On the winding hilltop of Westover Drive SE, in an oasis of relative affluence on the sometimes forgotten side of the Anacostia River, residents are circling their wagons to combat what they consider a new crime wave.
Six house burglaries this year -- three on the same day last month -- have made these well-to-do, and in some cases, well-known residents of Westover Drive fear that Southeast's "Little Silver Coast" is becoming a tempting new target for daring daylight house burglars.
Yesterday, one Westover Drive resident, H. R. Crawford, the Ward 7 representative on the City Council, held a press conference in front of his own stately hilltop stone house to unveil the neighborhood's anticrime program which consists of an unusual plan to incorporate the block so its residents can collectively hire their own private security guard, complete with a nightstick and a trained attack dog.
"We hope this community will be a prototype for the rest of the city," Crawford said. "We're going to do all of the things that good citizens are supposed to do.
Residents estimated it would cost about $270 a week to hire a guard with a dog.
Ordinarily, one small community's outrage about crime probably wouldn't merit much attention, with crime being such an everyday occurence in the Washington area. But what makes Westover Drive different are the people who live there, who, after a series of meetings, decided to declare all-out war on criminals.
Other residents of Westover Drive include Sidney Glee, the city's acting public housing administrator; Mary Terrell, special assistant to City Council Chairman Arrington L. Dixon; Jeannie Clarke, former Mayor Walter E. Washington's 1978 campaign press secretary, and Milton Coleman, city editor of The Washington Post.
Of course, not all good citizens coming to the aid of their street can hire attack dogs and hold press conferences. But then again, not even everybody on Westover Drive agrees with the idea either, since some residents said they shun all the publicity -- particularly the references to their street as a bastion of affluence.
"Everybody thinks we're elitist up there," said Glee. "We're just the working poor."
One Crawford neighbor, who asked that her name not be printed, said, "The majority of people would rather not have a lot of publicity. We've been called the Gold Coast of Southeast and I don't appreciate it. It's just telling people [burglars] to look up on the hill, that we have money."
Westover Drive is a boomerang-shaped street where houses have been sold recently for $100,000 to $150,000. One of the residents supposedly suggested, only half-jokingly, that the neighbors construct a fence at the entrance to the street, with a gate open only to those who live on the street and their visitors.
But Westover Drive could just be learning something about the facts of life in the nation's capital. As Deputy Police Chief James Kelly of the 7th District in Southeast said yesterday, "I don't think any area is immune from crime."