D.c.'s Fast-Changing Noma Grapples With Crime As It Grows (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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D.C.'s Fast-Changing NoMa Grapples With Crime As It Grows

MS. EMILY BERMAN

00:00:08
Welcome to "Metro Connection." I'm Emily Berman, in this week for Rebecca Sheir, and today our theme is Safety. Now, defining what we mean by safety can be tricky. Is it all about feeling safe from crime?

MR. TONY GOODMAN

00:00:21
Both of these clubs closed and that's when a lot of the crime happens, is 2000 people, some of them drunk, that do cause crimes and get into fights outside the club and on the streets.

BERMAN

00:00:32
Or perhaps feeling safe on our local highways.

MS. MARLENE BERLIN

00:00:35
We want to be able to traverse the city safely, doing our errands, going shopping. And so we all have a responsibility to make our streets safer.

BERMAN

00:00:48
Or maybe it's even more personal, such as our physical health and well-being.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI

00:00:52
We're preparing for the unlikely eventuality that it might turn into a problem.

BERMAN

00:00:58
We'll look at safety in all these contexts this hour, and we'll being with a story about a single neighborhood, specifically the area just north of Massachusetts Avenue near Union Station. A few years ago the neighborhood was a no man's land of warehouses and parking lots, with a handful of public housing high rises. Today, it's a sea of construction cranes and scaffolding.

GOODMAN

00:01:22
There's few things more exciting for me than seeing a new tower crane grace the skyline. I like that.

BERMAN

00:01:27
Tony Goodman is an advisory neighborhood commissioner who moved to NoMa six years ago and now represents the neighborhood. We meet up on the corner of First and M Street Northeast, which is the center of it all.

GOODMAN

00:01:39
You've got large new apartment buildings on two corners, a new grocery store, coffee shops.

BERMAN

00:01:46
It's the home of the new NPR headquarters, a Harris Teeter, many cafes, even a Bikram yoga studio, but it's also been the site of some brutal gun violence. This past weekend, District resident Walter Goode Jr. was found two blocks from this corner, dead from multiple gunshot wounds. Detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department are continuing to investigate the homicide. In the past year, at least 23 people have been wounded in shootings nearby.

BERMAN

00:02:14
The most notorious incident happened back in March, when 13 people were injured in a drive-by shooting outside Tyler House, a low-income apartment building. Suspects have been arrested in that shooting, which was traced back to a nightclub nearby…

GOODMAN

00:02:29
Yeah, they're actually just up there.

BERMAN

00:02:31
…called Fur. According to Tony Goodman, much of the neighborhood's violence is connected to the clubs Fur and Ibiza, which are within a block of each other.

GOODMAN

00:02:40
So we're walking north on First Street right now, up past the new Hilton Garden Inn, Potbelly, many other stores, towards the Ibiza nightclub. At 3 a.m., both of these clubs close and that's when a lot of the crime happens, is 2,000 people, some of them drunk, that do cause crimes and get into fights outside the club and on the streets.

BERMAN

00:03:02
When he moved here, Goodman says he knew there would be crime, and there was.

GOODMAN

00:03:06
A few years ago in front of my house, one of the biggest concerns we had was open drug dealing right in front. There was rampant prostitution a few blocks away, which is still there, but I think has been improving. Mostly it was just a perception of safety that you didn't want to walk down these dark streets by yourself at night.

BERMAN

00:03:26
Slowly, he says, it's gotten better. Even though there are more people in NoMa than ever, there is less crime per capita. But those statistics can be less than reassuring when you hear of 13 people getting shot just blocks from your home. And when you're building a community, Goodman says, that just can't be happening. And even for people who've lived there a long time, like fellow ANC commissioner Alvin Judd Sr., the random shootings are still shocking.

MR. ALVIN JUDD SR.

00:03:52
People were just standing around, hanging around in front of the building when they started shooting. They was just hitting people, innocent people, and they didn't care. And the community is tired of it.

BERMAN

00:04:03
Judd has lived in this neighborhood for 53 years, since he was a baby.

BERMAN

00:04:10
As a lifelong resident, he knows just about everyone, and he's never been afraid to walk through his neighborhood, but, he says, he can see why others are.

SR.

00:04:19
I feel everybody, I don't care what ethnic group, should be able to walk the streets and you should be able to come off your porch, the elderly should be able to go to church without the fear of being mugged or robbed.

BERMAN

00:04:30
As we walk alongside the football field at Gonzaga High School, Judd points to the 50 yard line. That's where his house used to be. This was a tight-knit block and there was a strong sense of responsibility among the neighbors.

SR.

00:04:42
If we do something wrong in the neighborhood, it was the older person would tell on you and say I seen your son do this and that, and we'd get punished for it.

BERMAN

00:04:49
Nowadays, too many people are looking the other way, Judd says, which leads to rampant violence and crime. Tony Goodman, on the other hand, pegs the violence on the nightclubs. He and other residents are working to make sure the nightclubs take responsibility for their role in keeping the neighborhood safe, which includes monitoring who's in the club and what they're doing. A recent hearing by Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration found more than half of Ibiza's security cameras weren't working.

GOODMAN

00:05:19
Further, they couldn't actually tell the board which cameras those were, so they don't even know what they're not seeing and they don't know what they don't know. They are not following their own security plan, which is a requirement by the city in order to operate.

BERMAN

00:05:33
Which, Goodman points out, is illegal.

GOODMAN

00:05:36
You know, the city has invested millions of dollars to turn this spot of vacant industrial land into a real thriving neighborhood, and it's important that we take the next step to ensure that these clubs follow the law.

BERMAN

00:05:49
But both Ibiza and Fur are facing tough times. Fur is slated for redevelopment, and Ibiza has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. We reached out to the owners of both clubs; neither responded to our interview request before our deadline. In September, all the nightclub licenses citywide will be up for renewal. And you can bet NoMa's new residents will be making their voices heard. It's their neighborhood now, too, Goodman says, and they want to feel safe.

BERMAN

00:06:23
If you want to explore crime in any part of the district, including NoMa, we have a link to the Metropolitan Police Department's crime map, really interesting stuff. Check it out on metroconnection.org.
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