Housing Complex

Florida Panhandle: Does the Layout at Florida Avenue and North Capitol Street Cause Crime?

The lay of the land. (Brooke Hatfield)

Just after 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18, Bill Mitchell was walking home from the New York Avenue-Florida Avenue-Gallaudet University Metrorail station. He hopped over busy Florida Avenue to a little triangle of land where a woman had been approached by a man on a mountain bike. According to the woman, the man on the bike asked her for sex. When she declined, he went up to Mitchell at the bus stop and asked him for money. The woman told him to lay off, and as the two got into an argument, Mitchell jumped on the man’s back.

Bad decision.

“This is what I been waiting for,” the man said, as the police report tells it. He pulled out a gun and fired two shots at Mitchell, who died in a hospital two hours later.

What followed was the kind of outpouring of shock and outrage usually generated by the killing of community-minded young white people like Mitchell. There was a vigil, an emergency public safety meeting, a walk-through of the neighborhood with Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., Mayor Vince Gray, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier—one of several similar visits since she was appointed—and a handful of other agency directors. Calls for more police on the corner were issued.

But this time, it’s not just a matter of having more cops come through and bang heads. Neighbors think the physical shape of the immediate area and the buildings nearby might have helped cause the crime.

Here’s the lay of the land: Florida Avenue cuts across the busy six lanes of North Capitol Street in a chaotic basket of stoplights and signals. There’s a bus stop right next to a liquor store on the southwest corner, and another across the street on the traffic island, which allows sauced loiterers to claim they’re waiting for the bus when police come by to move them along. A few blocks away, So Others Might Eat feeds two meals a day to more than 400 homeless people at its headquarters on O Street NW. There’s an outpatient substance abuse treatment center a few blocks south on First Street NE, a transitional residential program for 100 men up on Lincoln Road, and a needle exchange van that occasionally sits on Florida Avenue.

Tom Usselman, who’s lived in the neighborhood for nine years and serves on the board of North Capitol Main Street, says he would never wait for a bus at the intersection, which he sees as a maelstrom of disorderly activity.

“We come in, we hit the meth clinic, we grab breakfast over at SOME, we sell our methadone to drug users, and then they don’t need to purchase as much cocaine or whatever it is they’re on—because they’ve got the methadone, it was just a big feeding circle,” he says, sitting at a folding table in NCMS’ storefront office. “The police have to be extra vigilant to know who is where and what they’re doing. There’s so much activity that it allows the drug dealers and the other guys that are doing bad things to slide under the radar, as long as they keep below that noise.”

Lonna Hooks, NCMS’ executive director, thinks things have gotten worse recently. “The situation is escalating,” she says, of street harassment and panhandling. “There is a large amount of people who are clearly not residents, and they have become extremely aggressive.”

Except crime isn’t escalating, at least not the kind that shows up in the city’s CapStat system. The last three years show no consistent trend of incidents taking place within a quarter-mile radius around the intersection (and the average crime rate is actually lower than the same radius around M Street NW and Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown). Plus, there are fewer social services in the neighborhood than there used to be—at least one meth clinic has relocated, and police say the needle exchange truck rarely comes by anymore.

To understand Usselman’s perspective, I spent quite a bit of time “waiting for a bus” at the intersection. It’s a fairly affable atmosphere; people stand around, a little aimlessly, chatting about getting off drugs, getting out of jail. The line for cigarettes and singles inside the liquor store is polite. The most uncomfortable thing was having to stand the whole time: The spiked treeboxes meant to keep homeless people from sitting on them make the little traffic island inhospitable to everyone. At no point did I feel threatened, but I did notice that people who looked like me hustled past quickly, as if the intersection were made out of quicksand.

After a while it occurred to me: This isn’t so much about crime, as it is about the perception of crime. What if more people had been on that traffic island when Mitchell was killed? Would the gunman have been so willing to shoot and run?


The mayor and the councilmember take a problem intersection promenade. (Lydia DePillis)

The problems at Florida Avenue and North Capitol Street go back long before the killing of Bill Mitchell, or even the demographic changes now sweeping the neighborhood. They began in 1947, when the city demolished Truxton Circle and plowed the streets right on through, creating an open sore in the street grid and disrupting the protected feeling that you get from having properties ringing an interior space.

