Photo: courtesy of Dan Silverman

Prince Of Petworth Presents Different Look At DC

If you clicked the “crime” tab on the popular blog, the Prince of Petworth, and scroll down, here is what you would have seen over a one week period in December:

December 10: Update: Arrest Made. Security Guards reportedly stabbed and hit by car at the Basilica; Police in Standoff in Brightwood with Suspect

December 12: “Apparently someone was in the treeline shooting at police officers near the 7-11 not far from Catholic University”

December 16: What the Hell Went Down This Weekend? 10:20 a.m. Saturday Shooting Homicide in Brentwood; Shots Fired in Shaw; 10-11 year old sought in a robbery investigation in Columbia Heights

If you were to read the blog, perhaps better known around town as PoPville, on a regular basis, you would think we’re living in a war zone. The blog creator Dan Silverman has been blogging about DC since 2006 and notes, “Crime in DC has always been bumping up and down. It’s cyclical.”

Silverman would know. By creating a space where users can post crimes as they occur, his blog documented crime, arguably, much quicker than any mainstream news outlet in the District.

The first time I met Silverman was when I invited him to do a podcast with my then host and I in 2013. Upon greeting him in the lobby of the studio in Eckington, his curiosity for DC was palpable. Before even shaking my hand he excitedly went on about how the building across the street looked totally different years ago. He was intriguing to me for a variety of reasons. Many people I knew or heard of had talked about writing “The Blog of Washington,” as if it were the great American novel, but few actually did it. And if they did, far less found a way to make a living off of it.  There he stood: short, blonde and New York as hell, knowing more about the happenings of my city than I did.

“I started the blog because of development,” Silverman says. “You kept hearing, this is coming, that’s going to happen, and I’m like what? Where? Couldn’t find anything about it. And I’m a pretty obsessive person. If I want to know about it, I really want to know about it. I don’t want to read about it once a month or once a week. I said, yeah, what the hell, I’ll start it myself.”

He did and it became extremely popular. But one additional way it proved extremely effective is by allowing real time access to information about crimes in DC. Yes, The Washington Post covers violent crime thoroughly, but doesn’t operate with the speed of a site built to function like a social media platform.

“A lot of our crime posts are user generated,” he says. “Reports as they arrive. A shooting will occur and 60 seconds later someone is messaging me about hearing gun shots.”  

The nation’s capital is a fast growing city. Cranes decorate the sky as do homeless tents on our sidewalks.  And since this is DC, with perhaps the most opinionated demographic in the country, the response to this urban sprawl and some of its pitfalls are varied. This includes crime, which is something Silverman is acutely aware both from emails and the comment box on his blog. 

“What’s crazy is there will be a post about a beating or robbery and someone will comment or email, ‘I’m glad they got beat up.’ Now that’s f*cked up. That person just got seriously injured,” Silverman says.  

But this is the climate we live in: Anger, frustration and dissent have a home in DC.

“We’re seeing a lot more assaults, a lot more weapon use,” said Anwar Graves, former assistant U.S. attorney for the the city, now associate counsel at O’Melveny & Myers LLP.

When asked about what age groups he was seeing commit these crimes he said, “When it comes to the age groups it truly does vary. The defendants are getting younger and younger, unfortunately. We are having a lot of juveniles that we are trying as adults.”

Which begs the question, what on earth is contributing to this?

“A defense attorney said that once you get to age 8, if they haven’t found a way to make sure you are in a safe environment by [then], you are becoming more at risk to commit a crime,” Graves says.  

Through the Prince of Petworth blog, Washingtonians gain a different lens into crime in DC, more specifically in their own neighborhoods but due to the frequency of these posts, it also raises the question: Is crime in DC actually getting worse?  

Silverman’s blog was intended to be upbeat and positive, and should absolutely be celebrated for being a go to for all of the curiosities of DC, but since its inception, the site also unfortunately provides an aperture into a city in pain.

For more information about Prince of Petworth, visit Popville.com.