Welcome to Trinidad, DC.
I’ve been asked more than once about the neighborhood, typically from folks considering moving here. Questions can include “is it really safe there?” or “is this a good deal for a house?”, and that stuff’s pretty subjective and up to the individual. But, in the interest of trying to help guide newcomers or would-be newcomers, here’s a brief guide.
It’s not all-encompassing or politically-correct- it’s based on personal experience living here and is intended to be a no-BS look at the neighborhood. It’s also a living document that will be updated, so if you have suggestions, feel free to add a comment below.
About the Neighborhood
I love the neighborhood: lots of nightlife nearby (most recently developing the past 2 years), close to downtown, minutes from Virginia & Maryland, very bikable, grocery store & CVS close by, and- most of all- a true neighborhood feel. It’s an real neighborhood; that means you can/should say hello to strangers, wave at your neighbors, know the folks on your block by first name, and help each other out- especially look after the older residents who’ve likely been here longer than you’ve been alive.
Trinidad is *very* convenient to most anywhere. If you need to go across town, there are many options: Bikeshare has a station at the starburst intersection (15th/Bladensburg/Florida/Benning/Maryland Ave), and there’s the X2, X3, X8, D3, and more buses. NoMa metro is a 15-20 minute walk, and the Stadium/Armory station is about as close as NoMa, depending on exactly where you live in the hood.
New York Avenue is a short drive north, leading to route 50E, 295N towards Baltimore and the Beltway, and 295S towards Virginia. If you need to get to Virginia and 395S, the 3rd Street Tunnel is a straight shot down H Street NE, taking about 10 minutes on a good day.
After Moving In
Like anything, you get out of the neighborhood what you put into it. Look everyone in the eye, say hello to everyone (even the corner boys- they’re actually really personable once they get to know you & look out for the neighbors), and get to know your neighbors. I’ve seen many people move in and not make an effort to know the neighbors or interact with others. Don’t be the guy who never speaks to anyone, comes home from work, runs into his house, locks his door. He’s resented by nearly everyone. The lil’ ol’ lady next door didn’t see anything when his house got burgled by the kids down the street.
If you’re the kind of person who likes a sense of community, but have tolerance and understand that Trinidad is very diverse and that you’re moving into someone else’s neighborhood, you’ll be fine.
Should I buy this house? Is it a good deal?
Look, that’s a personal decision. The perfect home for you is perfect for you. Are you happy with the home you’re getting for the price? Are you able to comfortably make payments? Have you walked around the neighborhood on foot as various times of day and night? Have you talked to neighbors on the block?
As of January 2013, unrenovated homes with decent bones are going for about $250k. Renovated homes are going for $400-550k, depending on extent of renovations. If you’re looking at a home at the upper end of the price range, it was likely purchased within the past 6 months for much less, renovated, and is now for resale. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’d suggest checking whether the renovation obtained permits (click here), and you may want to ask about the contractor or get references.
What about the crime? Is it safe there?
Yeah, the crime. Many people hear that Trindad has a violent past. It does.
In the 1980’s-90’s, Trinidad was home to a booming drug trade, complete with open air drug markets and the issues that came along with them. Google Rayful Edmond and read up on some interesting DC history.
In the summer of 2008, Trinidad saw a high number of homicides, with nearly all linked in some way to criminal activity or involving persons who previously knew each other. Since the police couldn’t figure out how to stop people who wanted to kill each other from killing each other, Metropolitan Police instituted illegal military-style checkpoints, demanding that all drivers passing through the neighborhood present documentation showing their reason for being in the area. Needless to say, that public relations stunt didn’t do much other than gain extra media attention and cost the taxpayers a lot of money in legal fees from the resulting civil rights lawsuit.
However, 2008 was an anomaly. Realistically, Trinidad is just as safe as any other neighborhood, and (according to crime statistics) you’re more likely to get robbed in a neighborhood like Columbia Heights. Remember that whole thing about saying hi to everyone? It helps here too. Again, look everyone in the eye, say hello.
A Quick Note on Police Response
If you need to call police, it’s a crapshoot. Even now. Many neighbors have had bad experiences, even recently, and some have a distrust of the police from long-held issues. If you call 911, you’ll probably get a surly calltaker most of the time who will annoy you as you grasp for ways to communicate the reason for your call, or to try and re-spell the name of your street several times before they figure out that your street does, in fact, exist. That said, get to know street names and block numbers just in case you need them.
If the call gets dispatched, the police may or may not come (depending on the call), or may drive by and tell the dispatcher you’re not around, uncooperative, or that they didn’t find anything without talking with you. If you do get to the point of talking with an officer, you’re in luck, but he may attempt to dissuade you from making a report in an effort to keep crime stats artificially low and do less paperwork. Always insist on getting report numbers. It’s extremely frustrating, and that’s a worst-case scenario.
Other times, though, the process does work. Keep in mind that (as with many professions), 10% of officers do 90% of the work, so you may or not get one of the 10% assigned to your particular call. If you see an officer out there, say hi and thank him for his service.
The Corner Boys
A quick note on the corner boys: they’re mostly decent guys, but chose a bad profession. So be sure to say hi to them too, and introduce yourself, even if they are a bit apprehensive at first. They’ve also been standing on the corner in heat and cold probably longer than you’ve been in the hood, so respect that, even if you disagree with what they do. Keep in mind they’re always out there, and there are tales of them responding to a robbery to stop it much faster and with more motivation than some of the police (it’s in their best interest to keep crime down, as it reduces police attention to their trade). I personally don’t agree with their profession, but don’t judge them for it either; show respect just as you would with others.
Fire & EMS Response
We’re forunate to be home to Engine #10, aka the “House of Pain,” so-called because it’s one of the busiest firehouses int he nation. These guys are awesome, and do their jobs with pride and professionalism every time. I’ve had to call for EMS response a couple times for others, and they’ve been responsive and professional each time, even when it was just for a drunk guy lying on the street/sidewalk. If you see these guys, definitely say hi and thank them, and consider taking some dinner or baked good by their firehouse on Florida Ave.