Though some businesses have clung to the street, like crustaceans in a jetstream, not much can really bloom in such a harsh environment. Saeed Momenian has owned a sports store on the corner for 21 years, and says crime is now pretty low—but he’s lost his lower-income clientele, and is having difficulty attracting the newer, wealthier residents who are afraid to walk by the shop.

The school of crime prevention that focuses on environmental design as opposed to police suppression is by now fairly well established. Its principles are basic: You need good visibility from many angles, which requires excellent lighting and low shrubbery. You need to make sure the neighborhood seems cared for, by keeping it clean and well-painted. But most importantly, says the National Institute for Crime Prevention’s Art Hushen, you need to get people to take ownership of their spaces and watch over each other—homeless people or not.

“When you rehabilitate the neighborhood, the offender can no longer survive,” Hushen says. “The more social interaction you have amongst people, the less opportunity for crime you have, because people are responsible for each other.”

This is just as true for places like the pocket park on Florida Avenue and 1st Street NW, which has long been known as a drug-infested homeless hangout. It’s getting a $1.4 million facelift, but Bates Area Civic Association President Geovani Bonilla knows it’ll still require a willingness on the part of the community to spend time there. “If we as a community don’t do events and coordinate things, then we’ll never be able to take that park back,” he says.

Neighbors are right to focus on improving the area’s cleanliness and function. Narrowing North Capitol Street and turning the intersection back into a circle might do the most to make the space usable again, but mustering the political will is likely too big a lift. Still, there are more realistic options: As the Urban Land Institute recommended in a 2009 study, the traffic island should be merged back into the northwest corner—which is empty and fenced-off, waiting for a stalled condo development—to create a real public plaza, while southbound cars take a wider turn right onto Florida. Public restrooms would give people a place to relieve themselves other than the sidewalk, and perhaps there should be an activity center for homeless people to spend time productively instead of on the street. Vacant properties nearby must be put into productive use—like the decaying Slater, Cook, and Langston schools on P Street, where neighbors have resisted transitional housing for young people.

Other design changes, like moving bus stops to make it easier for cops to crack down on loiterers, just seem like a way of pushing out people who have nowhere else to go. That might make residents feel more comfortable using the space, but the more important step is for them to stop being afraid in the first place. At one point in my loitering, a guy—not evidently homeless—offered me a piece of his pizza from Subway, which I declined. He regarded me for a second. “Not all black people are bad, you know,” he said, seemingly concerned about what I might make of the cluster of vagrants, before rushing off to catch a bus.

Visit the Housing Complex blog every day at washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex. Got a real-estate tip? Send suggestions to ldepillis@washingtoncitypaper.com. Or call (202) 650-6928.

  • average guy

    the problem of trash and perception of crime here might be because of the homeless. the problem of violence is not. do not just sweep the homeless under the rug. i use this bus stop fairly regularly and i've talked to these guys hanging out. most just want to be left alone and don't want to harm others.

    thank you for covering this lydia.

  • Allison

    Thanks for the thoughtful reporting!

    I wait at the northbound stop sometimes (often when I'm switching from an H St bus). I don't like that area, I often feel uncomfortable and am sometimes harassed by others at the bus stop. It's also an INCREDIBLY unsafe pedestrian environment - between the wide gas station entrances where it's easy to get clipped by an entering car, the wide streets and the fast speeds, you pretty much take your life in your hands to cross the street.

    There definitely needs to be more life at the corner - that vacant lot could easily be made into a temporary park (or dog park!) and the traffic island should somehow be eliminated (there's a spot near N Cap and E NW where they just put bollards up). NCMS really should focus on getting some other uses in there - maybe a food cart, or the kind of public art H St has?

    It would be great to have a community roundtable on potential temporary uses that both make the area seem safer and accomodate those who would like to hang out.

  • r.u. kidding

    Umm, Truxton Circle was removed because it caused accidents. It was never a true circle, basically a statue in the middle of the street.

  • Josh C.

    Vagrants and troublemakers aside, this intersection is hellish in its own right. North Capitol is essentially a surface-level interstate with traffic lights - complete with its own off ramps and interchanges. Florida isn't much better with its extremely narrow sidewalks and narrow traffic lanes.

    I'm honestly more worried about being struck by some idiotic driver than harassed by the vagrants in the "park" around there... Though, both problems should be addressed.

