Emerging neighborhoods see crime spike

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Photo - Ledroit Park, in Northwest D.C., has seen a 30-percent increase in property crime in the last 12 months.
Ledroit Park, in Northwest D.C., has seen a 30-percent increase in property crime in the last 12 months.
Local,DC,Crime,Aubrey Whelan

It happened in Adams Morgan, in Dupont Circle, and, more than 80 years ago, in ritzy Georgetown itself. It's happening right now, in LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale and Columbia Heights and a host of other neighborhoods across the District where developers are moving in, businesses are springing up and property values are rising.

But these "emerging" neighborhoods -- on the cusp of D.C.'s gentrification movement -- are also bearing the brunt of increased property crime rates.

According to data from the Metropolitan Police Department, property crime has spiked in several "emerging" neighborhoods in the past year to date. LeDroit Park, which has seen the high-profile opening of the Howard Theater and a slew of new restaurants and businesses this year, has seen property crimes rise by 33 percent between July 2011 and July 2012 -- even as violent crimes have gone down by 4 percent. Its neighbor to the east, Bloomingdale, has seen property crimes go up 21 percent, with a 43 percent increase in both thefts and thefts from cars.

By the numbers
Neighborhood 7/18/10-7/17/11 7/18/11-7/17/12 Change
Bloomingdale
Property crimes 364 441 21% increase
Violent crimes 107 113 6% increase
Columbia Heights
Property crimes 785 990 26% increase
Violent crimes 209 261 25% increase
LeDroit Park
Property crimes 212 281 33% increase
Violent crimes 77 74 4% decrease
Source: D.C. police

Crime isn't far off from emerging neighborhoods that have seen decreases in the past year, either -- property crime rates went down 4 percent in the still-developing H Street NE corridor, but property crimes rose 14 percent just a few blocks over.

Representatives from D.C. police were unable to comment by press time Monday.

Gentrification has long been a touchy subject in D.C., and as wealthy residents move into struggling neighborhoods, experts say tensions are bound to arise.

"Gentrification creates a new opportunity for individuals to be victims and perpetrators of crime," said Antwan Jones, an assistant sociology professor at George Washington University. "You have a toxic mix of people trying to desperately hold onto their homes in the same context where individiuals are increasing their socioeconomic standing. Homicide will go down in those neighborhoods because there will be an increase of police presence, but property crimes will go up because people ... have the opportunity generally to commit crimes."

Jones said that criminals in "gentrifying" neighborhoods -- where development is typically geared toward rehabbing houses -- tend to target individuals' property, while crime in "revitalizing" neighborhoods -- where development is business-driven and community-oriented -- typically affects businesses.

Residents of LeDroit and Bloomingdale -- who say their neighborhoods have seen crimes like muggings, bike thefts and thefts from cars recently -- say they're doing their best to combat crime rates in the area, working with police and urging residents to stay safe at night.

"Sometimes, because you're not hearing about murders, rapes, major assaults, people feel really comfortable and they're not paying attention as much," said Teri Janine Quinn, president of Bloomingdale's civic association. "While certainly we don't want more violent crime, one of the things that happens when those numbers go down is that people let their guards down."

Marc Morgan, president of LeDroit's civic association, said his group focuses on connecting residents -- both new and old -- in the neighborhood to combat crime. The civic association has built a community park, begun a neighborhood watch and offered a series of forums to help longtime residents and newcomers get along.

"It's still a lingering issue -- there's no quick fix to this. The only way is engagement with the community and creating a sense of pride in the neighborhood," he said.

Correction: This story was changed to reflect that the Bloomingdale neighborhood is east of LeDroit Park.

awhelan@washingtonexaminer.com

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Aubrey Whelan

Staff Reporter - Crime
The Washington Examiner