“They didn’t know we take vacations down here in Barry Farm?” local activist Gregory Baldwin scoffed. A crosstown listener might have assumed he was referring to some out of town jaunt, but in this forgotten locale it is a statement about the neighborhood’s reduced homicide rate.
According to Homicide Watch DC, a website that tracks every murder in the city, Barry Farm had not seen a murder this year until the third week of October. In one of the most historically dangerous neighborhoods of the District this is a palpable sign of progress.
Recent Deaths Mask Progress
In the early morning of October 17, 25-year-old Antonio Headspeth was found unconscious in the rear of the 1100 block of Stevens Road SE. He had been shot and was pronounced dead on the scene. Police have yet to charge anyone with Headspeth’s murder.
On the evening of October 20, Jodie Ward was found unconscious in a child’s bedroom in a home in the 1100 block of Eaton Road. The 30-year-old male had been stabbed and was pronounced dead on the scene. Police arrested 30-year-old Felicia Jones.
“It’s a struggling community that has tried hard to improve itself, and has had some successes. These two new slayings have shattered the peace,” says Lloyd Wolf, an intrepid photographer whose blog documents street memorials throughout the city. “I trust that proper resources will arise from within the neighborhood, and within the city, to properly honor the lives that have been lost,” he adds.
Before the two October murders, the last homicide in Barry Farm occurred in November 2010. Within recent memory annual neighborhood murder statistics tended towards the double digits.
The sweeping reduction in Barry Farm’s murder rate, in part, reflects citywide reductions over the past decade. In the last two years there have been less than 150 homicides recorded citywide.
Since 2004, when Mayor Williams identified Barry Farm as one of 14 “hot spots,” the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has moved aggressively to police the neighborhood. In 2006, the neighborhood, first inhabited and built by freedmen in the 1860s, was chosen as one of four New Communities, meaning the eventual transformation of its 600 plus public housing units within Barry Farm and Park Chester into more than 1200 mixed-use units. [ED Note: This refers to a previous redevelopment plan. For latest visit here.]
In November 2007, under Mayor Fenty, Barry Farm became a “Focused Improvement Area” which sought to combine community policing with improved social service delivery. Barry Farm has now been designated a “focus area” by MPD according to Joel Maupin, Commander of the Seventh District, which includes Barry Farm.
“Our officers have really bonded with the community,” says Maupin citing a recent meeting in which the police received a standing ovation from residents. “We have a constant level of patrol, 24 hours a day,” Maupin confirms.
Regardless, Baldwin, a repeat survivor of gun violence, is not waiting around.
A Survivor Gives Back
Baldwin, a repeat survivor of gun violence, employs bold tactics to deliver a message of non-violence to the residents of Barry Farm. Speaking to local youth, Baldwin often lifts up his shirt to expose the colostomy bag that filters his excrement.
“There’s a shock value,” says Tendani Mpulubusi, a multi-discipline artist and activist in Barry Farm. “Even those that might be desensitized because of all they’ve seen. Greg’s story hits them. It’s a reality check.”
Through Helping Hands Inc., his own non-profit and with the supported of the United Black Fund, Baldwin backs his words with actions. At a recently organized back-to-school event, he distributed 100 backpacks to area youth. This month, he is preparing for his annual Thanksgiving-themed banquet held on the neighborhood’s basketball courts where talent from the region and National Basketball Association compete in the summer’s Goodman League.
“We need something we can put our hands on,” says Mike Taylor, Director of the Barry Farm Recreation Center on Sumner Road. With the pending re-development of Barry Farm there is “a lot of anxiety in the community,” Taylor points out.
To allay resident’s fears, community activists like Baldwin need to be given greater access to city officials to relay popular concerns. “He can get the people involved,” Taylor says.
Baldwin’s efforts have drawn the attention of city officials. Mayor Vince Gray recently filmed a Public Service Announcement with Baldwin, who walked him through the neighborhood making recommendations on how the city can improve services.
“The coffin [Baldwin] carries in his truck helps send a message that resonates,” Maupin says.
To those familiar and unfamiliar with the everyday struggles of Historic Anacostia, news that the proprietor of Uniontown Bar & Grill has been charged in a federal drug trafficking case in Maryland and Texas couldn’t hit harder. The thunderclap of attention is a calamitous development for a neighborhood still on the periphery of a revitalized city.
“Uniontown,” says Charles Wilson, President of the Historic Anacostia Block Association, “is a glimmer of hope. Even though this had nothing to with Anacostia people are going to wonder.”
