The Wash
A group of young people walk toward the camera outside restaurant the Silver Diner

The Navy Yard business initiative that’s taking on crime

A small group of local businesses have banded together to create a new approach to safety. Could other areas in D.C. do the same? Navy Yard businesses say yes, but residents remain doubtful.

Sprawling out from the outfield entrance to the Nationals Park, the Navy Yard’s bar district is a lively place even without the allure of a baseball game. Bars, restaurants and ice cream shops line the streets.

The area consists of M and N streets SE block, with Half Street splitting it down the middle, and it is, according to some, one of the safer nightlife areas in D.C. This can be attributed to the work of local businesses on the block that wanted to make their street safer.

One such business is the Mission Group, a company that owns several bars across D.C. Its Navy Yard locations include the Royal Sands Social Club and Mission Navy Yard.

In January 2022, the Mission Group leadership worked with the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District and other Navy Yard businesses to find new ways to improve safety on their block.

“We all share a common goal of wanting to promote safety to our guests, staff and neighbors,” said Fritz Brogan, the managing partner and co-founder of Mission Group.

Tom’s Watch Bar fills with patrons as the night goes on.

“In addition to our internal security teams, we also helped create an initiative with our neighbors and the BID to hire off-duty MPD officers to patrol the block at night to keep guests and staff safe and help direct traffic for ride-share vehicles,” said Brogan.

Brogan said the initiative also incorporated other safety measures, including security cameras, better street lighting and a communications platform for businesses to instantly communicate with one another.

Gatsby Restaurant, another business on the block, is not a part of the Mission Group’s initiative, but its director of operations Victoria Gradia said its efforts extend to the rest of the area as well.

“The streets are brighter, the streets are lighter, and there’s a lot more security presence in general which has made the area very safe for nightlife,” Gradia said. “We all have great neighbors, and we communicate with our neighbors. We’re there to support each other.”

The initiative shows some promise. The block has seen 90 crimes this year to date, which is low compared to other nearby blocks. For comparison, the Capitol Riverfront BID has experienced nearly 600 total crimes this year to date, according to Metropolitan Police Department data.

Source: MPD D.C. Crime Cards. The dots can represent multiple incidents.

But some Navy Yard residents say it isn’t enough to keep the whole neighborhood safe.

“This area has a decent nightlife, but it is not as well policed as it could be,” said Southeast Ballpark resident Alex John. “There has been a major uptick in robberies in the past three years—vehicle break-ins, carjackings. I’ve been here almost 15 years and have never seen anything like this.”

John said the initiative worked for a hyper-local space, but it did not influence the rest of the neighborhood.

“I would say its effects do not extend past where there is a police presence,” John said. “There are a few neglected areas not far from the bar district that could use some additional presence so patrons can walk home safely a few blocks away.”

John referred to the gunshots heard late Saturday night one block away from the ballpark. There have been no official reports, but it left some residents shaken. Vicky Smith posted on a neighborhood Facebook group that she heard “around 20 shots” just before midnight.

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission and Metropolitan Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Not all residents think the answer lies in a higher police presence, however.

Alexandra H., who asked that The Wash not publish her full name, is a native of Sweden who moved to Navy Yard a few months ago. Alexandra said she understood the need for police but felt unsure if it was the best solution.

“I’m happy that it’s working, but it can’t be the answer to multiply [the police]. We have to be better than that,” Alexandra H. said.

Alexandra H. said that although she did not want to defund the police, she also did not want so much police presence that she felt as if she was living in a police state.

“Maybe we’re onto something, but how sad, the principle itself, that we need more police intensely and in every area,” she said. “So that is the danger. You need to look at the cause of the problem you are currently solving.”


Madeleine Sherer

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