Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Arrest Made in Shooting of 9 yo; Columbia Heights Still a Work in Progress

So by now, you've probably heard that the MPD made an arrest in this past weekend's murder of 9 year old Jose Oscar Fuentes, who lived with his family in an apartment in Columbia Heights and was gunned down as he stood inside the front door of his apartment on Saturday evening.

First of all, let me say bravo to the MPD for some excellent police work (assuming, of course, that the suspect is the right guy). It's good to see, at least, that they were able to make an arrest so quickly. But there is, of course, a bigger issue here.

Sometimes, the violence in this city really seems oppressive. It's always there, simmering like an unattended pot on a stove, but sometimes it boils over and forces you to take notice of it. That's what I've found occurring ever since Jose's Oscar's murder this weekend. I truly do love this city, and everything it offers--in spite of its flaws. But there are certain events that transpire that cause me to view the city with a different perspective, however fleetingly. That's what I've found happening this week.

And what to make of Columbia Heights? I don't normally cover things up there--there's more than enough to keep me occupied here in Logan. But it's close enough that me and the Mrs. have regular interactions with it; this includes weekly shopping trips to the Giant and occasional Target runs, among other things. I've also known and/or interacted with a number of people who call Columbia Heights home. And while everyone is appropriately expressing outrage at the murder of Jose Oscar Fuentes, there remains a not-so-subtle undercurrent of surprise from some individuals that such an act could possibly occur in a neighborhood like Columbia Heights.

Col Heights is, in every respect, a transitioning neighborhood. And I think some people buying the expensive rowhouses and even more expensive "luxury" condos there can forget the fact that when one buys into a transitioning neighborhood, there are two sides to that coin. There's the hipster bars, the chain store retail, the attractive housing stock and "urban feel" that the neighborhood provides. But there's also the shootings, the gang beefs and the seemingly never-ending drug trade and prostitution that goes on. That's the Columbia Heights people would like to forget.

To be sure, that stuff happens in other neighborhoods too (unfortunately). But Columbia Heights has been altered faster than possibly any neighborhood has in the history of the city. Just five years ago, it was a largely neglected crime- and drug-infested mess. Then, some developers conspired with the city to stick Clarendon up there, and it became the new place to be. But the ills that plagued the neighborhood didn't magically disappear--they just got swept aside a bit. And they rear their heads from time to time, in the form of gunfights at the Metro station, random shootings on the street, and--yes--the senseless killing of a 9 year old boy in his apartment.

Ultimately, I think the tide of gentrification will continue to sweep over the neighborhood. Past events haven't deterred ongoing development and growth in Columbia Heights, and there's no reason to think that this will, either. I fully expect more Chipotles, more wine bars, more gastropubs and high-end retail in the future. And I imagine housing demand will continue pretty much unabated. But the crime will, as well. And life will continue in Columbia Heights.


Anonymous said...

As a correction, the boy's name was Oscar Fuentes, the man accused of his murder is Jose.

Mr. 14th & You said...

Gah, thanks. I need to start finishing these posts before I begin my nightly binge drinking.

Anon412 said...

Not on the topic of crime or gentrication, but I can't believe you go out of your way to shop at the crappy Giant on Park Rd.

Mr. 14th & You said...

Well, the other nearby options are the Soviet Safeway at 17th and Corcoran, the nasty Giant at 9th and P, or Whole Paycheck on P. Given those options, the Park Street Giant comes out looking pretty good. We've tried the Harris Teeter in A-M and didn't like it as much. Plus it made Whole Foods look like a bargain.

Anonymous said...

you are a good writer. you should do it for a living

AnonMe said...

Love your blog.

It's Park Road, not Park St.