  • average guy

    it was a full circle in geometry, but only a half circle traffic wise. it didn't affect florida avenue traffic since it was just north of florida.

  • eli

    You are misinformed--there is no homeless medical center on Lincoln Rd. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. You have been sloppy lately. Coalition for the Homeless operates a long term housing program for employed men. And yes, there is a big difference.

  • TCres

    fyi, You missed the other 10 services (24+ properties) operating south of Florida Ave.

    I'm glad you had such a positive experience there during your hour or so observation. Unfortunately, 5 of my neighbors have been mugged in the past year along the unit blocks of Q or P st. I know that almost none have reported since they see it as pointless and there is no prayer of the perps being arrested or property getting returned. I've been harassed more times that I can remember waiting in line at Subway, or Full Yum.

    To bring back the circle would be nice, but the original alignment makes that almost impossible as it wasn't centered over that intersection originally.

    Rather than moving the bus stop, the liquor stores should be shut down. Many are violating whatever voluntary agreements exist (selling single smokes, etc). I no longer visit Sunset after watching them sell to individuals that are falling-down drunk. It's not a coincidence that the all the 'bad' parts of the neighborhood are just outside the doors of a liquor store (Big Ben, Sunset, Walter Johnson) The impact these stores have in the homeless/downtrodden is just as bad, if not worse than corner drug dealers selling heroin/crack.

    Regarding public restrooms, shouldn't this be the responsibility of groups feeding and busing individuals into the neighborhood? Don't get me wrong, I don't mind the weekly shoveling of human shit out of my alley.

  • Lydia DePillis

    @Eli -

    I checked again, and you're right - I had understood from the D.C. Rape Crisis Center that Emery offered medical services, but it is more properly a transitional residential program. I've corrected the online version, and will see that a correction runs in next week's paper.



  • Thomas Payne

    I grew up in DC in the 40's and 50's. Me and my buddies bicycled all over the city without fear or problems. In the late 50's I made weekly early morning runs down to what was the DC market. Don't even know if it's still there. It's where we went to buy meat and produce for our small store. Coming from the NW part of town it required a long transit down New York Avenue. It was the worst part of the trip. New York Avenue was dangerous and disgusting 50 years ago and after reading this article it does not seem to have improved.

  • Bloomingdale Resident

    My car battery died once while I was at this intersection. Of all the intersections in DC, this is one of the worst to find yourself in that situation.

    I think people need to quit ignoring the obvious. It appears as an unsafe corner because it is. Someone was murdered there. That should end the conversation about if it is good or bad corner. Possibly someone could have been raped there too if the murder victim would not have involved himself. The fact that a murder happened period is enough to make this corner unsafe. Spending an hour there during the day time in the wake of a terrible crime doesn't mean you have an idea of what the corner is truly like. Spend 24 hours there, spend a week there. Maybe buy a house near there or set up an office there so that you have a more substantial impression of the corner.

    A drunk bum might not physically harm you, but the cat calling and inappropriate comments make this corner an unpleasant experience. Quite frankly many people just aren't willing to put themselves at risk of frequenting this intersection. And who likes to feel uncomfortable? I don't go to that area if it isn't necessary, as nothing draws me there. And knowing that someone was shot cold blood...

    Personally I don't feel the need to cater to those that make the area a problem. Why enable?

    The liquor stores need to be shut down. We have enough in the area, that if the drunks really need a drink they can sober up by walking a little further. The needle truck needs to find a new location too.

    The mayor needs to take ownership and the MPD needs to take ownership.

  • John

    Unh, willful naivete.

    1. Public Restrooms = Less public activity, and more loitering. Flip a coin.

    2. You can have development and "vibrant community activity", or you can have a homeless/methadone convention. People aren't, no matter much advocates want them to, going to just go shopping, use the park, etc...when that crowd is milling about. You can't have it both ways. Sorry. Either the present collective moves by whatever means, and then you will see the surrounding residents show up, or the surrounding residents will continue to avoid the location.

  • Rick Mangus

    Tell the coward on the DC Council to pass an anti-loitering law and give the police a power to get these animials off the street!

  • Rick Mangus

    Tell the cowards on the DC Council to pass an anti-loitering law and give the police a power to get these animials off the street!

