A look at what's going on in Trinidad, on H Street, and in the larger area north of Capitol Hill.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Consider the Crime...Elsewhere

The Post reports on shootings near the hearts of Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights. Over the years I got used to the "Where is that?" question when I told people where I live. These days I typically get one of the following:
-"oh cool, I go to such and such. That's a fun area."
-"Well, they say the area is up and coming." (mostly older people.)
-"Oh, I've been there. They have one or two places, but there isn't any place to eat." (I like to follow this one by listing off all the restaurants by geographical location. But then I'm a big nerd, so I would enjoy that.)
-"I've heard about the area, but haven't made it over yet."
-"I've been to a couple of places, but it's really hard to get to, and the area is super sketchy."

It's the last one that bothers me most. Ok, we have crime here. Most of it is theft from auto. Some of it is robberies, or assaults. Most of the time assault victims know their attackers. That, of course, doesn't make it ok, but it eases the fear of being a rando victim. It isn't always true, and many of us know people who've been victims of some type of crime where they didn't know the perp. But, to be frank, I feel safer living here than in Columbia Heights. Maybe it's just me, but I feel like I know too many people who have been robbed in Columbia Heights. And when I say robbed, I mean pistol whipped, punched, or hit in the head with a brick. None of these people were resisting. By contrast, I only know (personally) one guy who was ever violently attacked during a robbery in this area. That was when he resisted (rightly, because the bastards tried to force him into an alley, and you should resist at that point). Of the roommates I've had over the years, only one has ever been mugged. He was a young black guy. He was mugged four times in less than two years. One happened on I Street (around 10th & I). That was an attempt by two bored teens. The police and one kid's grandmother (they came off that kid's own porch) were later called. Another was a latino teen in NoMA. The other two were violent muggings in Columbia Heights. The pistol whipping gave him quite the headache for a few days, but luckly no scars.

Attacks like that are pretty rare on H Street, although I have heard reports of recent muggings between the 1300 block, and the 1100 block. Basically, keep your wits about you, and avoid walking alone at night (particularly if you have been drinking). You can't avoid everything, but you can boost your chances. Overall, I don't worry inordinately. But apparently some people (even those who will blithely walk the streets at night in Columbia Heights or Adams Morgan after a few drinks) still do worry about our area a bit too much. Kind of sad, but hopefully it will change. I grow tired of reading stuff on Yelp that says stuff like "Blah blah is great, but the area is scary." It's a city guys. It isn't NYC in the 1970s, but it is a city. Some people live in Fairfax, or Van Ness because they just like it better. Some people live there because it's like every place they ever lived. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I'd still rather live here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i moved to this area (south of the arboretum, east of trinidad) in late january. so far, so good. been to restaurants and the bank on h street, so far no issues.

i used to live in petworth, pretty much on the border of petworth & columbia heights. in the five years i lived at that address, we had a person stabbed down the street that died on my sidewalk (having your yard become a crime scene makes it hard to go out); a shooting murder at 10th & quincy, along my route to the metro; running gun battles up 16th street through the park at harvard st; multiple shootings around the park near 14th and girard; and most recently, since i've moved, a teenager was stabbed to death outside cc liquor, across the street from ruby tuesday's (if memory serves, that was during the day). i'm sure i am forgetting at least a few others.

these incidents are spread out over five years, but my point is, the shiny big box stores and the 'young professionals' over there are only half the story, if that much.

May 16, 2009, 12:04:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

in addition to being aware of your surroundings and not walking alone at late night: actually speaking to the people you pass by, making eye contact, and establishing friendships and relationships with strangers wherever you are is one of my best strategies. it has worked wherever i've lived in this country and overseas and makes for better quality of life and unity in any community. living in fear based on the "profile" of a neighborhood is not living at all. we can all learn from each other and join together to create safe communities. there will always be bad apples, but i refuse to let that influence my life.

May 16, 2009, 12:18:00 PM

Blogger diane said...

When we were looking for a bigger place than the condo we were living in at 11th just south of H..we were taken to the Columbia Heights area by our realtor. After looking at a place we were walking down the street to get a feel for the neighborhood. Two young boys with a pit bull on a leash started taunting us and threating to let the dog come after us. I looked at the realtor and said no way would I move into this neighborhood. Even with what occasionally happens around here I have never felt unsafe. We have lived either on 11th or now here on I since 2000and there have been lots of changes just in those 9 years. We would not consider moving out of this neighborhood at all...until we win the lotto and retire to some tropical island..lol
This is a great area...

