Is Adams Morgan More Dangerous than Anacostia?

by Mark Wellborn

Is Adams Morgan More Dangerous than Anacostia?
Police in Adams Morgan by Neel Cooler

Back in September, we wrote a piece about the alarming increase in robberies and assaults in Adams Morgan. As it seems like the situation has gotten noticeably better in recent months, we thought it would be a good idea to revisit the issue and see if things had improved. Do you think things have gotten better? Let us know in the comments section.

(Originally published on September 29, 2008)

In the early morning hours of August 30th, a close friend of UrbanTurf was at the corner of 18th Street and Columbia Road in Adams Morgan when he felt someone jump on his back with force far heavier than a friendly piggy-back. The next thing he remembers is regaining consciousness and being helped to his feet by several concerned onlookers who told him he had just been knocked unconscious by a group of young men. Despite his injuries (a busted lip and a few bruises), the assailants had rifled through his pockets but taken nothing.

On September 21st at 10pm, another friend of UrbanTurf was watching a movie at an apartment on 19th Street and Kalorama Road when he heard some noise outside. Thinking it was just the usual drunk rabble that Adams Morgan is known for, he ignored it. Then it became clear that one voice was desperately crying for mercy. When he looked out the window, he saw four men pummeling a man on the hood of a car. The beating would’ve continued had it not been for the headlights of an SUV that caused the group to scurry away. As the victim was carted off in an ambulance, a group of angry neighbors voiced their frustration at how frequent this type of violence has become in the neighborhood.

This is not the Adams Morgan that most people know. Unless you live in the neighborhood or have been a victim of one of these assaults, your vision of Adams Morgan is probably that of draft beer and late-night pizza not unsafe streets and late-night beatings. However, the area has seen an alarming increase in crime, particularly assault and robbery, over the past year.

Earlier this summer, a 25 year-old political blogger was shot in Adams Morgan during an attempted robbery. In late August, a man was severely beaten by a group of men in an apparent hate crime. It remains unclear whether these incidents are the result of the area’s growing gang culture, excessive alcohol consumption on weekend nights or just a new culture of violence. What is clear is that a neighborhood that has long been considered one of DC’s premier nightlife destinations could be garnering a new reputation as a dangerous place to live. 

In August, the Washington Business Journal published an article entitled “The Hunt for the Next Hot Spots.” In it, the author notes that the violent crime rate in Adams Morgan was actually higher in 2007 than in downtown Anacostia, a zip code that has historically been associated with crime. In 2007, DC police recorded 22 violent crimes and 58 property crimes in downtown Anacostia compared to 60 violent crimes and 267 property crimes in Adams Morgan.

This trend seems to be continuing. In the last thirty days, there have been ten robberies and five assaults in downtown Anacostia, according to CrimeReports.com. In that same period, there have been 15 robberies and six assaults in Adams Morgan. To put those numbers in perspective, there was just one robbery reported in the Georgetown and Foxhall neighborhoods during the last thirty days.

Because of their code of ethics, real estate agents cannot talk about how dangerous a certain neighborhood might be, and therefore none were willing to talk on the record about safety in Adams Morgan. However, the stats above are telling, as are recent numbers regarding home sale prices in the area. For the quarter ending in August, the median sales price for homes in Adams Morgan was down almost 25 percent to $429,450 from the previous quarter. It is impossible to know if there is a correlation between the decrease in sale prices and the increase in crime, but it seems plausible.

Calls to Jim Graham, the city councilman for Adams Morgan, to see if any measures were being taken to curb the violence were not immediately returned. However, a message from police commander George Kucik in late July indicated that the police presence was being increased in the Adams Morgan neighborhood and that a “Crime Suppression Team that concentrates on robberies and other violent crimes throughout the Third District” was being implemented.

If you are having trouble getting a read on the safety level in neighborhoods where you are interested in buying a home, here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Look at websites that track crime statistics in various zip codes. Sites like CrimeReports.com regularly update statistics in a variety of crime-related categories.
  • Scan the neighborhood weblogs. DC has some amazing local blogs (RenewShaw, Prince of Petworth) that serve as mini-AP wire services for all types of neighborhood news. When crime increases, these blogs serve as great forums for discussion.
  • Walk around the neighborhood. While research is certainly important, nothing will give you a better feel for an area than walking through it at various times during the day, and especially at night.

