has spiked about 60%. How could anyone’s research predict this? And new residents aren’t the only ones concerned. I have lived in DC for years and am concerned. There. May we now proceed with discussing the actual issue, which is that we have a gigantic and worsening crime and quality of life problem? It is so frustrating when valid issues are discounted because someone hasn’t lived here long enough to have an opinion about anything. Really, what an ignorant position to take, especially by those who themselves are relatively new to the city.

    • FridayGirl

      Thank You!

    • TX2DC

      Well said.

  • This is not a D.C. specific problem, per se, this is a problem with the legalization of guns in America.

    • oh2dc

      From my recollection, the legal status of guns has not changed to account for the uptick here. I am generally on the side of making it more difficult for people to purchase guns, but I don’t see that as informative to the current rise in violent crime.

      • Whether crime rises by 17% or drops by 10% is not really as significant as the fact that it’s generally perpetrated by people wielding firearms.

        • oh2dc

          I disagree. I think figuring out why people are increasingly more likely to turn to and use a gun is informative to solving the problem. Again, I agree that there is a gun problem, but that problem has persisted during times of lowering crime and high crime. There are other factors at play and the situation is not as simple as just pointing to guns.

        • Swdc

          Not one single shooting in dc has been committed with a “legally” owned gun.

          • oh2dc

            My point is that I am not sure “legal” or “illegal” guns are a new problem to account for a change in crime. Maybe there are significantly more illegal guns?

          • @SWDC, you do realize that if guns were actually illegal in definite terms then the average street criminal acquiring them through illegal channels would be infinitely harder, right?

    • tom

      Our crazy gun laws are certainly part of the equation. But, the broader issue is the intersection of lax gun laws with concentrated intergenerational poverty.

  • NEDC

    You’ll get some snarky comments on this as it reads as your message reads as someone who is not familiar with city life.

    I’d advise you that you don’t need to worry so much about safety in DC. Most violence in the city happens between people who know each other and have an issue to settle.

    The chance that you will get hurt any given night is very small. You could get really unlucky and have it happen to you- just as you could get unlucky by getting hit by a car, getting sick at a restaurant, etc. You can’t go through life worrying about worst case scenarios. It’s not likely that anything will happen to you, so just go out and enjoy being in a great city.

  • Caroline

    The part about the dog having to relieve itself in the “rather small backyard” is funny. I hired a dogsitter once who was impressed that I took my dogs on walks at all! She said most of her clients (who all lived in the Falls Church/Annandale area) simply let their dogs out in the backyard. I’ve always wondered if those people were just lazy, or if it’s because a lot of those suburban neighborhoods are not very walkable.

    • Anon Spock

      A combo of the 2. Some ppl feel the backyard is enough which is shortsighted as dogs need exercise and not just a new place to potty. Even if it’s not very walkable, a whirl around the cul de sac is better than nothing.

      • speaking from experience

        Plusss a suburban commute can really wear you out. By the time you get home you only have enough energy to open the back door and let Fido scamper out.

    • Formerly ParkViewRes

      We had a dog growing up and a HUGE backyard. We rarely took her on walks because we just let her outside and she roamed the yard. Sometimes she tried to herd the cows on the farm land behind our house, but that didn’t go too well. Occasionally she ran down the street, but everyone on the street knew that was “Amber, the X family dog” and would call us to come get her. There just wasn’t a reason to walk her.

      • +1
        When I lived in Charlotte I had like an acre of fenced in yard. You don’t just let them out to pee and then call them back in, at least I never did. You leave them out there until they tire themselves out running after every thing they can possibly imagine (and if you’re a good owner encourage it with some fetch or something else).

    • CapitalDame

      This is why my rescue dog was returned by the first adopter. They lived in a house in VA with a big yard, but he needs more human contact and stimulation than a run out back and do your business situation will allow for. The rescue realized when he was returned by them that he needed more opportunities for exercise and more mental stimulation and ended up placing him in an apartment in the city. Growing up in the suburbs we always just let our dogs out and took them on walks a few times a week, and I feel guilty about it now.

      • Formerly ParkViewRes

        It’s not like we never played with her! We threw the ball, ran wild with her, let her tackle us, and everything else in between. To me it seems like that would be a lot more fun than walking down the street on a leash.

        • Anon

          I think there’s a big difference between acres of yard in a semi-rural area and a postage-stamp-sized yard in Falls Church.

        • houseintherear

          This convo has taken a detour, lol, but I do want to add that walks for a dog mimic what they would do in the wild about once a day or so, which is to track and hunt. So for most dogs, it’s a tension relief and an anxiety reducer.