From within the ranks of Historic Anacostia’s working class community and emerging group of young professionals, Uniontown’s opening earlier this year and subsequent success was solid evidence the neighborhood could support commerce. Unlike crosstown areas where craft brew abundantly flows from the taps of multiple watering holes, Uniontown thrived because of its exclusivity as the only traditional sit-down restaurant in the neighborhood. Senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security rubbed elbows with community activists, both cheerful to toast a symbol of progress in the neighborhood. Cognizant of Anacostia’s unrealized retail potential, many hoped Uniontown’s success would attract new investment.
Multiple sources in the neighborhood said they feel baffled, confused, and betrayed. Apparently, Natasha Dasher, the owner, had been seen as recently as Friday at the restaurant. Two separate Facebook pages have been active within the past week, and their Twitter was last updated Friday.
“I don’t know anything about that,” said the Saturday night bar tender when asked about the staff reaction to the news of Dasher’s drug trafficking arrest. Speaking over a packed house, he said a reporter from The Post had been in the restaurant waiting for Dasher earlier that afternoon, but left after she hadn’t shown. The bar tender did not know the reason for the reporter’s presence.
Over the past year there was no indication of any insidious activity at Uniontown, at the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue and W Streets SE. Officers from the Seventh District were a regular presence. During a visit earlier this year a patron took his beer outside, drinking illegally on the street. He was kindly asked to leave.
Further down Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, towards the intersection with Good Hope Road, one of the area’s many vacant buildings speaks softly, yet presciently. “WE CAN JUST PRETEND” is etched on a glass panel, since broken, of a former furniture store. Similar phrases adorn buildings throughout the area’s commercial district.
When the facts emerge and circumstances are more fully explained, the worst could be confirmed against the better hopes of the community. Let’s hope not.
In the early months of his second term President Bill Clinton’s motorcade, returning to the White House from Andrews Air Force Base, barreled down Suitland Parkway, riding past the abandoned Sheridan Terrace public housing development. The sprawling 11 acre site with multiple buildings housing 183 units sat vacant. It had become the domain of drug dealers who sold to squatters scattered throughout the graffiti strewn buildings; in the parking lot were burnt out cars with out-of-state license plates.
Topographically defined by its rolling landscape that reaches inshore from the Anacostia River, the neighborhood bearing the river’s name has numerous hills and bluffs. In the 1960’s, the Sheridan Terrace public housing project, built on the hill overlooking Suitland Parkway, was constructed and “touted as urban dwellings with a suburban appeal.”
However, its location quickly proved problematic as issues with water drainage slowly began to deteriorate the units. By the early 1990’s less than 50 families remained; the last resident moved out in 1993.
According to local lore, President Clinton realized foreign dignitaries flying into Andrews Air Force Base would likely take the same route to downtown Washington, passing by Sheridan Terrace. Clinton did not want the site to mar the foreign leaders’ impressions of the nation’s capital and therefore, in 1997 the entire development was demolished.
For more than a decade the site sat as nothing more than a large pile of dirt until William C. Smith, well-known throughout East Washington, joined with Jackson Investment Co. and Union Temple Community Development Corporation to compete for HOPE VI funds being administered through the DC Housing Authority to redevelop the former Sheridan Terrace.
HOPE VI, a program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — an earlier phase of the program devoted funds to the redevelopment of the former Arthur Capper Carrollsburg Dwellings off M Street SE prior to the construction of the Nationals Stadium in 2006 — is a federal initiative that provides funds to develop sites of former public housing projects into mixed-income communities. Sheridan Terrace was the seventh such project in DC. Chicago is the only other city with a greater presence of Hope VI projects.
The ideology of HOPE VI focuses on defensible space, a concept of environmental design aimed at reducing crime and increasing neighborhood safety through the deliberate use of architectural design and new urbanism, a design concept promoting walkable neighborhoods made of mixed housing options that are connected to hubs of public transportation.
After three rounds of competition, the group led by WCS won a $20 million grant in 2007 to begin the first phase of the redevelopment of Sheridan Terrace, re-named Sheridan Station because of its proximity to the Anacostia metro station.
Sheridan Station, now within the area being branded as “CHASE” (Congress Heights, Anacostia, Saint Elizabeths), is located directly east of Sheridan Road, bound by Howard Road, Sayles Place, Bowen Place, Stanton Road, and Pomeroy Road.
To fully fund the first phase, estimated to cost $28.8 million, nearly $6 million in federal stimulus grants have also been provided. The total project has an estimated cost of $105 million; it is to be completed in four phases and will eventually include 344 units, of which 161, 48%, will be for sale and 183, 52%, for rent.
