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Picture, if you can, the H Street Northeast corridor in a few years: high-rise apartment buildings, revamped sidewalks, busy storefronts, streetcars and pedestrians bustling this way and that. Is there anything missing from this picture?
The answer, according to Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6A, is yes — police presence.
When the police districts and police service areas were realigned two years ago, the H Street Northeast corridor landed in the 1st district. The problem, according to ANC6A commissioner Joseph Fengler, is that the new policing structure left the corridor without much of a police presence — the 1st district station is in Southwest D.C., while the district’s lone substation is located in Southeast.
H Street Northeast has long had to deal with the stigma of being known as a crime corridor. And now, with new businesses and residential properties popping up left and right, protecting them from the crimes that typically plague commercial corridors is something Fengler said has to be addressed.
The idea of another substation, this one much closer to home, is an enamoring one, but there also are a wide range of options that the group is willing to explore, Fengler said.
“On the left-hand side is the substation,” Fengler said. “But there are varying degrees — a storefront station with police, or with citizen volunteers at a desk there so the police can be out on the street. ... There could even be a kiosk, on the far right-hand side.”
The proposed landscape of H Street is the primary catalyst for the need for change. But, Fengler said, the revitalization has also started to rejuvenate the surrounding areas, which is further necessitating the need for police presence.
“It’s H Street, but it’s also simply the physical manifestation of a very good situation for a substation or storefront because of the commercial corridor of H Street,” Fengler said, adding that the corridor is a “target area” for crime. “But it’s to support the whole Near Northeast community. Everything from Massachusetts Avenue to Florida Avenue.”
Already, changes are being implemented along the corridor in an attempt to deter petty crime. Recently, Capt. Jeff Brown of the Metropolitan Police Department called for an increase in police beatwalkers along H Street from one daytime beat to two beats during both the day and night.
And residents are doing what they can, as well. Marc Lesnick, a citizen coordinator in police service area 102, said he sees a larger police presence around H Street. However, he said that residents are encouraged to speak up and approach either the police or himself to help alleviate local crime issues.
But Lesnick cautioned that it doesn’t mean residents can do everything on their own, without police involvement.
“There are certain things the community can do and certain things the community can’t do,” Lesnick said, citing going to police forces such as the Focused Mission Team with larger neighborhood problems such as drug markets or drug houses. “What [residents] can try to do is work together to solve certain problems that are solvable to the regular community.”