Thursday, August 9, 2007

down briggs chaney: the attack of john stabb

Part of a continuing series on Briggs Chaney Road - what it is and what it will become.
"anyhoo, i'm about a block away from my place coming home after work & really exhausted. out from the outdor pool area of my condo community pops up 5 enthusiastic (now i'm thinking all hopped up on goofballs!) young hs kids. i pay no mind until one of them comes up to me "hey whassup, hey hey hey". now i'm thinking this might turn into a random assualt & robbing. because they're all around me i can't pay attention to them all & one of them sucker punches me . . ." - John Stabb, lead singer of Government Issue
Thanks to DCist I find out that the lead singer of a 1980's D.C. punk band was attacked and beaten outside of his condo in the Briggs Chaney area a few weeks ago.

Sift through the Gazette's weekly Police Reports and you'll notice a lot incidents from Briggs Chaney. This one's only news because it's a person well-known within D.C.'s punk scene - but to the kids that jumped him, he's just some white guy.

"Seriously, never doubt the power of a group of clean-cut kids (not to play the stereotype card but this time they happened to be black teens) if you're walking alone somewhere," Stabb writes on a message board. "And i have my theory they actually live in this condo area so they can hit, rob, and run back to their homes."

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Park and Planning reports that the Fairland planning area - which comprises Calverton, Briggs Chaney and Burtonsville - has nearly a thousand Moderately Priced Dwelling Units, the overwhelming majority of which are in Briggs Chaney. The concentration of affordable housing - both subsidized and market-rate - in Briggs Chaney contributes to a distrust of perceived "outsiders." I'm not sure if the kids thought Stabb lived in the condo. This brings up a question of whether or not the kids would've jumped him (regardless of race) if they knew who he was.

There's also a lack of police presence. East County falls in MoCo's 3rd Police District, which covers the entire Route 29 corridor from Downtown Silver Spring to the Howard County line. Where are the cops? Downtown? In Long Branch? White Oak? They can't be everywhere at once, and kids know it and take advantage of it.

Briggs Chaney as it is exists today is a poorly-designed community where public and private space is ill-defined. It's easy to hide and easy to escape responsibility for maintaining the area around you. This enables crime by default.

And it's pretty easy to get lost, which creates more "outsiders" and offers "insiders" more opportunities to take advantage. While trying to find the East County Community Day last Saturday, a man pulled up in a car next to me and yelled "What the fuck is your hot ass doing out here?" Welcome to the neighborhood!

There are solutions, but they aren't simple and they aren't cheap. We have to rethink how Briggs Chaney is physically set up. We have to encourage the construction of more higher-end housing. And we need a greater police presence. Is the will there? Probably. But the money isn't.

7 comments:

S. said...

Where are the cops?
3D only has 50 officers. The beat spans from the DC line and down town Silver Spring to the HoCo line at the River. I've said this before: this area NEEDS to be it's own district with it's own personnel. Tell me, you say the will is there....who do we, as citizens, need to kick in the ass? Let me know I'll draft a petition...although I would need to be sure those signing are legal residents of the US....

That said I should post to my own blog :-) lol

Down by the River

Anonymous said...

What a surprise...more crime in the Briggs Chaney area. And I'll bet you a dollar the perpetrators are residents of some of the lovely low-income housing in the Briggs Chaney area. It's no wonder most of my friends have dumped this terrible area in favor of Howard County or other parts of Montgomery County where there is less low-income housing. If we've learned anything from the Briggs Chaney experiment, we know that residents of low-income housing (by and large) do not conform their behavior to the upper-income influences around them. So let's stop kidding ourselves. Any amount of low-income housing is going to be BAD for the rest of the community.

Anonymous said...

Since you said "not to play the stereotype card," that gets you off the hook, right? It's obvious that you're linking crime, lower income residents, and race, you just don't want to admit it. Just because one crime happened to be black on white doesn't mean it's a pattern.

Suck it up and admit you'd like your upper middle class suburb free of anyone who doesn't look or earn like you.

thecourtyard said...

I don't live in an upper-middle-class suburb. There are MPDUs in my community, and I'm fine with it.

I'm in no way saying that poor people commit crimes or black people commit crimes. (I am black, if you haven't noticed.) But poor people and black people in unstable communities can commit crimes. Briggs Chaney is not a stable community. A high concentration of renters, a disconnected layout, and a lack of police presence create a place where people come and go frequently, don't know their neighbors, and don't know who's in control.

This is an important discussion, which is why I wanted to start it. Feel free to continue - but please don't be anonymous.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous posting on 8/10/07 and to thecourtyard...

I don't have any MPDUs in my direct neighborhood and I very much want to keep it that way. Sadly, MPDUs (and any other form of low income housing) pose too many risks to nice neighborhoods like mine.

I unapologetically would prefer my neighbors to be upper income like me. Why? For the simple reason that upper income neighbors are more likely to adher to my upper income standards of behavior.

Proud to be anonymous!!

Jeanne said...

I'm a participant in MoCo's MPDU program. I am a friendly, law-abiding and peaceful person. Most of the people I have sat with in MPDU Orientation seminars seem to be the same. Just because we do not make a lot of money does not mean we are low class. Class comes from character and character, to me, has a lot more to do with not being prejudiced than with amount on the paycheck one brings home.

Thomas Hardman said...

This very much needs to be a Special Elections issue.

I had no idea that there were only 50 officers in the whole district. That's just not enough.

For almost 6 years now, I have been working with similar issues -- concentration of poverty -- in the Aspen Hill area, also a part of District 4. The so-called "BelPre/Hewitt corridor" is part of what Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's "Hot Spots" program calls the "mid-county crime corridor", with the other end of the axis being the Wheaton Central Business District.

It's too bad that -- when the cash was flowing freely -- we didn't adopt the policy of putting "mini stations" for fast response by officers to high-crime districts. I think that such facilities might go a long way towards at least having close-coupled monitoring of neighborhood problems.

Indeed, this fits right in with my idea of "Live Where They Work for Our civil Servants. Having a fairly high concentration of police officers and other civil servants being placed into foreclosed condos in that area might be the single best way, outside of special teams actions, to decrease the level of crime and forestall violence.