The Wash

‘People are dying:’ Adams Morgan, Ward 1 residents scared about the rise of crime

Councilmember and DC police chief
Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau sits with DC Police Chief Pamela Smith to discuss crimes. Ward 1 members expressed concern. (Dima Amro/ The Wash)

Residents in Adams Morgan met to share fears of rising crime. Police admit the department lacks resources.

About 60 Ward 1 residents vented their concerns on homicide, carjackings and theft at a town hall with DC Metropolitan Police Department Chief Pamela Smith.

Residents from Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights sought answers for their fears of becoming another crime statistic. 

Allen Wright, a 7-year Adams Morgan resident, said he had seen more crime in the neighborhood and wants attention on curbing and solving the issues. 

He appreciated how the police chief handled herself, answering questions in a “holistic way.” However, he did not say the same for Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, who facilitated the event. 

“I think a lot of us who came here are skeptical of our council member,” Wright said. “She hasn’t been very concerned about addressing community concerns, including crime and she also didn’t seem to be supportive of the people actually doing the work like the police chief and her staff.” 

A group of people
About 60 Ward 1 residents raised concerns over crime at a town hall with the council member and police chief. (Dima Amro/ The Wash)

Wright said he saw an obvious contrast between Nadeau and the police chief when it came to supporting law enforcement in his neighborhood. 

Other community members at the event shared the same sentiment as Wright.

Some citizens yelled at Nadeau during the Nov. 28 event.

“People are dying,” one resident shouted from the back of the auditorium of the D.C. Housing Finance Agency, 815 Florida Ave. NW.

“I’m scared,” another woman in attendance voiced. 

“If you don’t address crime, you are really harming the most vulnerable people in the community,” Wright said. “Everyone in the community needs a safe space to live in and if you’re not focused on that and giving the police the tools they need, then you’re harming people.”

Wright said his biggest concerns are public drug use, or “open-air drug markets,” and robberies. 

“Adams Morgan is a great area,” he said. “I want to see the city council work on keeping it that way. You definitely see that there’s more crime and drug use in Adams Morgan. The carjackings are unnerving too.”

Adams Morgan residents, along with Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant dwellers, expressed fear and worry over the rise of robberies, assault and property crimes. 

Crime in Adams Morgan increased by 142 incidents in 2023, with the latest number sitting at 425 as of Dec. 3, according to MPD’s crime data.

Property crimes, including theft, burglary and carjackings, make up more than two-thirds of the crimes in Adams Morgan this year, according to the department. Theft made up about 270 of the 425 reports. 

“Crime has gone up,” the police chief said. “The responsibilities for our officers have also gone up, but we’re working with lower numbers [of officers]. We’re working diligently to build those numbers back up.” 

Most people in the crowd collectively agreed that more police officers need to be placed around the neighborhoods. Smith told the crowd that hiring more officers would help curb crime.

A group of people watching community leaders.
Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau sits with DC Police Chief Pamela Smith to discuss crimes. Ward 1 members expressed concern. (Dima Amro/ The Wash)

Nadeau told The Wash she introduced multiple bills to help reduce crime seen in Adams Morgan– including a bill that would increase the number of police officers. 

“I’ve got the Cadet Bill to help us with recruiting and retaining DC residents in the police force,” she said. “I announced two bills, one which would increase the reward and the relocation assistance for homicide… and then also a bill that would actually put emergency personnel now on the phones at the 911 call center for medical emergencies, so that we don’t have the issues that we’ve been having with understanding and response times.”

Despite the vocal criticism at the event, Nadeau said everyone needs to work together to improve crime rates in Adams Morgan and neighboring communities.

“I think residents and I just want to hear what is the plan for addressing public safety,” Nadeau said.

“Adams Morgan hasn’t hasn’t seen this type of crime in a very long time and I think that’s really unsettling to folks,” she said. “Adams Morgan has had a difficult year because it started off with a string of burglaries in the commercial corridor, and it took MPD a little while, but they did get it.” 

Smith said she wants to work with more community members and the DC council to find more ways to keep neighborhoods safe. 

Smith was appointed police chief in November, about four months into her role as acting chief. 

Dima Amro

Dima Amro is a reporter for The Wash covering the Adams Morgan neighborhood. She is an investigative journalism graduate student at American University. Prior to that, she worked at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tennessee.

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