  • Karen

    Thanks for your article. I thought you were needlessly provocative by alluding to the fact that whites only get involved when another white is attacked and in this case, murdered. I think as citizens, we are all concerned by this violence...so please, stop the race-baiting.

    When we first moved to the neighborhood 7years ago, we actually used to walk down North Capital to the Capital. It seemed so great to be able to do it, despite the loitering in the 'park' and along N. Capital.

    We learned years ago, that it is a pathetic walk. North Capital Street is supposed to be a great street, but from my perspective it is only a great street to buy drugs. I think as a gateway to the nations capital (!) we should do better. Harry Thomas? you are the chair of the economic council. What do you suggest.

  • John

    @Karen: He'll need to clear that with his latest "Team Thomas" donors.

  • Brian

    +1 to Rick Mangus' comment. PASS THE ANTI LOITERING LAW!!!

  • EliKay

    Folks move into this neighborhood -- and then complain about it. Some of these olks you complain about have been around longer than you. I've been a long time Bloomingdale resident (white for what that's worth), and I catch the bus at N. CAP and Florida all the time - but not by myself at 11 at night - nor would I do that anywhere else in the City (or the suburbs for that matter). If it's night and there's no one around, neither am I. Otherwise, I'm polite to the individuals there, recognize many of them and sometimes have a covversations. Yes, a very nice person sadly got killed there - but the same has happened many places in the City and burbs. The article was right on point. Thanks

  • http://www.federaltitle.com Nikki Smith

    I used to live up the street from that intersection and never got a good vibe. One of my neighbors was carjacked on a weekday morning at the gas station on the opposite corner. Beyond that, I've read many stories about violent crimes taking place near that intersection. Who could forget all those shootings that took place in the summer of 2008? (On the upside, I just read the leader of the Todd Place Crew was sentenced to 49 years in prison: http://www.justice.gov/usao/dc/Press_Releases/2011%20Archives/January/11-014.pdf)

  • eli

    Didn't mean to hate on you, Lydia, I do enjoy your work. But as a social worker and Eckington resident I am continually exasperated by the inaccuracies spouted by my NIMBY-loving neighbors as to how social services are taking over the neighborhood. You always need to fact check them because they will tell you lies. As if Hanover Place or Bates were ruined by SOME? Whatever. Try Cornell Jones. That stretch has been a drug market since the 1960s.

    Also, no one ever mentions the public housing corridor on N Cap, the APRA intake service center, two mental health core service agencies, substance abuse transitional housing at Sibley Plaza, Perry School, etc. Or the fact that DC group home, CRF, and shelter residents are basically required to be out in the street all day?

    As far as that intersection goes: Mostly that park is full of harmless drunks, same as most of the parks in DC. A lot of people in the neighborhood are just idiots and they are afraid of anybody they think might be poor, as if it might be catching.

  • sg

    All you men need to understand that we women feel threatened and unsafe at this corner -- at all times. I live one block away from there and actually stopped using the NY Ave Metro station after only one week when I first moved to the neighborhood because I didn't want to walk past that corner anymore after some very unpleasant interactions with the bums who hang out there.

    EliKay, you probably don't need to take the bus, but a lot of people in the neighborhood do, and I find it ridiculous and offensive that you're blaming the victim for standing at a bus stop at night.

    I like the neighborhood and all the people in it, but that corner is a blight and needs to be cleaned up.

  • CB

    +10000 to EliKay. sg, I am not sure that Elikay was trying to blame the victim so much as move the conversation so as to accomodate a different point of view.

    I live at Lincoln and Qunicy NE. I am white, female, and "community minded" for the record and LOVE my neighborhood--- and yes, even that intersection. I have lived here for 6 years and have been astounded by the quickness with which the neighborhood has changed with little regard for what was (the good as well as the bad).

    The 90/92/P6/80 buses account for 95% of my travel, and so I often wait for the bus at that corner as many as 4 or 5 times a day at all times of night. I have never felt uncomfortable and have never been harassed. This may be luck, or it may be that common courtesies go a very long way-- like smiling at/speaking to the people I wait for the bus with. I often speak to my neighbors about their families, their JOBS, and their HOMES, which goes against the above points that all those who are not white and use this bus stop are homeless, criminals, and vagrants.