Sheridan Station’s 1st Phase
Lofts in the 1st phase of development will be available for rent this fall, 114 units are planned to come online, with 45 former residents expected to return. There are 8 different layouts across available efficiencies and 1 and 2 bedroom units. The for-sale townhomes and condominiums, with 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths begin at $250,000 and $235,000, respectively. Units offer 9 foot ceilings with stainless steel Energy Star appliances, walk-in closets, wood laminate flooring, and a washer and dryer. For units that face Suitland Parkway, the portrait windows have been re-enforced to block out noise from the passing traffic.
“Aside from the design itself, which we believe to be sleek and urban while capitalizing on unique topography and sight lines, we have the advantage of location, location, location,” observed Carol Chatham, Vice President, Communications of William C. Smith + Co.
Breaking ground on May 10, 2010, WCS has remained tightly on schedule. Chatham points to “cooperation amongst financial partners, excellent consultants, and sub contractors” as the reason the project’s timeline has remained on pace.
“Sheridan Station is designed to do more than just uplift people. It will have an economic impact as well as improve housing options in the immediate area,” said Barry LeNoir, Chairperson of the Sheridan Station Hope VI Advisory Committee and President of the United Black Fund whose stand-alone building sits at the junction of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, Howard Road, and Sheridan Road.
Over the past 18 months LeNoir has been involved in the “interactive engagement process” of “getting former residents ready to participate” in the return to the site of their former homes. The group has held monthly meetings since the project’s inception and focused on identifying needed on-site amenities, which will include a 5,500 square foot health and wellness center, community meeting rooms, green rooftop garden and a computer lab.
“The Advisory Committee is an invaluable resource. Being able to hear from former residents of Sheridan Terrace and having the benefit of their experiences, both good and bad, is helping us create a sense of place,” says Chatham.
Impact on Anacostia
For long-time Anacostian and community activist Hannah Hawkins, Sheridan Station is wait-and-see. Known for her work with Children of Mine, an enrichment program for neighborhood children located in historic Anacostia, Hawkins began her program in the late 1980’s by transforming two empty apartments in Sheridan Terrace into a welcoming community space.
“I went there when no one else wanted to go,” remembers Hawkins, who moved her program to its current location on Mount View Place in May 1992. “I walked those corridors every day, morning, noon, and night.”
Hawkins warned that “we know William C. Smith has done a wonderful job re-developing that area and we don’t want to see it a year later declining.”
Citing the growing perception of “a great conflict” between homeowners and government subsidized renters at the mixed-use development Henson Ridge off of Alabama Avenue in Congress Heights, Hawkins said, “I hope and pray they will do major screening. I want everyone, the owners, the renters, the developers, and the community to benefit from this.”
With the recent opening of some notable small businesses on lower Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue and the continued growth of Anacostia’s arts district, WCS knows there is a newfound attention on the area.
“Many eyes are watching the Sheridan project,” says Chatham. “Success at Sheridan will encourage further development along the MLK corridor.”
“Retailers are always asking about new housing units when they are looking to invest in Anacostia,” said Stan Voudrie, Principal of Four Points LLC. “Sheridan Station, along with Matthews Memorial Terrace, is very positive for the neighborhood. High density helps to push commercial development and investment which everyone wants.”
* A print version of this article appears in July’s East of the River.*
A couple of weeks ago I was riding down South Capitol Street to drop off a friend on Forrester Street when I noticed a large group of Guardian Angels gathered directly across the street from where three folks were untimely murdered on March 30 as part of a larger raise-the-crime-and-murder-rate effort by a group of parasitic dumb-dumb EBT yungins. Unfortunately, I didn’t snap a photo with my iPhone, but I’d guestimate they were at least t 10 – 12 deep.
H/t to WUSA9 who beat me to the story here.
As a youngster in the ’90′s I can remember the Guardian Angels patrolling the red line and being received with mixed reviews.
One time a young D-boy challenged a member of the DC Guardian Angels to lay a finger on him. Even though he was a self-professed “nephew with rocks for my many Uncles”, he openly made fun of the Angels with the support of his young friends. The Angels didn’t respond and instead at the next stop switched cars. On the other hand, I can remember two young people loudly arguing about something meaningless. The GAs boarded the train and an older lady quickly got their attention and asked them to quiet the young people down. As soon as the GAs walked toward the young people they quieted down. One of the GAs then sat directly across from the young couple giving them a stern gaze. The young couple looked the GA up and down and simply got up and moved to the other end of the car. The exited at the next stop. Even though those memories are more than a decade for some reason they left a lasting impression.
