DC, like any big city, has crime. I know…big shock. But when you come to DC from a more secure area, you can easily become the victim of crime if you don’t know what to watch out for. Specifically when looking for housing, try to find first hand information about an area’s safety and crime. You can also access monthly crime statistics from the DC Police Department for a specific radius around an area where you’re looking to live. Log on to: http://crimemap.dc.gov/presentation/intro.asp. This site also has general safety tips at: http://mpdc.dc.gov/mpdc/cwp/view,a,1237,q,542013,mpdcNav_GID,1523,mpdcNav,%7C.asp.
Also, don’t visit the area just during the day. Plan to drive through the neighborhood in the evening. Many areas appear quiet and quaint in the daylight hours but become a much different area after dark. If you visit the city and are looking on foot, take a cab, rental car or have a friend with a car drive you around the property.
Day or night, questionable things I look for are:
Lots of graffiti
People aimlessly loitering or harassing passersby
Run down, boarded up properties
Burned out street lights and neglected road maintenance
Extra heavy duty bars on doors and windows
Old trash and litter lying around
Severely unkempt yards
Some neighborhoods may have a couple of these things in small amounts and be fine places to live. That’s where first hand opinions and recommendations can help you make decisions. But no matter how safe an area is, crime can still happen. My first piece of advice is that you do not make foolish decisions about your travels. This means traveling with others when you’re in new or questionable areas, do not travel in dark, desolate areas late at night and if you do have to travel alone, make sure someone knows when you’re supposed to arrive and will check up on you. Second, carry yourself with confidence….don’t look like a victim. Last, if you are in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable…leave or find help. You’d rather be safe than sorry so listen to your instincts.