Update — 9/29: Two men were shot late last night at the popular Ethiopian restaurant Meskerem in Adams Morgan, and two other men were shot in the area a few hours earlier, according to the Washington Post.

Update — 9/30: An arrest has been made in the attack of a gay man in Adams Morgan this summer, according to DCist.

Update — 10/7: A witness to one of the assaults above was contacted by DC Councilman Jim Graham and invited to attend a community meeting recently with police present.

The police gave her statistics on crime in the Adams Morgan area which is designated “PSA 303.”  The stats showed a 123% increase in violent crime over last month (and a 500% increase in gun assaults), as well as a 71% increase in violent crime over one year ago.

The police listened to her concerns and are going to take the following measures to increase safety in the neighborhood:

1. Increase patrols in the immediate area.
2. Position a car in the Ontario alley.
3. Add undercover vice coverage.


  1. Lauren said at 3:17 pm on Tuesday September 30, 2008:
    I personally don't think that this has much to do with gang violence. I'd be curious to know if the crime in Adams Morgan has largely been ignored or overlooked in the last few years because most of the assailants are white. Would the coverage of, and outrage to the crime in that part of the District be different if it were blacks attacking white club-goers? My guess would be no.
  1. Maria said at 6:00 pm on Tuesday September 30, 2008:
    Very timely piece. The harassment of women in Adams Morgan is also getting out of control. The last time i went there i spent a good deal of time swatting away the wondering hands of men on the street. Disgusting.
  1. Ted said at 6:33 pm on Tuesday September 30, 2008:
    I used to enjoy going out at night in Adams Morgan when I first lived in the DC area 8 years ago. While you had your usual drunken bar scuffles, it was overall a safe and jubilant environment where people can come have a few and not worry about being violently assaulted after leaving an establishment. I stopped hanging out there at night about 4 years ago as the overall atmosphere just became increasingly hostile, especially after midnight. I do believe a combination of excess alcohol, massive crowds in a small space and the thugs that hang out in the area and harrass and assult bar patrons have definitely contributed. Ironically, Adams Morgan is much calmer during the day as opposed to nightime. In fact, it's a quaint place to spend an afternoon over a cup of coffee and a book. Just be out of there before dark.
  1. dc_publius said at 7:29 pm on Tuesday September 30, 2008:
    Areas that straddle between good and bad neighborhoods are historically problem areas. They are the closest/most conventient areas for bad elements from poor neighborhoods to go to to committ a certain subset of crimes (theft, robbery, cab breakins, etc) I have been going to Adams Morgan since 1997. I think some people have selective memories. It used to be worse. Back then, fewer people saw it as safe and did stupid things to make themselves attractive victims. (stumbling around random streets drunk.) Today, a lot of people think AM is another Dupont and don't take the precautions they used to. AM is not Gtown and people need to be more careful off the strip.
  1. Chris said at 6:53 am on Wednesday October 1, 2008:
    dc_publius, your oh-so-urbane & know it all comments that blame the victims are not appreciated. Personally, I have lived at 19th & Kalorama since 1998 and have been familiar with Adams Morgan since high school (back in the late 1980's). While I do think there were more homeless and more aggressive panhandling going on circa 1997-99, I have noticed an increase in violent muggings that either involve 1 attacker using a gun or multiple attackers (teens wearing hoods) beating the hell out of someone over the past 2 years. Sure, there's always been the last-call associated crime but this is different. I witnessed the aftermath of the attack mentioned above that occurred on September 21st (a Sunday night) while waking from my apartment to the 7-11 for laundry detergent and the guy was beaten to a bloody pulp (literally, his face was all swelled up and covered in blood). The guy was just at the wrong place at the wrong time and it could have been any other resident who happened to in the street at that moment. Then there was the shooting on Kalorama & 20th that happened on May 19th and another on July 13th as well as others. I too have read about the increase in sexual assaults another person mentioned. Yes, there's always been crime in Adams Morgan and there always will be, but something has changed in the last 2-3 years. LINKS: http://video.nbc4.com/player/?id=253069 http://www.nbc4.com/news/16869374/detail.html http://www.washblade.com/thelatest/thelatest.cfm?blog_id=21328 http://dcist.com/2007/11/28/robberies_promp.php http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TX5ccQuuqU8 http://www.myadamsmorgan.com/index.cfm?fa=contentNews.newsDetails&newsID=43691&from=list http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/19/AR2008041902578.html
