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Is Crime Out of Control on Capitol Hill?
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Is Crime Out of Control on Capitol Hill?

February 12th, 2013 by Kyra Deblaker-Gebhard · 20 Comments · Capitol Hill

Originally uploaded to Flickr by MadameMeow

I will admit that I am not a regular on our many community listservs. From time to time, I log into my Yahoo! account to see what “virtual Capitol Hill” has to offer. Emails offering tips and tricks for raising kids or tackling the school lottery seem to take up storage space on the MoTH listserv. My local ANC listserv lets me know everything that is opening and closing along the H Street Corridor. But the listservs that get my attention–and lately get my blood boiling–are the MPD and Newhilleast lists. And it’s not chickens or other petty arguments that get me and others worked up these days: no, it’s the crime in our community. And lately, it seems (albeit anecdotally) to be totally out of control!

I’m a regular at Amazon.com—that Amazon prime membership pays for itself if you have at least one kid in diapers—but lately I am reluctant to place an order outside of my regular deliveries. Why? Because I’ve had more packages stolen then I care to admit (or can count—I think I’m over five for the past year and that is five too many). And I’m not the only one. Just now, I read a handful of messages from neighbors complaining about everything from packages stolen when they were home—I blame FedEx for this, as they have an uncanny way of dropping packages in obvious locations but not alerting the homeowner by simply ringing the doorbell—to witnessing and reporting a package theft with no follow-up from officers.

If you are a criminal, come to Capitol Hill, a lovely community with historic homes, bicycles with weak locks, storage sheds behind scalable fences, breakable car windows– and now, delivered packages! Oh, you can also find lots of smartphones, which I suspect you can take to your local Game Stop.

You know what, criminals, officers, council members with exploratory committees? I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE! And I demand that your response be more than a community meeting, where you tell me crime is statistically down and then teach me ways to not be a victim. Stop blaming me! I don’t talk on my phone when walking alone and I ask for signatures when I have packages delivered, preferably by UPS because their drivers are wonderful. While you are at it, stop making excuses and stop burying your heads in the sand! This is going to take more than a community meeting. It’s going to take more cops on the beat. It’s going to take more training for officers and 911 operators. It’s going to take prosecuting criminals and putting them behind bars.

See, we can blame the victim for being in the wrong place at the wrong time; we can blame a poor education system or a poor judicial system; we can blame any number of things, but isn’t it better to just do something about it?

Have you been the victim of a crime? Take our poll and then tell us more in the comments section.

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  • EGarbs

    Wow, self-selective poll of course, but less than one third of respondants have not been the victim of a crime on the Hill. Wow.

    • C_29

      Honestly, who has never been a victim of crime? Probably very few people. I can’t think of anyone, including my family in a semi-rural area or friends in the “safe” suburbs of Northern Virginia, that haven’t at least been burglarized or experienced a package or bike theft or something else stolen from their yard. Petty crime is all over the place.

  • C_29

    I had my first package stolen last week. I thought this was pretty good since I live on one of the busiest streets in Capitol Hill and get stuff delivered from Amazon almost every day. Better than the cast iron patio gate being stolen, though. Those are really expensive to replace!

    • poopsie

      you get stuff delivered to you EVERY DAY? wtf?

  • HereOnTheHill

    I wanted to participate but in the 12 years I have lived on the Hill, my home has been burglarized (just after moving in), vandalized (eggs at Halloween – does that count?, windows broken in a car parked on the street), I’ve been robbed at gun point, and had a bike stolen. The survey only lets you pick one. Though this has been spread out over 12 years, I didn’t really feel how much baggage we carry to live here. I don’t feel like a victim and I wouldn’t move due to this reason, but we (everyone in this neighborhood) deserves better and more than the tepid response we get from our elected officials.

  • Julie Kang

    Amazon will hold packages at designated locker locations. Here is the link to suggest an Amazon Locker location for Capitol Hill. http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1000841451

    When I spoke with an Amazon rep, he said that they usually select UPS store or convenience stores. I selected UPS on 611 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Washington, DC 20003.

    With enough requests, maybe we can get a locker space nearby.

