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Posted at 4:21 PM ET, 11/17/2006

How You Ride the Crime Wave

By Julia Beizer

During Thursday's Got Plans?, we joked that "Is H Street Safe?" was going to surpass "Do you know of a bar with a mechanical bull?" as most popular chat question of all time.

It's true, safety's been a popular theme during Got Plans? in recent weeks and that's really no surprise. Particularly in the District, crime has been in the headlines almost constantly since the beginning of summer. And now we can even track frightening acts of violence on this totally freaky crime map.

We didn't have time for this question on Thursday, but it raises some interesting points that I wanted to throw out there:

Washington, D.C.: I know you all aren't crime experts, but I'm wondering what your impression is of D.C.'s current problem with muggings, etc. I'm of the opinion that the people getting mugged in Adams Morgan, U Street, etc. are mostly drunk morons stumbling down the street at 3 in the morning on Saturday nights... What do you think?

Can't say I agree with this chatter completely. There have been many acts of violence around town that seem to defy the drunk-stumbling-moron stereotype. (See the sad story of Mesfin Nega for just one example and I'm sure many of you have a friend who has been mugged. I have at least three.)

So this person may have been a little on the cynical side, but there's definitely a grain of truth in what s/he's saying. There's no question that your easy-target status increases right along with your tequila-shot consumption. If you're out stumbling around, you're not paying as much attention to your surroundings as you should be. I'm not saying don't have a good time, but just take a cab on the way home. That's just simple common sense.

But beyond just taking the everyday precautions that acknowledge we live and go out in a big city, I want to know what our readers think about crime in the city. We know you're a bunch that likes to go out on the town; has crime changed the way you go out? Do you take more precautions than you used to? Suburban peeps, have you been sticking closer to home? What do you think we could do to be safer on our Saturday nights?

(And since I know someone is going to ask: I don't know of a mechanical bull in the area. Cancun Cantina, in Hanover, Md., tried to put its bull back into action last summer, but to no avail. Mechanical bulls are considered amusement park rides in Maryland and so they have to be inspected. No inspector in Maryland will touch it. Bar owners -- get one, you'll make yourselves a ton on money.)

--Julia

By Julia Beizer  | November 17, 2006; 4:21 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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Usually it's weather/cost of taxis/familiarity with an area that keep me closer to home. For example, I'm much less likely to go to a neighborhood/area I'm not comfortable navigating if it's also cold and far away. I played kickball in Adams Morgan this fall and now that I know the 18th St. Area, how easily I can grab a cab, what bars I like and what bars I don't, I'm much more comfortable going out there at night. I'm much less likely to go to U St., Eatern Market or Columbia Heights areas simply because I haven't had a chance to familiarize myself with the area. Being overly cautious runs in the fam I guess...I tried to take my mom to Cake Love on a Saturday afternoon once and she didn't want to get out of the car. She lived in D.C. in the 80s though so I think she feels a lot less safe about the city.

Posted by: Arlington | November 21, 2006 11:34 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the previous comment to an extent. I'm more cavalier about safety than I should be, but hearing about recent crimes in the media does affect me. I won't go to Columbia Heights after dark, no matter how cool Wonderland is, unless I take a taxi to and from there, and who wants to pay that? I often walk home from Georgetown late at night, but with a sense of unease ever since that murder & hearing about more muggings, and always take a taxi if I've been drinking. I'd visit the H St bars more but they're simply so far away from me. As for U St, Adams Morgan - I've spent so much time in these areas that I almost always feel completely safe.

Posted by: U St | November 21, 2006 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I live in Arlington, but I have walked to Wonderland from Mt. Pleasant and had no problems (I always walk in a group). Im not sticking closer to home, i'm still going out to DC on a fairly regular basis. That said, to be safer on Sat nights, you need to have a safe exit plan. If you are going to AdMorgan from Arlington, bring extra cash for a cab home. Have a cab number in your cell phone. Make sure your friends have a way home.

Posted by: Suburb gal | November 21, 2006 1:09 PM | Report abuse

I think most of the crime talk is overblown, and most people who do get mugged are either walking drunk or looking for trouble. I have lived in the DC area for many years, and never had any trouble. This even though I regularly go out in "dangerous" areas like Adams-Morgan, U Street, and Columbia Heights on a regular basis. As long as you know where you're going, look like you know where you're going, stay focused, and walk swiftly, you should be ok. If you're too drunk or feel unsafe, get a cab. It's more about how the individual acts rather than being in a "sketchy" area. For H St, I would get a cab home.

Posted by: Courtney | November 21, 2006 2:13 PM | Report abuse

What a thoughtful post. Safety doesn't always depend on being in a 'safe' area or with a group of people, or being sober; sometimes it's just chance, and it's important to note that before blaming the victim.

Posted by: thanks | November 23, 2006 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Just coming back from vacation and catching up on the Post. I want to add that I haven't changed the frequency of my outings or the distance I'm willing to travel, but I do make sure that I have cab fare, whereas before I might have walked or taken metro.

The only problem is that I often have trouble getting a cab late at night, even in areas where there are lots of cabs. (Would love to refrain from blaming the cab drivers for passing me up because I am an African American woman, but sadly I think that really is the case.) I often stand out by myself for long periods of time trying to hail a cab. It was so bad one night trying to get a cab outside of Habana Village that I started to count the number of empty cabs that passed me up. (I got up to around 25 before a cab finally stopped.) Seriously, I've started having my white friends hail a cab for me, otherwise they are texting to say that they're home and I'm still waiting!

So, money for the cab ride home is a must, but the Taxicab Commission really needs to work on its drivers. I've lived/traveled in several other major cities in this country and haven't experienced this problem. If people are turning to cabs for safety reasons (and it seems that is the case) the drivers need to be available to everyone.

Posted by: Cin | November 29, 2006 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I love DC and most of the time when I go out I am alone or heading ot meet friends. For some people in this city, namely, African-Americans it is nearly impossible to get a cab home. I have been before the DC Taxicab Commission twice to challenge drivers who refused to give me a ride home.

These practices often force some people to wait in the cold for hours, expose themselves to dangers, have (generally) white friends hail a cab for them, or choose to drive home intoxicated. It's a sad situation which should be met with far more sever penalties than are currently levied.

People shoul

Posted by: Don Owens | December 5, 2006 4:39 PM | Report abuse

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