Georgetown, the District's historic neighborhood known for its upscale restaurants and high-priced row houses, is grappling with an issue that few were willing to acknowledge until recently: crime.
In an unusual move, the Citizens Association of Georgetown has called for a public forum to discuss the subject in one of the city's most prestigious neighborhoods, where century-old row houses sell for upwards of $500,000.
David Roffman, editor of the Georgetowner newspaper and chairman of the association's crime committee, organized the symposium, to be held Wednesday at a local church.
"We are still not sure people want to talk about it, but we have reached a point where we have to," he said. "There are just too many people who have been mugged."
This week, the District released crime statistics showing Georgetown as having more reported crime than any other neighborhood in the city.
The report, compiled by the city's Office of Criminal Justice Plans and Analysis, includes homicides, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, larcenies, auto thefts and arsons.
Most of the crimes reported in Georgetown were against property.
The report compares crime in the city's eight political wards.
Ward 2, which includes Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Capitol Hill, downtown and parts of Southwest, had more than double the reported crime of any other ward.
Steve Rickman, who was in charge of writing the report, pointed out that the Georgetown figures include both the commercial and residential areas of the neighborhood.
"Georgetown has had high crime stats since 1977, but most of those come from the shopping area," he said. "However, we did notice that Georgetown has an inordinate number of assaults when compared with other census tracts."
Rickman said 80 assaults were reported in Georgetown in both 1985 and 1986.
"Georgetown has a higher number of assaults than other similar mixed neighborhoods," he said.
And it is the assaults that seem to concern people the most, said Kathy Graff, president of the citizens association.
"At our last meeting, everyone was talking about how dangerous it is to walk in Georgetown," she said. "The police don't seem to think it is a major crime if a woman is knocked to the ground and her arm broken. If she can't work for six months, then it is a major crime for her."
Fear of injury has kept some neighbors near 33rd and Prospect streets NW from confronting the strangers who use their alley for drinking, taking drugs and urinating on weekend nights.
Tuesday night, a dozen neighbors gathered at the home of Advisory Neighborhood Commission Chairman Roger Pauley to meet with police and D.C. Council member John Wilson (D-Ward 2) to form a Neighborhood Watch committee.
Talk turned quickly from the weekly problem in the alley to neighbors and friends who had been injured in street robberies.
Wilson, who attributed the increasing crime in Georgetown to the city's drug epidemic, cautioned residents against confronting strangers on the street.
"There are too many people out there with nothing to lose," he said.
"You have to be serious about your own personal safety."
Resident Lloyd Thorson, 59, said he did not have a chance to consider anything when he and his 71-year-old sister were attacked by two young men on May 14 when returning from a restaurant about 10 p.m.
"It was a perfect spring night and we were engrossed in conversation," said Thorson, the financial director of a Turkish oil company. "This fellow just walked up and hit me in the face. The other one knocked my sister to the ground."
The attackers ran from the scene when a nearby resident opened a window to check on the noise.
Thorson and his sister ended up badly bruised and out some cash and credit cards.
But it was not the loss of money that concerns Thorson.
"It was the violence that upsets me," he said. "Those two men were intent on beating us up.
"The first duty of any civilized society is to make it safe for people to move about. The District is uncivilized."