  1. guy said at 4:26 pm on Wednesday October 1, 2008:
    i was assaulted and left bleeding and unconsciousness right on 18th street just last year. i've been a frequenter of adams morgan since 1995. its definitely worse now.
  1. quillan said at 7:08 pm on Wednesday October 1, 2008:
    i have lived in adams morgan since 1998. i was mugged a couple times when i first moved there (2000 and again in 2001). contrary to the rest of the main article, which appears to be based on anecdotes that the "blogger" happened to observe, i think the neighborhood has become safer over the past five or so years. the one exception is on (and just off) the strip after midnight on fridays and saturdays. for whatever reason, more and more violent crowds seem to be attracted to the scene in recent years and the police have claimed they don't have the capacity to patrol the area during those hours. a crackdown on weekend crime would take care of the issue and the baseless assertion that adams morgan has become a less desirable place to live. if anything, it is a much better place to live now than at any time in the past couple decades. it would be interesting to know if the blogger has an agenda - e.g., selling property in other neighborhoods in DC and/or buying property in AM. btw, i walk around the neighborhood at all hours without any problem whatever - as i mentioned at the outset, that was not always the case.
  1. Truth About It Dot Net said at 10:59 pm on Wednesday October 1, 2008:
    For one.....Adam's Morgan is getting a little worse...maybe not compared to way back in the day, but in comparison to a couple years ago. A big concern is the post bar closing foot traffic...it used to be manageable, but now, it's utter chaos as people hang out on the street, vying for pizza, cabs, or women. The sidewalk size is absurd. It's about time the police close 18th street on Friday and Saturday nights. Lastly, it's hard to compare to Anacostia....unless you're using a per capita (I realize it's hard to measure the amount of people that come into an area on a given night) - I'm not familiar with the latest version of downtown Anacostia, but I'd feel safe saying that there are many more people on the streets in Adam's Morgan on a week night, much less a weekend night....so, the amount of "victims" available is greater. I'm glad to be corrected if I'm wrong. But we can all agree, Adam's Morgan is a prominent area of the city, business and social-wise, and something needs to be done, aside from eliminating the right turn curve heading west on Columbia Road.
  1. klaatu said at 3:50 pm on Thursday October 2, 2008:
    For a decade and more I have chosen Adams Morgan to be my place to go have a good time in the District. I come in from nearly Olney MD because frankly there's nothing out here except for frou-frou pretentiousness or dive bodegas where nobody speaks English. But make no mistake about it, I come down to drink and to drink heavily. I live out in MoCo but I'm "all about the District" and have been since the early 1980s. I know a fair number of longtime residents and most of those are from all walks of life, though mostly they're in the service community rather than professionals. Small wonder, the service people are usually "from here" while most of the professionals seem to be carpetbaggers and coat-tail riders. But I digress. Starting maybe 3 summers ago, I detected the change. Adams Morgan used to be definitely a party place, but in recent years it has taken on the street-festival aspect which used to be seen at Hallowe'en in Georgetown. For years, that also was the best party in town, until all of those zebras at the watering hole attracted the packs of predators. One of my longtime friends down in A-M warned me about two years ago to be careful around last-call time. He said that about after midnight, all sort of folks came even from as far as across town "and they don't be up to no good, let me tell you, they just standin' 'round pickin' they targets". Well, it wasn't like I hadn't noticed them. I've been alert for that sort of thing for some decades now; I'm not just a partier in the District, I am a veteran of those streets and establishment. That being said, until quite recently, having spotted these people, I could generally avoid them. Not any longer is that possible. For me, the violence started 3 summers ago, when I saw one man tackle another to the ground. Someone came out of the crowd and got the man who was on top, gave him a boot right in the face as he leapt past the man, went into the crowd and kept on going. A circle of cleared space opened around the man, who clearly had had his bells rung. Not thinking any too clearly, I went out of see if I could help him, at the moment that he pulled out his badge. At the same time, he regained consciousness, decided I was the assailant, grabbed me and did a pretty good pile-driver and armlock on me. To the credit of the crowd, when I loudly announced "but I have done nothing", about five attorneys and paralegals stepped out of the crowd to assure the officer that I had been trying to help, and not to harm, him. The interesting