        • Anon x2

          Don’t worry too much. This is just the latest in a never ending escalation of requirements to be a “good dog owner”. Our family dog was perfectly happy running around in the back yard.

  • I suppose growing up in the warzone that was north Philadelphia has somewhat prepared me for the violence, or rumors of violence, that permeate through city streets. I’m not immune to the impact of crime or see that it, or the perception of it, is rising. While DC seems violent now, it was much worse in the 90s and early 2000s. I remember my first weeks in town, the story of 3 Starbucks employees murdered in Georgetown was all I heard.

    I may get yelled at by some of you for being prejudiced but I think the location of murders and the new residents who have moved to places like Petworth or Trinidad are the reasons why the perception of being unsafe is up. Again, I’m not saying that people are imagining an increase in crime, just that it’s now happened to people are new, who are living in places where there is a legacy of crime.

    The Post keeps track of these statistics on its website, listed below:


    To your larger point, generally, the District is safe but has the a long way to go to completely eliminate the crime concerns you’ve noted. It’s not about gentrification, displacement, or any of those dog-whistle words that get people in a huff. People of good conscience have to be more engaged with their neighbors, be clear about the legacy socioeconomic and governmental dysfunction in communities. This not just about “more police”, “personal access to guns” or whatever – it’s about being a partner in a long-term experiment to may your city a better place for all.

    • sarah


      unfortunately, some of the phenomenon you discuss (the “new residents”) is race and class-based. which is why I think people are so quick to throw around those terms.

  • madmonk28

    I think that a lot of the people who write posts saying that people should just get used to the gunfire, or should have done their research are just hipsters who will be in the burbs themselves in a few years. Their having their little urban adventure that they think is going to give them street cred through their long boring docker years. For those of us who are actually living in DC and not treating it like a set for a movie playing in our head, the gun violence is getting ridiculous. I was here in the 90s (and some of the 80s) and it’s not a place I want to go back to.

    • Toonces


  • MetroCenter

    I think it is helpful to have someone who has moved here recently point out what should be obvious to everyone — the current situation should not be tolerated as “the new normal.” The OP certainly does not seem to be new to urban life, having apparently lived in a city which has seen terrorist attacks. Personally, I think the comparison is very apt — there are places that Americans (including urban dwellers) think are horribly unsafe (say, Egypt or Lebanon), being seemingly oblivious to the fact that it’s pretty awful and very unsafe here in DC.

    Also — move to the suburbs?? There is NOWHERE in this country that is safe, so aside from being flip and clueless, it’s not even a safe bet to avoid gun violence.

  • sarah

    I agree with some of this post, and a lot of these comments. DC violence is out of control. But I’m worried that people only want violence to stop because it hurts them. We won’t solve things by a tough on crime, broken windows approach. What we need to do is address the structural problems. I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but I hate that people have been dying of violence in this city for years, but once that violence reaches gentrifying neighborhoods, it’s too much.

    Yes, violence and crime are part of living in the city. No, OP your two weeks in DC do not make you an authority on city living, DC living, or crime. Your post isn’t helpful and doesn’t make things better. I’m sorry you feel unsafe, however. No one deserves to feel that way.

    Maybe we can all agree that attacking root causes of violence and crime, no matter who it affects, could be at least a good start?

    • Formerly ParkViewRes

      I agree with you. It’s a very complex issue that can’t be fixed with one solution. The problem is this isn’t unique to DC, it’s a problem across the country. I’ve had this discussion many times with different people. How do you attack the root causes? What does that look like?

    • Dognonymous

      What you lay out isn’t actually an unpopular opinion, but I also think you have it in reverse. Violence in Shaw, Park View, etc. isn’t anything new, and it’s not about violence coming to gentrified areas–it’s about people coming to the areas where there’s a lot of violence. Move into the city and spend 600k, 700k, 800k to buy a rowhouse or fancy condo, and you’re really going to be invested in the neighborhood. This kind of noise and outrage from newly engaged citizens is one way that violent neighborhoods get cleaned up.

      • houseintherear

        I have to disagree somewhat, as I’ve lived in my current neighborhood for 7 years and the amount of muggings and home break-ins has increased significantly in the past two years or so. That is anecdotal at best, but shows that your statement is necessarily true.

        • houseintherear


      • Anonymous

        Maybe you did not mean to imply this, but it’s insulting to suggest that the people who predate the luxury rentals and condos are not as invested in the neighborhood as the richer newcomers.
        People have moved to somewhat sketchy, transitioning neighborhoods in DC thinking that new money and investment would bring increased police resources.
        But what they have found is that they are getting the same old policing that the residents who preceded them have been getting and complaining about for years.