  • septlady

    I was ALMOST robbed. That wasn’t an option on the poll so I selected that I was mugged. Luckily I think it was the kids first time b/c he botched his attempt at stealing my iPhone. I screamed. The cops said that’s what helped me the most. The fact that I screamed. It is a shame that packages get stolen, happens in my building all the time. And it is a shame that I can’t listen to my iPhone while I’m walking to the gym or to the Metro. It is a shame that I carry pepper spray in my pocket everyday now ready to use it (a jogger who ran by a little too close to me almost got hit with it). The craziest part is that I grew up in NYC (not cute 2013 BK/LES/DUMBO/etc. but 80′s and 90′s in Queens and Spanish Harlem) and lived in Philly for 5 years (where the crime rate is pretty high) before moving to D.C and had never been mugged…nor had a package stolen. Now that might be because the bigger fear might have been getting shot or raped…however, the fact that the cops aren’t able to stop these petty crimes is frightening to me. Unless they are just too busy making sure people don’t get raped and murdered. I guess I choose almost having my iPhone stolen out of all the crimes….however, there have been reports of the violent crimes, so stopping petty crimes should still be a priority to ensure that the small things don’t lead to bigger more violent issues. I agree – no more community meetings. There needs to be a strategic plan and implementation of the plan by the cops. Pressure from local reps. Also one last thing, I will say that with my incident, the police were VERY quick to respond, were very helpful, and did proper follow up post incident (sounds like they are trying hard to monitor these incidents) and a local resident who witness the incident was very helpful as well. Hopefully if people are in the unfortunate case of being a victim, the process after does not make matters even worse.

  • John

    I was assaulted on 7th and G a few months back. I was walking my dog (who was kicked through the air!!) by some asshole with a 9mm gun. My fatherly instinct came over me when he kicked her that I fought back and he didn’t get a thing from me. I called the cops, who showed up immediately, took down the information–and I never heard from them again. They “seemed” to care when we were speaking (mostly because a cute dog was involved). I have thought about moving back to Arlington many times. I shouldn’t feel paranoid to walk my dog at 10pm on a Sunday one block from Barracks Row. I shouldn’t have to conceal my cell phone. I shouldn’t have to carry mace with me all the time, but these are the realities of the Hill, sadly. We deserve better, in my opinion.

  • http://twitter.com/thewino kris

    BRAVA. I have posted at least twice to the Hill East listserv with questions about this crime wave. NO ONE has responded. Lots of people will talk about moving boxes and rezoning — all valid, of course — but when people are being shot and mugged and all talk stops post-community meeting? Unacceptable. We can’t just get worked up at horrific crimes like the one that took the life of Jason Emma — we need to be talking about this regularly. Good for you for bringing the conversation further. I’d like to see a repost to the listserv — I’d respond.

  • C_29

    I should add that my worst experiences with crime were not in Capitol Hill but when I rented in SW in 2008. There are definitely worse places in DC, crime-wise.

  • Racs22

    THANK YOU! BRAVO!!!! I see cops regular parked in their cars in SE, while literally a block down a drug deal is going on in the middle of the street in broad daylight. I’ve been heckled and followed while walking my dog, with cops driving the streets and criminals totally ignoring them. I get multiple emails daily about packages being stolen in southeast…and don’t forget the shooting in on 14th & K SE (15 rounds) right before Christmas. I have lived in many different big cities and I have never witnessed police officers turn a blind eye the way they do on Capitol Hill. It is appalling. They need to get out of their cars and WALK the beat, bike it, something. BE PRESENT. BE VISIBLE.

  • http://twitter.com/magmaeA Maggie

    Thanks for this! I’ve learned a lot following the package theft issue on the Hill East listserv – the fact that his description is the same by everyone down to his bike AND there is at least one photo and a cooperative UPS driver, but STILL no action from the police? Insanity. We realized recently that three separate packages were stolen from our home during the holiday rush (and the laziness of being so busy that ordering from Amazon Prime is easier than a trip out to Target). I currently have three packages sitting in my office because I’m afraid to have them delivered to our house when we’re not home. The only question is now, how to transport them to my house! I need another set of (buffer) arms…

  • http://twitter.com/LivingADCLife Katie V. Wonnenberg

    Ironically, I just had a Twitter exchange with Councilmember Wells that was most disheartening- he argues that violence in Ward 6 is down. I can’t imagine that- perhaps it is true. Something has to change.

