Back in the District

I was out of town for the weekend, and am still processing all the news about the crash on the Red Line. Obviously it's far too early to comment about anything relating to that. I'm sure we'll see some sort of fingerpointing soon, and I do have to wonder who will be the first to say this is why Metro needs more funding.

On a completely different topic, there was an article in the Post today that shouldn't be overlooked. Looks like the reporters over there have just discovered that Columbia Heights is not safe.

I am sick and tired of hearing people talk about how Columbia Heights has changed so much in the last year, and it's now a destination place to live and shop and all of that. I lived in Columbia Heights (or whatever they are calling things near 14th Street north of Newton) in 2007, and it wasn't any better or worse than it is now. 5 years before that I remember trekking over to visit a friend's brother, and it was about the same. There's been retail development, of course, but that doesn't get at or resolve any of the major problems that still remain. Bottom line: it wasn't safe then and it's not safe now. I harp on this all of the time, but it's the truth.

[Columbia Heights resident Tazah] Richardson said it is a mistake to think the rejuvenated commercial corridor has done anything to curb shootings and robberies. Many victims erroneously assume that the area is less vulnerable to crime because of the expanded retail presence.

"I saw a woman who just bought something at Best Buy walk down this street, and a guy walked up and snatched it," Richardson said. "Sometimes people seem to forget where they are."

In much of Columbia Heights, violent crime rates have held fairly steady in recent years, said D.C. police Inspector Jacob Kishter, acting commander of the 3rd Police District.

"Some of these gang-related fights have been going on for as long as you and I have been alive," he said.

If I see another person I know talking about how they just got such an "awesome" basement apartment on Fairmont Street, or hear about a condo selling for $400,000 near Girard, I'm going to have to continue to blog about this crap. Columbia Heights hasn't been "fixed" by plopping a Target down. Just like it wasn't fixed when the Giant opened, and it wasn't fixed when the Metro station opened. You can masturbate to your Yelp application on your iPhone while eating at the "Gastropub" or at RedRocks all you want, but that doesn't mean you won't have to dodge bullets on your way home because you bought a house that's in the middle of a disputed gang zone.

In most other cities, you wouldn't be paying $1600/mo to rent a 1BR in a neighborhood like Columbia Heights. Hell, you should be earning some hazard pay for that kind of duty.

It ain't all fun and games, even though it's in "Northwest."


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. M@, nobody wants to hear what you have to say, so stop.

  3. Wow, anon comments are closed...how so?

  4. M@, that doesn't even make sense.

  5. It was "about the same" five years ago? You're out of your mind. I know people who lived there five years ago. They had three attempted break-ins to their house in two years. They did not walk around the neighborhood. There was nothing to walk to!

    Apart from the fact that crime in the 3rd district actually HAS fallen, surely you are not so simple that you can't figure out that there's more to crime than just the number of crimes in a physical area.

    If you were to evaluate "incidents of crime per mile walked per person in Columbia Heights" it would be a tiny fraction of what it was five years ago. Because nobody walked around back then! It was too dangerous.

    Your obsevation about crime is like saying Anacostia is safer than Adams Morgan. Sure, there are fewer crimes, but nobody fucking lives there! Nobody walks around! If you actually DID walk around at 3 AM in Anacostia, you'd probably have a 50% chance of being jacked.

    Five years ago, there was nothing to walk to in Columbia Heights and nobody walked anywhere. There was no Petworth metro. There was barely a Columbia Heights metro. And yet STILL, with thousands of people walking around daily, crime is lower today.

    Saying "crime is about the same" is the simplest, layman statistical blunder you can make, because what is important is population (way more than it was), foot traffic (way more than it was), and so on. There is FAR less crime as a factor of the amount of time people spend on the streets than there was five years ago.

    From DC's crime reports for the 3rd district.

    2008: 17 homicides, 380 assault/deadly weapon
    2007: 17 homicides, 436
    2005: 24, 975, 681
    2004: 13, 740, 593
    2003: 23, 711, 559
    2002: 29, 723, 721
    2001: 36, 824, 721

  6. @Jamie,

    I'm curious, though, what those stats are like broken down by PSA. Looking at crime numbers for all of 3D could be misleading.

  7. That would be interesting, sure. But I have no doubt that 5 years ago, Columbia Heights was the worst area in 3D. Hardly a week went by when there wasn't a shooting at 14th and Park. Most people wouldn't even drive through there.