        • facts

          this would make sense if the problem was poor police work and the solution was better police work. The reality is that “newcomers” weren’t here during the decades when the community was unable to stop its young men from rampant violent crime. Apparently the problem wasn’t “too much” to stop back then. People with a different perspective on what’s acceptable in terms of violent crime are here now and are going to do things differently – by cooperating with police as witnesses, for example, something that was not a popular thing to do (“snitches get stitches”) in the recent past.
          Exactly what “root causes” of violence do you propose we should address, and how? There are plenty of jobs – just ask the legions of ethiopian, eritrean, and central american immigrants who are employed here.

          • d

            I guess you’ve never talked to any elderly person who lives in DC, ever?

          • Anonamom

            I think this is a really unfair characterization of the long-timers, and a completely unrealistic understanding of what it was like here “back then.” People were fighting then against the crime and the deterioration in the city, but they were also fighting against a completely corrupt system. It’s not like everyone arrived in the last ten years and DC only just now gives a shit about crime.

        • Dognonymous

          No, I’m certainly not suggesting that newcomers are the only ones invested in their neighborhoods. The large influx of people to DC just increases the volume of concerned citizens, particularly ones who are likely to be highly engaged in improving and enjoying their New Home, which can lead to a critical mass.

        • HaileUnlikely

          To put a different spin on it, I think most of the long-time DC residents (I mean those having several generations of family in DC, not the less-new transplants) care as much or more about their communities as most of the newcomers do, however, many of the newcomers have experience living in places with lower crime rates and more effective governments than they experience in DC and thus do not accept that this is just how things are.

          • Anonamom

            Haile, I tend to agree with you here. It’s all about perception. When I lived in the UK, I lived in a city with four major universities. Muggings and home break-ins, and yes, random violence, were fairly common when the students were in town. The fact was, they were easy targets likely to have high-value things and cash. There was also a very real element of locals who simply did not like students, particularly southerners who came to their city to get the “northern” experience before buggering off back south for higher paid jobs. I can really see some similarities between that type of crime and the crime we are seeing now in DC, and perhaps this is another reason I don’t feel “terrorized” living in DC. If you are coming to DC from a relatively safe place, it really does seem bad.

    • anon

      attacking root causes of violence and crime is definitely good. we need to address the systemic issues, intergenerational poverty, and lack of education before the problem is truly solved. but that’s not going to help someone who wants to walk home from work tomorrow without the threat of getting mugged, so there also needs to be an immediate crackdown.

  • m

    I’m sorry you’ve had a rude welcome to Petworth. I have lived in the neighborhood for 10 years (and just outside of it for another 4!) and have not had the same experiences. But certainly some parts of the neighborhood experience more crime than others, and I had the good fortune of knowing the neighborhood intimately before buying my house–and therefore I knew exactly on which blocks I would and would not live.

    I very, very rarely hear gunshots (it used to be more frequent when we first moved here), I think I’ve heard some maybe twice this year and I sleep with the windows open most of the year (no AC) so I’m fairly well attuned.

    • madmonk28

      I’ve had kind of the reverse. We bought our house about 10 years ago and now we’re hearing more gunfire than we’ve heard in years. Things are definitely headed in the wrong direction and the city government doesn’t seem to be responding to the challenge. It’s not just the violence, but the sense of lawlessness with people shooting up stop signs for target practice and business as usual on a corner 24 hours after a gunfight. On top of that you have a clueless police chief to be aware of your surroundings after every outrage and a cadre of smug poseur transients online telling people to do their grow a pair.

      • madmonk28

        weird editing problem omitted some words, should have read: On top of that you have a clueless police chief telling citizens to be aware of your surroundings after every outrage and a cadre of smug poseur transients online telling people to do their research and to grow a pair.

      • d

        Yeah I think different parts of the neighborhood have historically and at present had very different levels of crime. I would have never considered buying up in the Longfellow/Kennedy area and I was not so keen on Delafield and surrounds either. Sometimes when I see people buying $800,000 houses on blocks that I’ve always intentionally avoided while walking or biking I do kind of scratch my head to be honest.

        We’re lucky in my little corner of SE Petworth, even the 300 block of Taylor is a lot quieter than it used to be. But we’re not lucky that we bought in that corner, it was highly intentional.

        • There have been multiple shots fired recently (in the last 12 months) near the 300 block of Taylor St, NW – commenter Jonah can give you the exact number.

