Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mean Streets?

Every fall when institutions of higher learning start classes, I begin to get emails from both local as well as not so local graduate students (Canada, I'm talking about you) .  They have a paper to write and have chosen Silver Spring as their topic.

The below email arrived in my in-box today:

"Hello. My name is BLANK and I am a senior psychology major attending BLANK. I have been living in Silver Spring for the past four years. I have an assignment for my Urban Sociology class where I need to look at the population demographics of Silver Spring from the year 2000 to now. I was able to find some information on the census website, but a lot of people tell me Silver Spring used to be a tough area not too long ago. I was wondering if you would be able to give me some insight on how the area has changed, what caused the social change to occur, and around what year(s) did it happen? I would be very appreciative of any information you would be able to give me. Thank you."

I smiled at the thought of Silver Spring being thought of as "a tough area."  By 2000 both Whole Foods (then named Fresh Fields) and Strosniders Hardware opened in "Phase One" of Silver Spring's "Town Center."  Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute had also decided by 2000 to locate here.

This "tough area" is one of the biggest (sub)urban myths that Silver Spring still seems to be trying to live down.  I've lived in downtown Silver Spring since 1992 and have been a visitor since the late 1970s and never once felt any more endangered here than anywhere else in the DC metro area that I have ever been to.

I welcome readers' opinions/answers to this student's questions.  Please post comments and I will share them with this individual.  Thank you.


tony hausner said...

While I feel that Silver Spring inside the beltway is a fairly safe place today, it could be safer, which is why Safe Silver Spring was created in 2009.

Here are key countywide statistics from the police department:
• In the past 4 years, while adult crimes in the county have decreased, juvenile crimes have increased 70%.
• In the past year, there has been an increase in gang members from 1236 to 1381, and serious crimes by gang members has increased by 25%.
Further I have heard about several violent events in Silver Spring committed by gang members that came from outside the county.

Last year there were 129 crimes in the county where at least one juvenile was robbed or assaulted between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Tony Hausner, Chair
Safe Silver Spring

Robert said...

Tony's comment appears to be a pitch for the proposed curfew rather than a real response to Jerry's question. Jerry was asking about Silver Spring, but those statistics appear to be county-wide.

To respond to Jerry's question, I've lived in Silver Spring since 1970. There was a period before the revitalization in which I didn't feel particularly safe walking around in downtown Silver Spring after dark. I no longer feel that way. I don't have any qualms about walking around downtown now.

And if we want to talk about the proposed curfew, does only 129 crimes in which juveniles were victims between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. in a county of about a million people justify a curfew for ALL our teenagers? Not to me, and apparently not to most of the good kids who would restricted but supposedly be protected by the curfew.

If you want to use statistics to justify a curfew, we should have a curfew for adults rather than teenagers since the vast majority of crime victims are adults!

Freedom is more important than a possible small increase in safety.

Ann Marie said...

There was a time when downtown Silver Spring felt less than safe -- in the early 80s a friend of mine was mugged and badly injured in the vicinity of Thayer Avenue, and when I moved into the neighborhood in 1986, the number of broken beer bottles (and sometimes, a needle) in the downtown area was a constant reminder that many people sat around drinking there...which deterred me from walking there in the evening. When I had to work late, I sometimes took a cab home. Things are much better now -- glad I stayed to see it!

StreetsofWashington said...

I think the "tough" Silver Spring of the 1970s-1980s was really a rather brief blip in the community's long history. When my parents got married in 1955, they had thier first apartment in Silver Spring, a very pleasant and convenient suburb, then as now. At the time, my father worked at the nearby Naval Ordnance Laboratory; Silver Spring was the perfect place to live!

Anonymous said...

In the late 1990's and early 2000s, Silver Spring wasn't necessarily "mean" but teenagers could get robbed if they weren't careful. A couple MS cliques and other little crews might be around. It was pretty easy to smoke w**d in a lot of different places especially parking lots and in the bus depot at night waiting for the 70 or Q2, etc.

As a teenager at the time (late 90s / early 2000s) Silver Spring wasn't a place where you had to closely watch your back/front but you needed to be aware of where you were.

Nowadays a lot of these skater kids and other kids are faking being hard. They are as soft as jello and playing - they are wannabes punk fakers. Ten years ago there weren't such flocks of fake-me-out knuckleheads. The people ten years ago were a little harder. They weren't so many people flocking in from all over the place.

It is nice now with the fountain and a place for young families of all the United Nations but there are too many punk kids.

I miss the "mean" streets of Silver Spring.