    I am not adding to this conversation to force my experience/opinion down another's throat-- I just hope that the opinions of a small, "plugged-in" group of neighbors do not get the luxury of being regarded as The Truth.

  • housediggity

    those that hustled past, they may have looked like you, but could they write like you?

  • Tres

    Willful naivete is right. Lydia, when you want to have a serious discussion about the issues in this neighborhood, we can talk. Until then, please don't cite crime statistics with a brazen disregard for the obvious: that Truxton has maybe a hundredth the foot traffic (if that) of Georgetown any given day, what with its multitudes of shops, bars, restaurants and numerous offices. So unless G'town's crime rate is more than 100x worse, your insinuation that crime isn't that bad here (or only as bad as it is in the nicest, most expensive part of DC) is laughable. The most generous adjunct wouldn't allow his or her undergrads to get away with that in a 2 page paper. I know this isn't the Washington Post, but come on. Have standards that go beyond "does it support my agenda?"

    You mention that it's only the "perception of crime" in the same breath you cite the real death of a person who tried to help someone in need. Yes, what if more people were standing on that corner at 11:30pm at night when Bill got shot? I'm really not sure what you're trying to say here. Should we all stand outside at midnight every day? Don't you think we have lives to lead? I'm 110% for block walks, but please. I mean, it could work if we all quit our jobs and devoted ourselves to Guardian Angel like activities late at night -- or maybe we just hire more cops.

    I don't think people in this neighborhood are afraid of the homeless and/or "people they might think are poor". Everyone here is here by choice. These are people who decided not to live in Silver Spring or other less gritty neighborhoods with comparable cost of living and among other things, better schools and neighborhood amenities. If you're going to try and trash the neighbors (I'm looking at you too, Eli), just keep in mind this is about as good a group as you're going to get in terms of progressive folks who support or at least tolerate social services. I repeat: this is about as good as it gets. If you're looking for more, then build up that straw man of the perfect citizen who has no instincts save altruistic ones -- but realize at a certain point you have to be realistic. He doesn't exist in DC or in life. That citizenry is fiction.

    The "harmless" drunks are anything but -- they're killing themselves every day when they repeat visit "So Others Might Drink" AKA Big Ben or Sunset. Alcoholism doesn't help anyone turn their life around. SOME should really be working with the neighbors to shut down SOMD. We'd all benefit, especially the homeless guys.

  • Rick Mangus

    'CB' you must live in happy land, with gum drops, sugar plum fairies and rainbows, get a grip or you will be the next one in the crime report!

  • Ralph

    Standing on the corner for a short period of time gives you no concept of what's happening at that corner or the neighborhood. I recommend you live here - buy a house or rent. Perhaps then you will understand the full gravity and depth of the neighborhood's problems. The people that live here recognize the value of the area's and its promise, but the fact remains that there is crime, it is increasing (talk to the MPD5), and the factors contributing to it (loitering, liquor stores, drugs, unemployment, vagrancy, etc.) need to be addressed. We are in desperate need for a wave of new urbanism in Truxton Circle, and that will require the commitment of not only the residents, but also the city council, MPD, and the business community.

    Generally speaking, I am regularly disappointed by the way your uninformed and tainted opinion berates the people who live, pay taxes and vote in this neighborhood.

  • Steve

    Been living near this intersection for 10 years now so my opinion counts more than most of you outsiders on here. Bring back Truxton Circle by tunneling North Capitol Street traffic underneath Florida. If man can build a Chunnel fron England to France, I think it's possible to do this littlw tunnel. There was never a statue at that intersection. It was a fountain that is in pieces somewhere in Ft. Lincoln. Look at old pics of the circle see how nice it was.

    In terms of the scamps hanging around the intersection. That's and easy one. Move all the bus stops 1 street back from the intersection in all directions, then introduce the anti-loitering law. This takes coordination and political will. Since this is the People's Republic of DC don't expect much. All you commies who want to continue funding poverty need to move to Cuba and see what that gets you. I'm all for gentrification and moving this lot to the next "up and coming" nieghborhood.

    And since I own part of this neighborhood, I'm staying put to make sure my property value goes up and that my family can feel free to walk anytime, anywhere in my hood. We will beat the poverty pimps. I assure you of that.