    • Kyra DeBlaker-Gebhard

      This is what bothers me the most–telling us things aren’t as bad as they appear and not addressing what the concerns actually are. Any violence at all should bother our council member, regardless of statistics! It’s like telling a victim of gun violence that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

      I just want to say, to people here and to friends who have commented off-site. I understand that the issues we are dealing with are more complex than a blog post. I simply read the listserv and felt compelled to write about what I was feeling while asking others if they have been a victim of crime as well. (For the record, my home has been burglarized and I’ve had three bikes stolen, in addition to the package thefts.) When people suggest that we should just accept what is happening–through inaction, through explanations, through ignorance–I get angry.

      If I were a reporter, I would dig deeper to understand this issue. If I were an activist, I would know just the person to direct this rant to, how to get coverage from local media outlets, and how to mobilize the masses and take back our streets from the petty thieves and the violent criminals. Sadly, I am neither. But I do hope that I brought the issue to a slightly bigger stage than the listserv. Maybe community members who weren’t aware of what was going on are now paying attention. Maybe our council member is reading this poll, looking at the unscientific data and thinking twice about saying crime is down when someone reaches out to him because she is concerned for her safety. Maybe that person who is smarter and more-connected than I am is mobilizing her forces to start a letter writing campaign to our prosecutors, imploring them to do what they can. Maybe our police chief sees that the time for retraining officers about our city services is now.

      I will say it now if it’s not clear above, I know that I don’t offer a solution, but I still feel this post was worth writing.

  • disqus_S8wXphYZSP

    I was thinking how lucky I’ve been in my experience on the Hill until I took the survey and realized that I actually did check a lot of those boxes (stolen packages, house egged, bike stolen, and in-laws car stolen while visiting). I think that when you hear how violent some of the crime can be, I’ve felt lucky to only have that on my list.

  • wmichaeljones

    The creepiest part about my part of the hill (around Potomac Ave metro/safeway) is that there is never anyone around at night. Sometimes I can walk from the metro to my house (three blocks) and never see a soul. That’s exactly what happened the night I was mugged at 14th and E SE around 7 pm.
    And agreed that the police are pretty useless. I never see cops on foot.

  • monicali67

    We lived on the Hill for 11 years. We put up with the crime — my husband was nearly mugged (fortunately he was able to outrun the 3 kids), our house was vandalized, items were stolen (that were locked up under our deck, inside a fenced-in yard), my part of the Hill endured multiple carjackings — but it got to be too much when my 8 year old asked, “Mom, what do I do in a carjacking?” Really? We felt like Tommy Wells was completely useless in addressing the crime. We moved to the suburbs. People say, crime happens everywhere. Sure, it can, but it doesn’t happen as much (at all, really) where we are now as it does on the Hill. We don’t have to worry about packages getting stolen, or our son knowing what to do in a potential carjacking, or people stealing things out of our yard, or our car window being smashed for a quarter left in our cupholder. We still own our house on the Hill and have great tenants (who fortunately didn’t hear about Jason Emma being shot on Christmas Eve just a few blocks away from our house). We would love to move back one day, but the crime is a big reason why we won’t.

  • Billy

    I have lived on the Hill for over 10 years now, and while I completely understand people’s worries, it really has gotten much better. And it’s going to continue to get better. I understand why some people run to the suburbs, but the fact that they still check this website tells you something: the suburbs suck. I, like most everyone I’ve met here, love the Hill. Sorry monicali67 that it didn’t work for you.

  • http://twitter.com/SpiritEquality Spirit Equality

    I was one of the few people whose car was stolen. Not a fun minority to be in, but at least my car was quickly recovered by MPD, with only minor damage.

  • chris8lee

    Capitol Hill is a mini-whitopia bordered by the black undertow of surrounding neighborhoods. It’s a sad fact that the nearly all of these assaults, robberies and so on are committed by a specific socio-economic element. Which is difficult to talk about plainly as it can be mis-construed as impugning all blacks so people are on the down low in their candor.