October 13, 2006

DC hot spots not safe

Via Steve. The Washington Post reports that the hottest nabes in DC are not safe -- they attract robbers from other neighborhoods in search of quick cash, credit cards, and cell phones, resulting in a per capita robbery rate higher than that of New York or LA! A significant minority are juveniles, and presumably most of the rest are 25 or under. No official word on the percentage of beleaguered father figures compelled to steal to feed their starving families. You can imagine what percentage are buying garish rims for their cars, tacky jewelery, and liquor / drugs. At least the districts where tout le monde goes clubbing are not also the homicide capitals, which are unsurprisingly in the Southeast quadrant. So, I'd like to ammend my description of the Adams Morgan-ish area of DC as "safe, urban, semi-cool" to "not safe, urban, semi-cool." Apparently the rise in robberies there is recent, like within the past few years, which is the last time I used to go there semi-regularly to see movies unavailable in the suburbs. But now downtown Bethesda in suburban Maryland has several art house theaters, and though I don't identify with the local residents, at least they're not the nauseatingly pretentious yuppie type you find in Dupont Circle. But there is a silver lining to be found in the cloud of the news story: at least the robbery rate isn't what it was during the crack wars of the 1980s and early '90s. Yeah, and the Black Death didn't wipe out as many English during the 1665 outbreak as during the 14th century conflagration.

I've previously noted that I don't have much empathy for people who get into a mess they could have easily foreseen but chose to take a risk nonetheless. Maybe this is the new honest signal of one's status -- "Hey look how rich and powerful I am, that I can dwell in and waltz around this mugging capital without getting held up!" Well, maybe, but that only works if you really are sufficiently badass that robbers fear you. Unfortunately, DC attracts those yuppies who failed to make it elsewhere -- the East Coast centers for Big Law, Big Biz, and Big Whatever Else are New York, Boston, maybe Philly in distant third, with DC status-seekers comprising the dregs. Not frightening badasses, in other words. Of course the stupid, aggressive, lazy scum who commit these crimes are to blame, but still, don't cry when you play with fire and get burned.


  1. How much has the crime rate actually rose? I go to Dupont Circle all the time and Adam's Morgan. I also hang out near Tenley Town. There are some shady characters walking around from time to time but I never felt afraid.

    I have walked through all kinds of bad neighborhoods in about 4 different countries. The only time someone actually tried to rob me was in Shanghai. This guy called myself and another friend in an alley off the mainstreet (somewhere in Hua Hai Lu) and asked us if we wanted to buy some pirated CDs he had special.

    I should have known better, because in the big markets people sell these CD's on the street in the open, no need to hide it as the police do not enforce the piracy laws (at least not in 1999).

    When we looked through his stuff and decided we did not want to buy any, he pulled a knife on us.

    My friend (a German) got very scared. I actually started laughing. The Chinese guy was yelling at us in Mandarin and SHanghai-hua, apparently confused.

    I am 6'2" 220lbs (a little thinner then)...he was about 5'8" maybe a buck fifty wet. I looked him dead in his face and told him to "zuo kai" (screw off)...he once again started cursing and waving the knife. The German guy was saying all this nonsense "just give him all your money". I walked right up to the guy took the knife right out of his hand (no lie) he was so scared he probably crapped his pants and he ran away.

    Moral of that long story is that most robbers, in China, the US, or wherever else, do not want a fight. They want a quick score.

    If you look like a victim they will take advantage of you. If you look like you will fight them they will likely avoid you.

    In Texas, when I lived there, robbery had been dropping for years after they passed the "concealed carry law" home breakins during the day went up as a result (less dangerous).

  2. Agnostic:

    I wanted to make plane that a rise in crime is not good and I'm not trying to blame the victims.

    I'm just giving some advice. Also I am very curious as to how much crime has actually went up in these areas? My personal experience after being here a few months and hanging out with friends in these areas is that they are fairly tame.

  3. Sorry I saw the article you linked.

    so it does seem that robbery is up significantly than in recent years but not as high as in the late 80's early 90's.

    They also said more than 1/3 are juveniles. Some of the arrest are related to drug abuse (stereotypical crackhead needing money for a "hit").

    I guess what interests me is why now? The economy is better now than in the late 80's, there are not drug wars. It is not like Metro is new (probably the means they migrate around the city) What is making this youth driven crime increase so much?

  4. http://www.rand.org/labor/adp_pdfs/adp_ajph.pdf

    Something of interest about crime and race, a new study done by the Rand Thinktank.


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