  • janice

    Enough. Already. I live on Bates literally behind that corner. Im probably going to have to look at moving at this point. DOnt know if I can sell or rent my place, but after my mugging right after moving in and now this....

    GET. RID. OF IT. I dont care what your race, ehtinicity, background,job, age, marital status, crime is crime. That corner is disgustingly ugly, useless, and nothing good EVER happens there, day OR night. Yes, I knew when i moved in that things were bad, but this is going on year number three and its as ugly and crime ridden as ever. Beyond that is the obvious shame that this is the street that leads to our Nations capitol,,,etc,,etc,,and NO, I dont hate someoneone because they are poor, homeless, etc,,,before I am accused of it. ITs the crime I hate.

    Sorry, I'm angry. So are others, apparently. Bring back the circle, fountain, move the bus stops, ANYTHING to stop this sort of activity would be a good start.

  • Joe

    I'm sorry, but even if Florida and North Capitol doesn't seem so bad from standing outside for a couple of hours, take a walk down to North Capitol and New York and it is literally a free-for-all for anybody looking for drugs. Me and my roommates have lived on North Capitol and around O Street (in the same place as Curves) for only 6 months and I have been mugged at gunpoint once, him twice and our friend has been attacked once. Not to mention, someone was literally shot outside our door. Something is wrong when you can hear a person taking orders for others and then watch them walk down to Big Bens and purchase whatever drugs they need in broad daylight, not even worrying about anybody stopping them. Something is also wrong when people can watch you getting mugged and instead of helping out in anyway or just staying out all together, they laugh in your face.
    I think its unfair to insinuate that people are perceiving crime where there isn't. And, comparing Georgetown to this area is laughable. Crime is undoubtedly here and its not in the form of some rich person getting their purse snagged outside of a nice restaurant - its in the form of people getting shot and killed. There are a lot of good people in the neighborhood and I hope it gets better. I wont be sticking around after my lease ends to find out because as long there are tons of homeless people and people using and people selling on this strip of North Capitol between Florida and New York, its going to be unsafe.
    I don't like having to think the worst about people, but when you get mugged after trying to give a homeless man a dollar, you start to think twice when another homeless person asks.

  • kelly

    While I appreciate the thoughtful reporting, I felt that your coverage of your experience at that corner was somewhat disrespectful to residents who report unsafe activity there.

    It is not the perception of crime that keeps people from frequenting that area. It's the actual experience of feeling unsafe. I live on Q across the street from that intersection, and I do everything I can to avoid walking up North Capitol because I am repeatedly and relentlessly verbally and occasionally physically assaulted. I'm a young, small girl and I constantly feel unsafe. For example, in a one block segment at three in the afternoon on a weekday I was harassed no less than four times. At one point someone flat out expressed his desire to rape me. This happens every time, no matter what time of day, accompanied by varying degrees of attempted groping. I can be wearing my giant puffer jacket and earflap hat with only my eyes showing, it doesn't matter, it's a power play that is constantly occurring. So of course I avoid it, and of course when I do walk through that corner I walk fast. Do you really blame me?

    Although I'm sure it wasn't your intention, the insinuation that it's the neighborhood's fault that that area is so run down belittles the experiences of residents. While your experience may have been positive, frankly it's an anomaly.

  • http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com Richard Layman

    Good piece.

  • ronald harris

    No one did or said anything about the liquior stores and clinics when the neighborhood was people of color.

  • eli

    I think it's important to point out that your experience is also an anomaly.
    I am also female, white, young, & small. I am on that corner waiting for the 90 bus, walking up N Cap, walking up Lincoln at all hours and have not had any problems in the past 2 1/2 years.
    I do feel like the sketch level increases on the other side of Florida, particularly at the hot corner w/ NY Ave at the Big Ben. I saw a kid get a bottle broken over his head as he was dragged out the corner store (by his feet)down there at Hanover.

  • Bloomingdale Resident

    @ Ronald Harris - that is because people in the neighborhood didn't care...or not enough neighbors cared. voices en masse have more effect. and the neighborhood was an even more extreme dump.

    @ eli while you have been safe, it still doesn't sound like you are painting a safe enjoyable landscape where you feel safe 24/7. Is it a safe enjoyable comforting area or not?

  • TCres

    @ronald harris: they did, just nobody reported it in the wcp/wapo/etc.

