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The New Downtown: Spies, Cops and Fugitives

When the MCI Center and the International Spy Museum opened, in 1997 and 2002 respectively, hard as it may be to imagine today, the East End of downtown was pretty much a dead zone.

Now, since nothing succeeds like success and nothing exceeds like excess, the neighborhood may soon be home to museums telling the stories not only of spies, but also cops and crooks. The National Law Enforcement Officers Association, which already has an outdoor memorial a couple of blocks from the Abe Pollin sports arena, is now planning an $80 million museum about police work scheduled to open in 2011. The museum would be built beneath the existing memorial at the Judiciary Square Metro station.

And the Washington Business Journal reports that the TV show America's Most Wanted is putting together a National Crime and Punishment Museum to be located at Terrell Place, immediately south of the sports arena.

Can you imagine a Saturday trip downtown in 2013 or so, taking in a crime and punishment intensive course at the Spy, Police and Crime museums before adjourning to an evening of bloodshed at the new Shakespeare Theatre?

Who knew when the Bullets moved back into the city that the celebration of society's dark arts and dysfunctions would become the economic engine of the new downtown?

The police museum will include artifacts from the annals of crime, such as "collectible crime cards, featuring the likes of Machine Gun Kelly and John Dillinger," and a display of police uniforms sponsored by the good folks at MagLite, maker of those special police flashlights. There's to be all manner of interactive stuff, including a faux 911 call center and a place where visitors can play forensic investigator, taking on various crime puzzles.

It's not clear what that will leave for the America's Most Wanted folks to put in their crime museum. The Business Journal said something about there being an exhibit of gangsters' clothes. Well, ok. We shall see. But as half a century of TV has taught us, you can't have enough crime shows.

And as for the East End, it's nice to play out our fantasies in crime museums, but the real crime in the neighborhood continues to take place at the Pollin arena, where, with Gilbert Arenas gone and another sorry hockey season behind us, it's the Wizards and Caps who risk arrest. But that's another story.

By Marc Fisher |  April 19, 2007; 7:23 AM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Can America's Most Wanted put out an APB for our Bill of Rights? That's the kind of thing Washington once commemorated.

Until we find it, we might as well celebrate our Police State. God help us.

Posted by: Mike Licht | April 19, 2007 10:43 AM

I miss the red light district. there's always a cost to economic development.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2007 3:12 PM

Hey, the Caps aren't even playing right now.

Posted by: EricS | April 19, 2007 3:19 PM

Of course the Caps aren't playing, it's April. The Caps playing in April is as ridiculous as the Nationals playing in October or the Redskins playing in January.

Posted by: sports fan | April 20, 2007 12:21 AM

"When the MCI Center and the International Spy Museum opened, in 1997 and 2002 respectively, hard as it may be to imagine today, the East End of downtown was pretty much a dead zone." I used to go down there all the time. The main branch of the library is there. The National Portrait Gallery is there. I used to work near the FBI building. Not sure what he means by a dead zone. But now that it has been "redeveloped" it's not as interesting as it once was. It's kind of overwhelming and suburban to me.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 22, 2007 12:11 PM

Did the Bullets ever play in the District before 1997?

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