May 16, 2009, 1:15:00 PM

Blogger inked said...

I agree. Whatever nearby neighborhood you are in, they all offer great things. We have some serious civic involvement going on. We are still working on boosting that in Trinidad (and refocusing to make it more focused on progress, and less on ego). But I think people are excited, and we have a good core of new people and longtime residents who are willing to pitch in on projects.

May 16, 2009, 1:46:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That was an attempt by two board teens" ... surfboards or skateboards?

May 16, 2009, 3:13:00 PM

Blogger inked said...

Oops. Damn homophones.

May 16, 2009, 5:50:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's with the H st. neighborhood always talking about themselves as "safer than Columbia Heights"?

I moved to DC two years ago. I lived the first year three blocks from the Columbia Heights Metro stop and now live just as close to Union Station. I have yet to feel uncomfortable in either area (though I am not the walk alone drunk at night type). Living in Columbia Heights I know there is a side to it that I didn't care to get mixed up in, but I feel the same way about living down here (especially since one of my first experiences in the neighborhood was visiting Murry's Food Store).

Everywhere in every city there are circles/places that are best to be avoided, but I'm really curious as to why so many people down here feel the need to identify this area as "at least it's not as bad as Columbia Heights." Is there a competition I'm not aware of?

May 16, 2009, 6:02:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are just jealous that we don't have a Target store.
Actually we get very tired of overhearing young intern type explain in their all knowing voice how safe NW is, and that they would never venture into sketchy areas like H street.

May 17, 2009, 8:51:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

during our search for a home last year we compared the crime stats in PSAs around H st and in col. heights (the eastern edge of col heights near georgia ave was one of the only other places we could afford a home). we found very similar rates of crime. there were obvious faults to our methodology, but nonetheless it helped us get over our NW DC bias/assumptions. we haven't had any serious problems in the year we've been here but sometimes its discomforting to think about people being murdered a few blocks away in rosedale or hearing gunshots very close to our house. this is a part of living in DC though, not so much the neighborhood.

- philly transplant

May 17, 2009, 9:26:00 AM

Blogger Scenic Artisan said...

What's with the H st. neighborhood always talking about themselves as "safer than Columbia Heights"?
it's staggering how often you hear that NW is the safer than NE or SE.
there is so definitely a deep myth amongst many that dont know dc well that Columbia Heights is safer than Brookland or H street or Capitol Hill simply because of its quadrant.

not to even mention the stigma that neighborhoods east of the river have....

May 17, 2009, 10:41:00 AM

Anonymous Chris Metzler said...

It's absolutely true that there's a lot more violent crime within a few blocks of 18th Street NW in Adams-Morgan than there is within a few blocks of H Street NE. OTOH, it's also true that about fifty times more people go to Adams-Morgan on a Friday or Saturday night than go to H Street NE, so you'd expect a lot more street crime there. It'd be nice to know what the per capita robbery rates are, where the averaging includes people that have come into the area from outside in the evenings. I have no idea what those numbers are.

Columbia Heights is probably a better comparison. I don't know how active that area around the Tivoli etc. is at night.

May 17, 2009, 4:07:00 PM

OpenID scottahb said...

My opinion is that it's a city. Anywhere can be as dangerous as anywhere else.

The more important question is this: why does the Columbia Heights and Adams Morgan violence get more publicity? Easy. Those areas are the gentrifying (read: places white people like) neighborhoods. So any sort of crime perpetrated where there is a higher white population is going to get more visibility.

Not saying that one place is safer than the other - just that crime isn't as big of a story outside of the NW.

May 18, 2009, 8:15:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Scottahb, but will expand. When there is a crime in NW it is reported on the news, but when something happens here in NE, they report the crime on the news AND ALWAYS bring up the checkpoints from last summer and all other bad stuff that ever happened in the past.

Its almost as if the media is perpetuating this idea that NE is full of thugs and ruffians and NW has isolated incidents of violence. I know a couple of people who live in NW and let me tell you literally almost every week I hear stories about how someone has gotten stabbed or shot, or there was a shootout, not to mentioned robberies - I could go on. Even with all this, these incidents are reported but the media does not seem to make the same leaps and inferences about the people who live there the same way they do when things happen in NE.

