Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Where are all the crackheads?

Doc Shlomo used to live in Columbia Heights on Lamont Street. Back then, that area was the stomping grounds for crack heads, gang bangers and other assorted members of the urban underworld. These days… Well, these days, it still is. However, whereas CH was just at the beginning of its yuppification back then, it appears that it has moved far along the process in the three and a half years since the Doc moved.

These days, my bicycle commute takes me up along 11th Street past Lamont. There’s a new coffee shop, a nice bar, and even a hardware store. Likewise, as I ride past, I can see yuppies everywhere: drinking coffee, driving their Land Rovers, walking. Gentrification it seems, has taken hold.

Which makes me wonder where the crackheads and gang bangers go. I know some are still there. Just two weeks ago, one of them shot a little kid. Nonetheless, I’m assuming that a lot have left. In my opinion, that’s the upside to gentrification: “the element” eventually leaves. The downside, of course, is that rising housing prices force out working class families. In DC, though, given the price of housing, I suspect that they’re making a killing on their way out. Nonetheless, I feel confident asserting that gentrification can break apart communities that include the elderly and the working class.

Anyway, in DC we know that most of the neighborhoods being gentrified are historically black. We also know that Prince Georges County has a large and growing black population. Demographic and anecdotal information suggests that the black folks being forced out of the District by gentrification are going to Prince Georges. But are the crackheads and gang bangers, too? In other words, are there negative externalities associated with gentrification that are being borne by other counties or municipalities? I’d like to see some research on this if anybody knows of any.