Adams Morgan is arguably the District's most popular neighborhood. No other place in Washington is as known for its ethnic diversity as Adams Morgan.
On any given day, a visitor can taste the foods or hear the music or sample the fashions, furnishings and literature of Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe. And people do -- by the thousands.
The District and its leaders reap the benefits of all the goodwill and taxes generated day and night in Adams Morgan. But the neighborhood has problems -- big problems. It is insufficiently policed at night and ignored during the day.
I have lived or worked in Adams Morgan for more than 25 years. It's been a love affair. We've had our ups and downs, but the highs have far outnumbered the lows. Lately, though, I've felt like the faithful but neglected lover.
Every morning, when I arrive at my business, Madam's Organ, I look at the overflowing trash cans and garbage on 18th Street NW, and I wonder why city leaders who boast about Adams Morgan and spend the tax dollars it generates are not embarrassed.
Most Adams Morgan businesses comply with city laws that require us to keep the area in front of our stores and restaurants clean. However, a good many do not, and the city does nothing to force compliance. The neighborhood sees streams of parking enforcement personnel (because they, too, generate money) but calls to any other agency for services go unanswered.
The same is true at night. The sheer number of visitors on any given night should warrant a substantial police presence. Instead, just a few officers are assigned to walk the beat or ride bicycles. These officers do a great job, and they are always accessible -- when they're around. But they are overwhelmed, and their schedules do little to protect the area in the late-night and early-morning hours when most crimes of opportunity occur.
The police leadership does react to incidents -- after the fact. After a heavily publicized mugging or murder, the neighborhood suddenly has an overwhelming police presence, but even then only in the early- to mid-evening, when the TV cameras are rolling. We need regular, late-night protection.
At 3 a.m., D.C. police may close the corner at 18th Street and Columbia Road to vehicles, but they usually leave 18th Street to the unruly crowd that congregates outside the late-night fast-food joints. Cars are double-parked, and stereos, testosterone and tempers are at full volume. It's a volatile situation that can lead to tragedy, but still the police keep their distance.
If the police and other D.C. agencies enforced the laws against loitering late at night and against littering, and if they forced renegade businesses to comply with city laws, Adams Morgan would be a lot safer at night and a lot cleaner during the day. Like the faithful lover, I keep waiting for the city to come around.
-- Bill Duggan