  • Ellie

    Excellent story, although one more minor revision to the map: you missed a liquor store at N Capitol & R St.

  • t

    i know that to not be true. i have two neighbors, people of color as you say, that have complained about a few of the liquor stores and clinics for decades, now. why would you say something that is such a lie?
    did you really not know that "people of color" can be upset by the pressence of crime harboring places? are you trying to create a more divisive environment than already exists?

    what's your agenda ronald?

  • R St. Resident

    The map does not show the liquer store on R st and North Capital where people line up in the morning waiting for it to open.

  • Bertha Holliday

    Kudos to Ms. DePills of City Paper!. Finallly a rational fairly comprehensive commentary on the North Capital and Florida Avenue Triangle. As one who at one time was a daily bus rider, often getting on the 80 bus at the Triangle, I agree with her portrayal of the experience of waiting on the bus. It is not a fearful or threatening experience and indeed can be an interesting social experience, although the absence of seating can be annoying. I never did quite understand what would be accomplished by moving the bus stop . The fact of the matter is North Capital & Florida is a MAJOR bus transfer point. So the bus stop could probably only be moved at most one-half block up or down North Capital Street. . And then you would encounter the problem of where would the bus riders stand? During the rush hour, as many as 15 to 20 people may get on an 80 bus at that stop --plus the P bus also stops there. Moving the bus stop would result in people clogging the sidewalk. I can already hear the complaints of the cyclists & pedestrians, who might actually have to rub up against some of those awaiting a bus. I also would urge that consideration be given to Ms. DePillls' suggestions related to the perceptions of crime, the value of public surveillance and vestment/ownership ,and the associated improvements that may result from joining the triangle with the neighboring northwest corner to create a less congested more welcoming public space. In the meanwhile, let's applaud NCMS for increasing the maintenance of the Triangle, and let's try-- at least occasionally --to say "hello" to strangers.

  • knackers

    Um, very interesting choice of crime stats there, Lydia. A quick look on the MPD crime stats report shows an 18% increase in violent crime in the last year, including an increase in homicides of 200%. Given that the perception is that there is an increase (or, at best, the same old s*** happening), it would seem that perception is pretty close to reality.

    I think the point is that many residents of that area, including (believe it or not) many long term residents, are sick of this area being a dumping ground for the city's problems. How about you see how the Georgetown folks would feel about taking over, say, half of the social services located in this area.

  • Lydia DePillis

    Hi everybody (or anybody who reads down this far),

    Thanks for the vigorous discussion. I just want to clarify that I don't want to belittle residents' own experiences of crime, or say that people shouldn't be cautious, or say that police shouldn't be around to enforce the law. And certainly, I'd agree that *every* crime is a problem. But I do want to emphasize that from what I've learned, the long term solution isn't going to be an MPD crackdown--they've tried that before, and it just pushes violent offenders elsewhere for a while, until the focus shifts to some other part of the city. Rather, it's going to be the kind of design changes that make everybody want to spend time in a place and gives criminals fewer places to hide, because bad behavior is a bigger risk when it looks like noone's around to report it. Plus, people behave better in areas that feel like shared spaces. Think of Dupont Circle: Lots of homeless people, but by and large people clean up after themselves, and no one feels unsafe.

    @knackers - Of course, it's possible to find pretty much whatever you want in crime statistics. I tried to take a big-picture, rather than using one narrow metric. Here's the graph of overall crime for the last three years, which you can make of what you will:


  • TCres

    @Lydia As knackers said the big-picture/simplistic view does not always paint an accurate view. Overall numbers without proper context is just as bad as factually inaccurate information. I recommend http://www.robertniles.com/stats/

  • eli

    To clarify my point from the earlier post: N Cap and Florida gets a lot of flack, but I think the real safety issues are actually farther south, particularly the corner by the Big Ben down at NY Ave. And the small streets such as Bates and Hanover get a lot of problems due to proximity. I don't think it is a homeless problem. I think it is a crack problem. Test the theory out Lydia--when the weather warms up, pick any nice day early in the month and come see the party down here. I also disagree with the statement that cops can't fix the problem. But maybe that's because I live on the unit block of Todd Pl which is downright lovely since the crew got locked up.

