- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2008

The Trinidad neighborhood for the past several years has been one of the last opportunities in the city for families and others to buy affordable homes in an up-and-coming neighborhood.

However, a surge in violent crime in the Northeast neighborhood has residents wondering whether their big move was a big mistake, also a predicament in other major cities.

“After 8:30 at night, we have to be inside,” said Ricky Boyd, 26, who two years ago moved to Staples Street Northeast with his wife and toddler.

Residents in the neighborhood of mostly row houses on quiet, tree-lined streets said they have become so rattled by the violence - including two weekend killing sprees since late April - that some monitor police Web sites and immediately move indoors upon hearing a loud noise.

Of the 41 homicides in the city since April, seven of them have been in Trinidad. Reports show 24 assaults with a deadly weapon since that time.

The neighborhood is part of the large 5th Police District, where 14 homicides have occurred since April and 22 since January. The number of homicides in the District this year is 73, the same as this time last year.

After an especially violent two weeks in April in which 10 people were killed, Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier doubled and tripled patrols in the district.

Mr. Boyd and other residents also are concerned about the violence resulting in a decrease in property value.

“I thought I was making an investment,” Mr. Boyd said. “But all these shootings are turning it sour.”

Home pricesin Ward 5have almost tripled over the past 10 years, according to a study by the District and the Urban Institute. Those in the Trinidad area have stagnated over the past 18 months, at about $260,000 according to the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems.

“I was looking to buy a place with a nice yard in a nice neighborhood,” said Danielle Bays, 38, who lives on Morse Street. “It’s concerning.”

Miss Bays also said Wednesday that she remains disturbed by a homicide that occurred a few days before she moved into her home in April but has no intentions of leaving.

Claude Labbe, a real estate agent, said the lack of growth in the market has been noticeable.

“Over the last six months, we’ve seen appreciation in almost all areas except Trinidad,” he said. “People just aren’t as interested in the area, so it has not increased in value.”

Developers have tried to attract new residents with retail shopping and entertainment.

The long-standing Hechinger Mall at Benning Road and Maryland Avenue, east of Trinidad, now has a Pizza Hut.

Just south of Trinidad is the H Street corridor, a popular hangout for young professionals recently revived from the 1968 riots with such spots as the Atlas Theater, the H Street Playhouse and live music venues such as the Rock & Roll Hotel.

“I’m not concerned,” said Fritz Wood, the hotel’s owner and general manager. “I still walk these streets. People are still moving here. The police presence is good.”

Council member Harry Thomas, Ward 5 Democrat, thinks the area will continue to grow but said new homeowners should be prepared for growing pains.

“People sometimes when they move into these neighborhoods of transition, they have to understand the plight of the people,” he said.

Chief Lanier this week announced a plan that will start Saturday in which police will establish checkpoints in Trinidad where motorists must present identification before entering.

Some residents Thursday were skeptical about the plan because police will not question pedestrians.

“If [criminals] are going to do something, they’re going to do it anyway,” said Ernestine Brock, 60, of Northeast. “They’ll just start walking into the neighborhoods.”

Others say that even the slightest tightening of access into neighborhoods can go a long way.

“If you’re in the neighborhood and you don’t have ID and you don’t live there you shouldn’t be around,” said Linda Mitchell, 42, of Northeast.

The new residents’ situation is nothing new.

Just recently, residents in Logan Square neighborhood have faced a wave of violence, largely committed by those pushed out of other neighborhoods by more affluent residents who escalating rents.

Also in recent years, residents in west Los Angeles have had to deal with violence not displaced by gentrification.

Ronnie Walker, who lives on Holbrook Avenue Northeast, in Trinidad, said he has become used to the violence.

“You might hear gunshots right now,” he said. “All that means is get indoors.”

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