Maybe if we get a Target or Whole Foods things will get better.

May 18, 2009, 9:11:00 AM

Anonymous ibc said...

he more important question is this: why does the Columbia Heights and Adams Morgan violence get more publicity? Easy. Those areas are the gentrifying (read: places white people like) neighborhoods. So any sort of crime perpetrated where there is a higher white population is going to get more visibility. Thank God the H St/Hilleast areas have escaped the wave of gentrification that's rocked CH/AdMo...


Actually, my guess is that violence in NW gets more press because when someone gets shot in AdMo, there are likely to be hordes of suburbanites to witness. And the local media is focused almost entirely on a suburban market.

May 18, 2009, 10:31:00 AM

Blogger Tom A. said...

Inked- whats wrong with homophones? Are you homophobic? :-)

May 18, 2009, 10:48:00 AM

Anonymous Caro said...

When I say I live in Shaw, I experience the same thing -- people will look quizzically at me, or immediately ask, "Wow, do you feel safe there?" And yet, these same people will go out in Adams Morgan, U Street, or Columbia Heights late at night without much thought. I'm not saying that they shouldn't do this, or that AdMo, U Street, or CH are horrible places, nor do I think that Shaw couldn't be a lot safer... I just find it odd how people draw little borderlines in their mind to say "This area is safe and this area is sketchy" with total certainty, even when they're not that much different. I think people just want to feel in control of their safety, and so in order to go to the places they want to go, they decide that that area is safe enough to be worth the risk.

May 18, 2009, 11:20:00 AM

Blogger Jamie said...

Someone I met at Jimmy Valentine's last summer, who lived in Trinidad, told me she had been mugged three times in as many months since living there.

I've lived in Adams Morgan/Columbia Heights/Mt. Pleasant for 18 years (now Cohi for 2 years), walk everywhere, and have been mugged once in that time, 10 years ago in Adams Morgan.

This is all anecdotal, of course, but the problem with comparing crime in different areas, is that you need to account for population, and differences in people's habits.

Columbia Heights is the most densely populated part of the entire city and it's a highly diverse, transitional area. Of course there will be more crime. But is there more crime per capita than Trinidad? I doubt it.

Also, though I don't live in Trinidad, I suspect the habits of people living there are different. Do most people living in Trinidad walk around late at night by themselves? Except for H street, I see very little foot traffic. I would not feel safe walking a half-mile alone in the dark. In AM/Cohi/U Street area, there is tons of foot traffic. Many people walk around at night.

This doesn't mean it's 100% safe to do so - but it means that obviously it's safer, since many people do it on a regular basis without incident. I seriously doubt there are a lot of folks walking around at midnight in Trinidad except on H street.

May 18, 2009, 11:23:00 AM

Anonymous jamie said...

Another Jamie on this blog? :-)

May 18, 2009, 1:57:00 PM

Blogger Jamie said...

We are everywhere...

May 18, 2009, 2:04:00 PM

Anonymous Sure... said...

"Its almost as if the media is perpetuating this idea that NE is full of thugs and ruffians and NW has isolated incidents of violence."

Yeah, because the media totally created that whole Trinidad shooting spree...

Violence can, and as we see in our city, does happen anywhere. I feel safer walking around Columbia Heights because I know it better, it's my neighborhood. I go to H St a lot but it's not my home turf, so I'm a little less certain of things and feel slightly less comfortable. Does that mean I don't think it's "safe" or I think it's more "dangerous"? Maybe. There is something to be said for more foot traffic making a place feel safer.

When I walk around Columbia Heights I know there's a lot of street crime. I know it's bound to affect me directly at some point, but like I said, I live there. I know there are gang problems in my neighborhood that result in targated crime and sometimes random crime, but what can you do? Staying vigilant and not wandering around drunk off your ass is generally a good idea whether on H Street or Harvard St.

May 18, 2009, 8:50:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure ... said...,

How is a shooting spree in NE any different than the constant drive-bys in NW? They are both equally bad. I'm just saying that the media should stop trying to paint NE with this broad brush if they are not going to do the same when things happen in NW.

-Anon 11:00AM

May 19, 2009, 7:54:00 AM


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