If you’re not on vacation these last weeks of summer break you’ve probably heard about at least one of the violent assault crimes that occurred in Southeast on Capitol Hill. Late Friday evening/early Saturday morning Hill resident Thomas Maslin was found in serious condition on the front steps of a home near Eastern Market, badly beaten. He is still (at the time of this writing) in the hospital in serious condition. That same morning DC Alerts, the “unofficial twitterfeed of the official AlertDC system,” reported a stabbing on the 1800 block of Independence Avenue SE. And close to midnight on Sunday, August 12 there was report of a robbery with baseball bat at 14th Street and Massachusetts Avenue SE. While Capitol Hill is not immune to crime, it is unusual for the area to experience this level of violence in addition to robberies and break-ins.According to a recent Washington Post article, violent crime is up in the area surrounding Eastern Market. The Metropolitan Police Department reports an increase in robberies with and without guns, and an increase in assaults over this time last year.
These recent reports are troubling to Hill residents. While all three recent incidents occurred in late evening or early morning hours, we as a neighborhood have pride in out ‘liveable, walkable community” and relish in the ability to stroll through the Hill and interact with each other at any time. It’s a benefit to be able to walk to or from basic services, restaurants, public transit stops and friends’ homes. A feeling of safety comes with that benefit, but we cannot take that feeling for granted. The MPD provides a number of tips and suggestions on their website for safety while walking, jogging and running as well as in many other scenarios, but some are worth noting here in summary:
- Stay alert when walking, especially in the evenings when visibility is limited.
- Don’t wear headphones or earphones as they hinder your ability to hear others as well as signal to would-be robbers the fact that you have an electronic device on you.
- When possible, go running or jogging with a buddy or a dog.
- Don’t walk with your face buried in a smart phone.
- Stay in well-lit areas.
As a long-term DC area resident and while attending college in NE DC, I’ve been given many a safety talk. I would add a few more suggestions.
- If anything looks suspicious or off to you, call the police.
- If you notice streetlights that are out, report them to the city’s call center at 311.
- If you’re intoxicated, don’t walk home alone. Call a taxi, ask the bartender to call you one, or ask a friend for assistance. Drunken walking not only makes you an easier target for crime, you can also injure yourself. Obviously, don’t drive home alone, either.
- Possibly my favorite safety advice ever comes from a long-time security officer at Catholic University. She tells all incoming freshmen if you feel unsafe because of someone near you while you are walking home, move from the sidewalk to the middle of the street and if necessary, start singing loudly. The center of the street is often better lit than sidewalks because of tree cover along the curbs, there are more options should you need to change direction, and loud singing at night may draw attention from neighbors inside their homes. This is probably not the best advice for busier avenues, but would increase visibility.