A Highly Gentrified DC Neighborhood Is Home To A Deadly Gang War

  • A gang war involving drugs is plaguing Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C., despite gentrification in recent years.
  • There have been shootings almost every weekend in the neighborhood, according to PoPville.
  • The police expect the violence to continue through the summer.

A deadly gang war is in progress in one of the most gentrified neighborhoods in the nations capital, and police say it will likely pursue through the summer.

Many of the shootings in Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C., this year were related to drugs, which are typically run by various gangs in Columbia Heights, according to Capt. Ralph McLean of the 3rd District Police Department. He confirmed to The Daily Caller News Foundation that there is an ongoing gang-based drug war in the D.C. neighborhood.

“We dont know if its a dispute internal to the gang or a dispute between two gangs,” McLean told TheDCNF. He referred to the situation as an “internal dispute.” (RELATED: Drug Abuse Is Rampant Across US. DC Ranks Worst)

There were 12 reports of shootings in Columbia Heights between May 9 and April 29. Sometimes, multiple shootings were reported, according to posts from PoPville. Occasionally the police would arrive to find no perpetrators, just empty shell casings and bullet holes in cars.

There are multiple gangs in Columbia Heights, and they are all exclusively black or Latino, McLean said. In Washington, D.C., gangs are usually composed of a group or association of neighbors, and they are all “ethnospecific.”

Columbia Heights is also the face of gentrification in the District, with numerous news reports touting its overall improvement.

But there have also been shootings in the neighborhood nearly every weekend, according to PoPville, which reports on both data obtained from police and information sent in from residents.

Victims of shootings so far this year have mostly been black. One Latino woman was also shot, according to McLean, who added that an innocent bystander was shot and killed in a separate incident.

“Weve been lucky so far that only one innocent bystander was hit,” McLean told TheDCNF.

According to McLean, four gangs operate in Columbia Heights: the Columbia Heights Village Crew, the Mount Pleasant Gang, G-Rod and F-Mob.

D.C. sought to keep affordable housing. One such complex has been home to gang violence

An affordable housing apartment complex called Columbia Heights Village has been a hotbed of violence, with four or five gang-related shootings in the surrounding area as of May, according to McLean, who believes each one was associated with residents.

Meanwhile, just two blocks away sits a Target, a Starbucks, a Best Buy, and various other chain and locally-owned retail stores, restaurants and cafes. The complex is just a few minutes walk from a metro station and a recently opened Wawa.

Some of the Columbia Heights Village residents are “part of the problem,” McLean told TheDCNF, noting that the buildings management has been proactive in trying to help. The management did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Over $62 million was invested to save subsidized housing and help people buy buildings in Columbia Heights between 2002 and 2009, resulting in the highest tenant purchases in the city, according to Governing, a news site dedicated to local governments.

The drug war could be an internal dispute within the Columbia Heights Village Crew, but confirming this can be difficult. Gang-related shooting victims are often uncooperative when police question them, according to McLean.

For example, one gang member shot on May 16 has not cooperated with police, McLean told TheDCNF.

Violent crime on the rise in Columbia Heights

The Metropolitan Police Departments crime data shows crime differences in Columbia Heights, D.C. from Jan. 1 through June 14 in 2018 verses 2019. (Metropolitan Police Department)

There have been more violent crimes from Jan. 1 through June 14 in Columbia Heights, according to Metropolitan Police Department crime data. In 2019, there have been 284 violent crimes reported. There have also been 12 more assaults with a dangerous weapon crimes (gun). Overall, crime is up in 2019 by 323 crimes.


A popular area near Columbia Heights surrounding 14th and U streets known as “Black Broadway” was destroyed during riots following Martin Luther King Jr.s 1968 assassination, The Washington Post reported in 2018. It was home to black theaters, jazz clubs, lawyers, newspapers, civil rights groups and more.

Over 275 businesses on 14th St. were damaged from fires and looting, with more than half of those being completely destroyed, according to the Post.

After the riots, the area became a go-to spot for prostitution and drugs, according to the Washingtonian. Since then, efforts have gentrified the area, and it is now one of the more sought-after places in the city.

A soldier standing guard with the ruins of buildings that were destroyed during the riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in this April 8, 1968 photograph (Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters/Reuters)

A soldier stands guard with the ruins of buildings that were destroyed during the riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in this April 8, 1968 photograph (Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters/Reuters)

In 2010, the median home value index in Columbia Heights was $389,000, according to data on Zillow. As of January 2019, this value has increased to $640,000. Meanwhile, the median home value index of the nearby neighborhood Dupont Circle was at $427,000 in Jan. 2019. In 2010, the home value in Dupont Circle sat at $353,000.

The median household income currently sits at $83,371, according to Niche, which is above the national average of $55,322.

The metro station built in Columbia Heights in 1999 sparked this gentrification, according to Governing. Since then, construction has boomed and businesses have flocked to Columbia Heights. Today, there is a Target, two Starbucks, condominiums, restauRead More – Source