On December 9, 2013, a local, small business along the 2100 block of Rhode Island Avenue NE was robbed by three unknown suspects. Check out the video by clicking here (and if you recognize anyone, please alert the authorities). Now, robberies occur across the City, and RIA NE isn’t the only business corridor that is affected. What is pretty unique is the effort that residents have taken upon themselves to reinvigorate and attract new businesses to the Avenue. Part of this attraction is to assist our local businesses and those looking to open up on the Avenue to feel safe.
This past year, a new liquor store (re)opened on the Avenue. There was some community pressure on the owner to not put security glass in place so it wouldn’t look so dangerous to even shop there (similar to what Bloomingdale Wine and Spirits did in the past quite successfully). The owner of the newly reopened store didn’t budge and has the glass in place around the register area. What will it take for businesses (and for that matter, residents) to feel safe enough to remove these security apparatuses from their stores and make them more approachable and neighborhood-friendly? More police patrols? It’s a hard answer but the Avenue could use a more focused, and on-the-ground police presence in the community than we have already seen.
Now this isn’t to say that RIA is unsafe. We have our issues like any other neighborhood in the City (less than some areas, actually). It is understood that businesses are still going to be robbed no matter what we do but if we are going to succeed as a community that wants our Avenue to thrive, we need everyone (police, community groups, businesses, and residents) to be part of the solution. Community policing and more businesses on the Avenue are a good way to create an unwelcoming environment for criminals (think of the broken window theory). The more we allow graffiti, vandalism, and even littering to occur along the Avenue, the more escalation to more, more violent crimes will occur like this robbery at the 7-11 along RIA NE.
Here are some crime stats for the past year for RIA NE:
Our area has seen an increase of 47% in theft (1% citywide during the same time frame), and an increase of 10% in Robberies without a Gun since 2012 (1% drop citywide in the same time period).
So do yourself and your community a favor: report anything you see that is wrong, even the smallest infractions. Help clean up the Avenue. Attend community meetings (PSA, ANC, etc). Don’t let a culture of knowing anyone can get away with something persist. Report graffiti to the City so it can be removed. Ask that businesses clean up their trash around them. Report on abandoned buildings. Just don’t ignore it.