  • dsb

    I'm a born and bred black DC resident who grew up near 16th street. My husband and I moved to eckington five years ago. The house next door to us was an outright crack-house where drugs and prostitutes were run for two years before the owner was finally evicted due to a tax lien. The police did nothing. This past summer a teenage member of the Todd place crew was shot three times in the alley behind my house, I was one of the first people to provide hinm care before the EMS arrived. Its all fine and well to be a bleeding heart white liberal and spew bullsjit about how we shouldn't "push people out" who need services, but the more interesting question remains, why are all of the City's "services" pushed into one section of the city that has been traditionally black? Why is it that there are no transitional living spaces in Glover Park or Tenley Town? Why is Georgetown Univeristy Hospital providing free medical care to indigent populations at it's Reservoir Road location rather than its clinic in PG County? I'll tell you why- because there are two D.C.'s, the one where the white affluent population lives and then the one for the rest of us. The Council and the mayor's office are perfectly comfortable with creating "ghettos" within the city in order to keep those that live in areas with higher property values (and tax revenue) appeased. Until the burden of supporting and providing services to the many Washingtonians who need it is spread equitably throughout this city, there will be many more Bill Mitchells.

  • Geovani

    I agree social programs are needed, but they should be adequately distributed through different communities.

    It is unfair to say the homeless contribute to the violent crimes. Homeless do contribute to the loitering and deterioration of the neighborhood. For those that may not disagree, I encourage you to come see what First and O ST NW looks like when the homeless shelters drop the homeless by the bus loads and they hang around at the corner until SOME opens. After SOME serves the first meal, these individuals have no place to go or nothing to do so they hang out around the liquor stores. Without public rest rooms, they use our back yards as urinals and toilets. Yesterday, I had to use a shovel to pick up a pair of jeans and underwear filled with feces that was left in my backyard; not uncommon in this area.

    CSOSA places many parolees in our neighborhood. Go to the sex offenders’ registry and look up how many registered sex offenders live in PSA 501. The heroin addicts get their needles from the DC DOH van, buy their drugs at N. Capitol and Florida and use them in one of the many vacant properties in the area. So at the end of the day, the homeless have trashed our neighborhood, used our yards as toilets, the drug addicts have gotten their needles, the dealers have sold their goods and other are looking to make some money by mugging pedestrians. So our issues are serious and many but worth addressing to save a great neighborhood.

  • Geovani

    Apologies - first posting was not complete.

    Many passionate points have been made, some rational some emotional. I can understand both. I have had a homicide and a shooting (corner of P and First ST NW), so I encourage anyone that says “it’s not so bad” to talk to me. Yes this is a great neighborhood with many long term neighbors who have lived here more than 30 years. The crime has gotten worse over the past two years though. We have experienced a sharp increase in violent crimes.

    The issues are complex and require multiple DC agencies to act. Approximately 20% of the properties in this area are vacant. Vacant homes that are boarded up or that need to be boarded up attract trespassers and provide shelter to the homeless. Some of these vacant properties have caught on fire due to homeless trying to stay warm or because of crack pipes being lit. The over saturating of social programs in such a condensed area is a problem. Reality is that a retail store or sit down restaurant does feel that between a soup kitchen and a transitional home or mental health group home is a great business location. I agree social programs are needed, but they should be adequately distributed through different communities.

    It is unfair to say the homeless contribute to the violent crimes. Homeless do contribute to the loitering and deterioration of the neighborhood. For those that may not disagree, I encourage you to come see what First and O ST NW looks like when the homeless shelters drop the homeless by the bus loads and they hang around at the corner until SOME opens. After SOME serves the first meal, these individuals have no place to go or nothing to do so they hang out around the liquor stores. Without public rest rooms, they use our back yards as urinals and toilets. Yesterday, I had to use a shovel to pick up a pair of jeans and underwear filled with feces that was left in my backyard; not uncommon in this area.

    CSOSA places many parolees in our neighborhood. Go to the sex offenders’ registry and look up how many registered sex offenders live in PSA 501. The heroin addicts get their needles from the DC DOH van, buy their drugs at N. Capitol and Florida and use them in one of the many vacant properties in the area. So at the end of the day, the homeless have trashed our neighborhood, used our yards as toilets, the drug addicts have gotten their needles, the dealers have sold their goods and other are looking to make some money by mugging pedestrians. So our issues are serious and many but worth addressing to save a great neighborhood.

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