Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Crime Wave

It's the morning after the Inauguration, and undoubtedly everyone (like the Growler) who took part in the festivities is giddy and a little sleepless after yesterday's big event.

But it's time to sober up and look closely at what is happening in our neighborhood.

Early Sunday morning, Khalil Siddiqi, a 50-year old Yellow Cab driver, was found dead at Princess and Buchanan Streets. After an autopsy, the death was declared a homicide, the first of the year in Alexandria.

On New Year's Eve, in broad daylight, the Smile Market at 1101 Queen Street was robbed at gunpoint. Then a week later, on January 7, the owner of the Fish Market in the 800 block of Pendleton Street was also held up by a gunman.

Add to that the streak of armed robberies last fall (which fortunately were quickly resolved by Alexandria police), and we have the making of a crime boomlet in our neighborhood.

What is going on here? We can blame the economy, but we also need to look closely at the fact that the suspects in the October robberies were from Prince George's County and apparently took Metro to the area to commit their crimes.

Criminals don't seem to be getting off at King Street Metro trains and marauding in Rosemont. Nor are they heading out of our own Metro station and turning down Braddock Road to wreck mayhem in Del Ray.

No, the target of opportunity is on our side of the tracks. And consider this as well: Queen and N. Fayette Streets, where loitering, drinking and drug dealing is still in evidence, is increasingly populated by hangers-on who don't live in the neighborhood. In fact, some of them don't even live in Alexandria, coming from places as far away as Woodbridge to claim their corners.

Instead of reflexively blaming public housing (which is just one element of the picture), we need to look at all City policies affecting our neighborhood. Are our elected officials at fault for continuing to adopt policies and advocate programs that indelibly stamp this as a low income community, even in the face of considerable and powerful demographic information that demonstrates this is not the neighborhood it was 30 years ago?

Does the City have a vested interest in keeping this neighborhood identified to the world at large (and the criminal element in particular) as a community where dysfunctional people who do not integrate well into society are tolerated and even welcomed?