Years ago, ’03/’04 I used to see the GAs around the Columbia Heights metro and surrounding area. A young guy I went to high school with, who was always a little off, was amongst the GAs at the time. He was wild and strong enough to bust your head, if he had to. Not sure where he is now, but hope he is well.
And, I saw the GAs down at the baseball games a couple times last year. They didn’t look like too ferocious, but looks can be deceiving. Photos so you can render your own opinion.
Back to the present — with last Wednesday’s shooting on the U2 bus as it navigated its route in East Washington, the MPD, with support of the GAs and ATF, is deploying its “All Hands on Deck” strategy this weekend.
Not sure if this effort will stop worthless, parasitic, social justice marching, EBT dependent, wannabe Lil’ Waynes who need to get their hair cut and learn to write, read, and speak the King’s English from clapping at a young college student who doesn’t give you her phone number — for which you probably wouldn’t even be able to call if your game was tight and you stepped right, because if it’s not the 1st or the 15th - you haven’t paid your Boost or T-Mobile bill.
The Syndicate does not know if the GAs will be given bus passes now as in the past they have been told to pay their fares due to the associated liability issues for metro. Charge it to the game of urban crime fighting.
A great cover story from the old City Paper about the Guardian Angels in the city circa 1998 HERE.
To all, in sincerity, be safe out there.
This is not news to The Syndicate as last summer I heard stories of youngsters robbing and mobbing for iPods, iPhones, and other hand-held electronic devices. With all due respect, The Examiner was the first print news outlet last fall to break down Metro’s crime stats clearly showing a spike in robberies correlating with an increase in portable personal technology over the past five calendar years. The Examiner has continued its close coverage with The Post‘s coverage noticeably lagging behind. The city’s paper of record was at one time on top of the Metro beat, but they aren’t anymore. John Kelly can’t carry the entire paper on his back.
The best break down to date of Metro’s robbery crime trend and the history of crime on Metro is undoubtedly John Muller’s aka The Syndicate’s November 25, 2009 Washington Times article, “Metro Gets Safety Boost“.
Below is the full text.
Words of warning: Beware of pickpockets and snatch-and-grabs. Thieves ride public transit, too — and cell phones, iPods and the like are some of their favorite targets.
Metro opened its doors on March 27, 1976, with five stations on the Red Line, from Rhode Island Avenue Northeast to Farragut North, covering just 4.6 miles. None of Metro’s 51,260 pioneering riders that March day was yet in possession of an iPhone or iPod. Now encompassing five lines, 86 stations and 106.3 miles, with the Silver Line under development, Metro is experiencing an uptick in robberies because of the proliferation of cell phones, iPods of all sizes, and designer coats and handbags. (The initial phase of the Silver Line, linking Tysons Corner and Reston to the existing Falls Church stations, is slated to open in 2013. The second phase, to continue west to Dulles International Airport and Ashburn in Loudoun County, does not have a construction date yet.)
In May, Metro Transit Police activated a Robbery Suppression Squad. The plainclothes unit has made more than 60 arrests. On a recent Wednesday, five young adults were arrested at Gallery Place/Chinatown when an iPhone was used in a decoy operation, according to Deputy Chief Jeff P. Delinski.
“What we’ve seen is a dramatic increase in robberies, particularly in trains and on platforms. These have not been carried out with force or weapons, but instead have been perpetrated by pickpockets in snatch-and-grabs,” Chief Delinski said.
Gallery Place/Chinatown, with its active night life, sports venue and proximity to restaurants, movies and shopping, has become “D.C.’s Times Square,” the deputy chief says. Metro has responded by deploying a dozen officers Friday and Saturday nights, complemented by the presence of Metropolitan Police.
Between 7 and 8 p.m., three uniformed transit officers are visible patrolling the east side of Seventh Street Northwest, where the 70 bus arrives, and the south side of H Street, where many buses – including the 80 and X2 – arrive. Metropolitan Police are visible in cars and on foot as well.
Transit police have arrest powers within 150 feet of a Metrobus stop.
“Young kids, usually in groups, do the robbing. Or people try to be slick and bump up against you,” says Taylor Williams, 16, a junior at Flowers High School in Prince George’s County. She has seen people’s iPods, iPhones and wallets taken on the train and bus.
“The Metro has designed itself to be one of the safest systems in the country. There are high ceilings and few places to hide. I feel safe on the train,” says Paul Lockaby, 25, a software engineer in Fairfax who has been taking the Orange Line into the city for four years.