    But never mind that. Even if the number of crimes has remained EXACTLY THE SAME, the other variables have changed dramatically.

    1) Huge population increase. You may have noticed a shit ton of apartment/condo buildings and home renovations. Half of Cohi was boarded up about 10 years ago.

    2) Huge foot traffic increase. You may have noticed that there are a ton of people on the streets, shopping, walking to Cohi from Adams Morgan/U Street/Mt. Pleasant.

    I swear I am not lying when I say there was nothing there 5 years ago. Nothing. Empty lots. Boarded up houses. There was precious little foot traffic, because there was nothing to go to except a few bodegas.

    Think of it this way.

    safety = (Foot Traffic) / (# of crimes)

    You don't need crime to go down for safety to increase. Do you think a city of 500,000 with 500 homicides a year is just as safe as a city of 100,000 with 500 homicides a year? Or a ghetto little shopping center where hardly anyone shops, with 10 carjackings a year, versus Montgomery Mall having 10 carjackings a year? Of course not.

    There is, literally, about 20 times as much foot traffic in Columbia Heights as there was 5 years ago, and the populations has probably at least doubled. Do the math. It's NOT THE SAME.

  8. By the way. Do you realize Wonderland has been open 4 years this may?

    Only four years, that is.

    A lot has changed in the last 5 years.

  9. @Jamie,

    I get what you are saying. There are more people in the area, yes. They aren't all getting shot or mugged. In fact, this article and the point I was trying to make (but maybe got off point a little bit) was that there's still a significant amount of gang activity and shootings (hardly a week goes by without a shooting on Fairmont or Girard, it seems). I would hypothesize that these crimes, in these areas, have been holding steady for the past 5, maybe even 10 years.

    Are you less likely to get mugged today? Probably. Do you still have to wonder if you're going to get caught in the cross fire of a gang shooting? Absolutely. I see people walk around all parts of Columbia Heights "like it ain't no thing", just strolling or jogging down Fairmont St, Chapin, Girard, etc and then they are shocked when someone says "oh there was a shooting there yesterday."

  10. "Do you still have to wonder if you're going to get caught in the cross fire of a gang shooting? Absolutely"

    How many innocent bystanders have been caught in the crossfire of a shooting in Columbia Heights in the last five years?

    Probably, a lot fewer than were killed on Metro yesterday.

    Yes. Crime remains a problem. I am not disputing that.

    But to say "I remember Columbia Heights five years ago and it was about the same" is, quite simply, patently ludicrous. It was not the same at all. There was no Wonderland. There were no white people. Nobody walked anywhere. There was nowhere to go. Five years ago, you would not have dared to walk to the Metro from Wonderland and 11 PM, and probably, you would have been smart not to do so, too. Today, at 11 PM, people are walking all over the place and generally not getting shot.

    To say that is "about the same" is ridiculous. I'm not saying gang violence is not a continuing problem. But it is CLEARLY not the same.

  11. AnonymousJune 23, 2009

    How dare you invoke yesterday's Metro catastrophe while trying to defend your trendy neighborhood.

  12. Jamie,

    Don't get your panties in a twist because the recession put the brakes on your dream of buying a dilapidated rowhouse in the ghetto and riding the gentrification wave to make a quick buck, or short of that, at least allow you to live in a neighborhood where, you know, you don't get stabbed on your morning walk to get a cup of coffee from the corner liquor store sellng singles to winos.

    "Cohi" still isn't a safe place to be. Four square blocks of insta-downtown do not a safe place make. Try walking down one of the sidestreets bordering the DC USA complex (lamest name by the way) after dusk. You'll get some friendy stares from the locals sitting of their stoops. As the recession worsens and the summer days get hotter, expect a number of these friendly locals to become even friendlier. I'm sure they could also use a brand new electronics gizmo from Best Buy.

    I stayed at my friend's place on 15th St near Meridian Hill Park. Virtually Adam's Morgan. I'm awakened in the middle of the night by a thump and the breaking of glass. Apparently, somebody with a gun was running from the cops and tried to ditch the heat by throwing it through my friend's window. There's safe for you.

    But keep sanding those floorboards! It's bound to turn around soon, with prices even more inflated than the last bubble... right?!