Urban Survival Skills
July 27, 2006 1:34 PM   Subscribe

SoutheastDCFilter: Survival Skills for the Urban Jungle?

I'm going to be working evenings/nights in SE, the area just south of I-295, for a few weeks. I'll be mostly working indoors with a large group of people, but I'll have to walk to my car and leave the city between 1 and 6 AM most mornings. I've heard stories from many, including a friend who sometimes makes daytime visits to the navy yard for his work, that the neighborhood is far from friendly. Is this the case?

I'm a 6'2" white guy. My car is old, battered, and nondescript. Other than concealing all valuables and doing my best to look like I'm not at all nervous, can anyone suggest other urban survival skills? I grew up in a small town so I'm not sure if I should seriously be worried, and what, if any, additional steps I should take to make myself not a target in a possibly rough neighborhood.
posted by Alterscape to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Even concealing all valuables might not be enough in that area. I have friends who have started leaving their car doors unlocked because they were broken into so often, even with no valuables in view or inside.
posted by reverendX at 1:42 PM on July 27, 2006

What's the N/S street near where you'll be working, i.e. the number street?
posted by GriffX at 1:54 PM on July 27, 2006

In terms of personal safety, I would recommend you leave closer to 6am than 1am -- if at all possible. But your car... um.. have to chime in with Alterscape. The battered-ness might help. You might try to under-dress in order to not stand out.

Since you asked, your friend is right. It's far from a friendly area. I would not go there period -- but I'm a girl and all. I work in a "nice"-ish area of DC and was accosted by a homeless guy a few months ago. With lots of business/commuter types around who paid no attention whatsoever. Good luck.
posted by bluemoonegg at 2:01 PM on July 27, 2006

Response by poster: I'll be near 13th.
posted by Alterscape at 2:03 PM on July 27, 2006

I don't know how valuable this counsel will be, but here goes: I've lived for 23 years in an integrated neighborhood in Prince George's County within a softball throw of the DC line. I ride a high-performance motorcycle almost every day. But I would consider it far too risky to regularly walk around that neighborhood between 1 and, say, 3 or 4AM. I would consider it almost inevitable that I'd get mugged, and getting injured or even murdered a very real possibility.

Is a different job or alternative transportation a possibility?
posted by mojohand at 2:43 PM on July 27, 2006

Agree with the other posters. I wouldn't go there between 1 and 6 p.m., let alone 1 and 6 a.m. and I am 6' 3". Don't want to put you off but DC Police Chief Ramsay has declared a state of emergency because of all the nasty things happening even in nicer areas of DC. Try and find a job somewhere safer, like Baghdad or Tyre.
posted by TheRaven at 3:29 PM on July 27, 2006 [1 favorite]

Well, my take on this is a little different, I suppose. I used to visit SE regularly on weekend nights, because that's where the big clubs were. It's been a while since I've done that, but it didn't strike me as being as bad as everyone made it out to be.

Have you considered riding a bicycle instead of a car? You can bring that inside with you. And, as far as danger goes, you're more likely to get mugged walking to or from your car than anything else. You get on the bike right away, you probably won't have any problems.

But again, I think that people are making it sound worse than it is. And have you seen the Big Chair?
posted by me & my monkey at 3:40 PM on July 27, 2006

I live in SE, a few blocks north of there on 16th.

I've always been a little leery of the 295 underpasses. They sometimes are a hangout for people who are most likely harmless, but I'm not comfortable with the low visibility. Late at night I don't walk through them and if I'm driving I treat red lights just as stop signs.

Also, be careful after around RFK. I've seen some sketchy stuff around the parking areas, by the river, and along the access road that runs from Barney Circle to the stadium.

If you get lost or in trouble, you're not so far from the police station.

The neighborhood is a ugly, but as long as you stay on the northwest side of the Anacostia you're probably not going to run into trouble. It's not the suburbs, but it's also not straight out of Mad Max. Don't listen to TheRaven, the "crime emergency" is only a political ploy to keep the police union from complaining about changing their officer's deployments.
posted by peeedro at 3:47 PM on July 27, 2006

Gosh, I believe there may will be a bit of unfavorable reaction to this but...1 to 6 in the morning where I was leaving work was dangerous so is the area you will be leaving. I once worked in a very dangerous area closing a 4 star restaurant---twice intruders were found hiding inside after closing. As a homicide officer with three other police people in the conversation, told me----buy a gun walk out with it in plain, very visible sight. They did add that it would be very unlikely anyone would approach me. I would be view as "crazy"--they were right folks crossed the street. I must add that I was a young white girl and each police person assured me that it was absurd for me to worried about being arrest for this. Not fair, but......
posted by dsaelf at 4:06 PM on July 27, 2006

Are you people fucking kidding me?

You aren't going to be hanging out there, you aren't going to be walking the streets all night. It's a very poor neighborhood, probably the "worst" in the district proper, but mind your own business, park near your workplace, and you'll be as fine as you would be in Georgetown. I'd say your car is probably more at risk because it's old (easier to break into, less likely to get stopped if stolen and driven around), but that would be pretty much the same everywhere.

This from a 5'2" White Girl, if it really counts.
posted by crabintheocean at 4:32 PM on July 27, 2006

And don't "buy a gun and walk with it in plain sight". Again, are you fucking kidding me? That would be a very quick ticket to jail on serious felony charges in DC, where guns are basically illegal.
posted by crabintheocean at 4:34 PM on July 27, 2006

This DC native wouldn't enjoy your wee-hours trek across the parking lot, but I'd still do it. What's your alternative -- calling a cab?

And dsaelf, doubt that your homicide officier was in DC -- all handguns are illegal there. (NRA DC page).
posted by Rash at 4:35 PM on July 27, 2006

Yes, it's an extremely sketchy area (another 5'2" girl who wouldn't go there by herself), but you're not going to get killed for walking to your car. Just walk fast, act like you know what you're doing (try not to look nervous) and keep aware of your surroundings -- walk closer to the curb than to buildings, for example so no one can catch you by surprise from a doorframe.
posted by echo0720 at 5:52 PM on July 27, 2006

Would it be possible for you and your coworkers to leave as a group, to escort each other? Not sure if that would deter a really determined thug with a gun, but it might provide a margin of safety with the lower-testosterone segment of the troublemaking class.
posted by jason's_planet at 8:16 PM on July 27, 2006

Crab and echo: I think you missed something. He's not asking about doing it once. He's talking about doing walking thru it repeatedly. It's as if he were playing Russian Roulette. Once, maybe he'd get away with it. Every working day? Sooner or later, your brains will be all over the wall, metaphorically I hope, but literally is not out of the question. That's a fucking dangerous part of town.

The DC handgun law advice is spot on, tho. Only criminals have handguns in DC.
posted by mojohand at 12:08 PM on July 28, 2006

Sooner or later, your brains will be all over the wall, metaphorically I hope, but literally is not out of the question.

That's stupid. Do you really believe that?

What about my advice made you think I missed something? I work down there late at night and early in the morning. The OP is smart to be cautious and not want to look lost or hang out on the street, but your "advice" is ridiculous.
posted by crabintheocean at 5:28 PM on July 30, 2006

Response by poster: As a followup to anyone watching this thread, I figured out a way to carpool with some other folks living between me and work on the days I have to be down there. Not foolproof, but I figure three dudes are less likely to be accosted than one dude.
posted by Alterscape at 6:41 PM on July 30, 2006

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