thing was this... one of those hangers-on types had been talking to me right before this happened, and what he had to say was "we been seein' you down here for couple years, been tryin' to figure out what you is about and into..." My point here is that as much as you might be watching the Street, the Street is watching you. Don't ever forget that and you might last a little longer. In recent years, the violence has been coming more frequently, to the point where nearly every time I head on down to Adams Morgan, elbows get thrown and fists fly, like as not right where I'm standing, if not necessarily personally involving me. However, incidents where I get knocked on my ass are becoming more frequent, and in particular, someone needs to get out on that street and make sure that there are no juveniles whatsoever out there after maybe 10PM or so. There's at least one crew of maybe 4 or 5 kids in the 13-17 range who are only looking for trouble, who are pretty much neighborhood kids. The real problems you're going to have will be when they invite their cousins up to join in the fun; the cousins won't have the least bit of concern that they might be spotted later and brought to heel. Generally speaking, the problems you see in Adams Morgan are likely to be pushed back when the residents start being a more visible and active presence in the defense of their own neighborhood. It's easy for most of y'all to tell who's a local, who's just renting for a year or two, who's coming in from the 'burbs to party, and who's coming crosstown to get whilst the getting's good and doesn't mind shedding a little blood if that's what it takes. Get to know the local officers and if there's clearly some sketchy characters evidently setting up for some violence, make sure the officers know exactly who and when and where. There's nothing to be done about the partyers, most likely, other than to comport yourself with some decorum and try to set an example when you are out and about in that crazy weekend crowd. Remember, those guys are enriching the merchants and filling the tax coffers. And those merchants will be happy to work with you in terms of figuring out who is there to provide services or consume services, and who's there to take and take and take, wallets if possible and lives if necessary. This can all be worked out, eventually it will be.
  1. bouttime said at 12:57 am on Thursday October 9, 2008:
    Why am I not surprised? As a white guy who actually lived in Anacostia his first year of school in D.C. (yes, you heard that right) I know that Anacostia is not as dangerous as everyone thinks it is. The comparison just further proves how segregated and discriminatory this city is (yes, that goes for people of all colors, not just whites). I'm from the SOUTH originally, and we don't divide our cities this starkly along color lines. Time for D.C. to grow up. In any case, put alcohol together with bunches of young males several times a week and crime will almost always sky rocket. Simple sociology.
  1. Sarah said at 5:26 pm on Friday December 12, 2008:
    Needs to be updated with the shootings that occurred two days ago.
  1. Darrin D. Davis said at 5:13 pm on Friday May 1, 2009:
    As a resident and business owner in Anacostia, I am pleased that there is a positive & factual comparison of crime statistics between Anacostia and other DC communities. For too long Anacostia has been associated with crime. That may have been the case in years past, but as a real estate broker who sells in Anacostia the area has seen an influx of professional resident moving-in and decrease in crime. Darrin D. Davis Principal Broker/Owner www.AnacostiaRiverRealty.com
  1. Robert said at 7:36 pm on Friday May 1, 2009:
    I and others have made a real decision to avoid Adams Morgan as much as possible. We have been "assualted" there several times by local thugs looking to cause trouble. They woot and holler at the females and look for reasons to pick fights with the males. I once had a jumbo slice smashed out of my hands with an invitation to fight over it if I "had a problem" with it. Additionally, the extra cops recently have been a good effort, but I've seen them spend more time hasseling people that are less the problem (general drinkers) then those there obviously praying on the party goers. Lastly, as someoen who actually looked in the Anacostia area before buying in Brookland, I would say my opinion is that while the crime rates may be lower in Anacostia a large part of that is because they lack the close proximity of afluent and general poverty that brings about much of what you see in Adams Morgan.
  1. colin said at 10:43 pm on Saturday May 2, 2009:
    For some additional crime analytics, you may try SpotCrime.com. We are currently working on neighborhood data. Here's an example: http://spotcrime.com/analytics/dc/Washington/borderstan
  1. LP resident said at 6:42 pm on Wednesday May 6, 2009:
    It finally took a first year white southerner to clearly explain everything about the district. He also managed to breakdown the complex topic on crime. F_moron.

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