          • d

            I’m aware, I just hear them a lot less frequently than I used to. And daylight shootings in the area are way down.

            But again, I wouldn’t have bought in the 300 block of Taylor 10 years ago, and I wouldn’t today. I’m picky.

          • madmonk28

            Yeah That block,of Taylor has always been sketchy.

  • Anonynon

    my friend just heard gun shots at Euclid and Mozart, police on the scene and its tapped off.

    The madness continues. On a Monday…in broad daylight.

  • Garper

    Embrace DC’s grittiness, my friend, warts and all. These are long term, intractable, multi-generational problems. MPD can’t solve them, and neither can DC government, despite billions of dollars spent during the past 15 years. In all fairness though, things have gotten a lot better in that time. I realize it’s small comfort, but you’re a citizen, and not in the game, yo!

    • madmonk28

      Another insufferable twit from the burbs who saw the Wire.

  • well…

    MPD is down almost 800 officers since January 1, 2014.

    Why? Officers forced to work AHOD’s with very little notice, yet the department refusing to abide by an arbitrators ruling on paying paying back pay for the mandatory overtime. The department then forced officers with 15 or 20 years on to lose the small amount of the weekend that they had off, so that more officers were working on the weekends… Crime responded and now we get shootings on Mondays and Tuesdays instead of Friday’s and Saturday’s.

    What they’ve done with the newer officers is insane, too. Forcing people to stand on a fix post detail for 8 hours, and writing them up if they leave for any reason at all? That reduces crime in the 50 visible feet surrounding that officer, but it does nothing to address a shooting a block away, or around the corner. No other department does that, and other police agencies pay much better.

    Now MPD is operating with far fewer officers than they need. They’re going to Montgomery County, PG County, and the effect has been a 56% increase year to date.

    • Margot

      Dear police: Quit pretending to care about about crime when you’re coming to Popville talking about money and work hours and hoping to manipulate the community into choosing sides on union issues. It gives the impression that you care little about our concerns, but care more about swaying our opinion to get funds thrown where YOU Want them.

      As far as those other police leaving for MoCo –maybe they’re also better off in a state where they can search people who smell like pot and arrest them and have that be their top investigative tool and their policework is mostly about car break-ins.

      • Isn’t it possible to both care about the community you serve and expect better working conditions?

        • Anonamom

          Agreed!! Just because someone works in a community-support position doesn’t mean that they can’t expect better working conditions. This is the case for police, fire, ems, nurses, etc. Comments like Margot’s show exactly why unions are needed; having a union allows the union to fight for the rights of the workers so that the worker can focus on their actual jobs. Working conditions are VERY MUCH a part of this discussion and the points well… brought up are incredibly valid in getting to the root issue of crime in the city.

      • madmonk28

        It is reasonable for police to want to be respected and valued by their employers. It is also understandable that low morale, being over worked and insufficient staffing would lead to an increase in crime. I don’t get why you’re upset because a police officer pointed out some of the reasons s/he sees for a spike in crime.

      • Well…

        It isn’t just about money, it’s about time.

        Police are humans who have kids, dogs, wives, husbands, mothers and fathers that they don’t get to see all that often because of the schedule. Taking away days off, only to see crime move to the part of the week where we’ve robbed peter to pay paul, in terms of manpower, is maddening. Combine that with the overtime issue, and the fact that the attrition rate is so high that now most officers are having a hard time getting leave approved… You’ll see why there’s folks with 15+ years of experience leaving the department, and not just for the county or another police job. There’s veteran folks who are just quitting policing all together for a nine to five in an office.

        If you were in that position, Margot, and you couldn’t get leave to go to your sons birthday party, while your friends in the county are making more money and are having no problem getting time off, while receiving better retirement and benefits, you’d make make the decision that’s best for your family, too.

        The attrition rate is forcing the hiring standards to lower even more, and the department to continue to recruit from outside of the city or region, hiring folks with no roots in the area just to fill bodies. Cops with no attachment to the city or region are simply going to care less about the crime rate than someone who has family attending Eastern High School.

        For some historical perspective, Margot, there was a time when this city was paying it’s officers in IOU’s. Quite literally, MPD officers were showing up for work and being given a promise of a paycheck in the future. How are you supposed to pay your mortgage? How are you going to even get to work if you can’t afford to put your infant in day care or buy him diapers? So when MPD management refuses to abide by an arbitrators decision about officers’ wages, you’ll see that it’s rooted in a history of being screwed over financially by the upper echelon of the command staff.


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