Others say they feel safe, too, though they have seen violence firsthand.
“I saw a boy get jumped right there,” says Celeste Freeman, a sophomore at Howard University, pointing to the Seventh and H Street exit of Gallery Place/Chinatown. “Late one weekend, after midnight, these five boys robbed this other boy and threw him down the escalator.”
“I feel safe. But if you don’t want your phone taken, don’t keep it out. When you play around, texting or gaming, people are going to take advantage,” says Ms. Freeman, a native of Wisconsin who primarily takes the Red and Green Lines.
“Metro Transit Police are a very unique police organization. It is the only trijurisdictional agency in the country. They have arrest powers in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Wherever the Metro goes, bus and rail, is their jurisdiction,” says professor Richard Sutton, adjunct faculty in George Washington University’s police science program.
“Officers in my classes were interested in how to better coordinate with other police agencies in the area. They were highly motivated and very curious,” says Mr. Sutton, a retired Department of Justice senior policy adviser who rode one of the first Yellow Line trains out of the Huntington station on Dec. 17, 1983, the first extension of the system beyond the Capital Beltway.
On June 4, 1976, President Ford signed a bill passed by Congress authorizing the Metro Transit Police Department, according to Metro’s Web site.
Today, 450 sworn police officers, 106 special police and 24 civilian security personnel serve 3.5 million people within a 1,500-square-mile area.
As Metro has evolved, so has its crime. Initial speculation that crime would be rampant on the rails did not materialize because of the visibility of transit police. In Metrorail’s first year, running weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. with no weekend or holiday service, there were 27 arrests, the majority for disorderly conduct.
However, as Metro has expanded, so has its crime. In 1979, concerned residents advocated for around-the-clock transit police presence at the Minnesota Avenue station. In the 1980s, Metro cracked down on its own employees as well as bandits who stole money from fare machines. Vehicle theft increased as stations with parking lots were added to the system.
Also, like any urban police, officers are targets of gunmen.
In Metro’s more than 33 years, two officers have given their lives in the line of duty. In 1993, 11-year veteran Officer Harry Davis Jr. was killed after pulling over a stolen car in the parking lot of Landover station. In June 2001, Officer Marlon Morales, with less than a year on the job, was shot at the 13th Street exit of the U Street station. He died of his wounds days later.
“The same criminals who are up in the streets, we deal with in the subway,” says Gary A. Padgett, a retired Metro Transit Police detective who worked Morales’ homicide case.
“When Officer Morales stopped Walter Johnson, who evaded his fare, he did so not knowing Johnson was carrying a gun he had used to shoot someone in Philadelphia only days earlier. I truly believe Johnson was in the area looking to get even,” says Mr. Padgett.
A routine background check by Morales would have revealed that Johnson was wanted for not reporting to his parole officer in Philadelphia. In July 2004, a D.C. Superior Court judge sentenced Johnson to life in prison.
In December 2007, Metro police dedicated a new substation at 5315 First Place NE, near the Fort Totten station, in Morales’ honor. The District 1 headquarters coordinates transit police patrolling Metro’s northern stations.
For fiscal 2009, 222.9 million rode Metrorail and 133.8 million rode Metrobus. According to crime statistics for January through September, the probability of being a victim of a Metro Part I Crime – aggravated assault, burglary, homicide, larceny, motor vehicle theft, rape or robbery – was 3.99 per million Metro riders.
Through September of this year, Metro Transit Police have received 44,024 calls for service, made 1,490 arrests, issued 4,996 criminal or civil citations and written 3,821 fare-evasion citations.
In a proactive effort to ease the long-simmering tension between working professionals headed home and waves of youths who ride Metro, the system initiated heightened patrols during after-school hours on Aug. 24 to coincide with the opening of the 2009-10 school year. Continuing from previous academic years, a daily conference call between transit police officials and D.C. Public Schools administrators has increased coordination and outreach efforts to improve student civility on Metro.
In March 2007, as a result of student focus groups, Metro and the school system launched a public awareness campaign, “Respect: Give it. Get it” to encourage more respectful behavior. The most recent joint effort of the school system, Metropolitan Police and Metro Transit Police provides additional attention to 12 stations in the District and Prince’s George’s County.
Though the total number of Part 1 crimes so far is higher than last year – 1,363 between January and September compared with 1,285 for all of 2008 – riders hope the decline in some crimes is a trend that will continue.
Larceny is down from a high of 639 last year to 562, and motor-vehicle thefts are down to 123 from a high of 144 in 2008.