Construction and Renovation Safety pt 1

Below is a citizen reporting an incident that appeared on the 5D Listserv Oct 2nd via the Brookland Listserv. There are some issues that I’ll address in another posting, but there are practical bits of advice that seem to go against what we are told about giving people the benefit of the doubt, not relying on stereotypes, yadda, yadda, yadda. Read it, tell me what you think. Also be safe out there:

Today at 4:50pm the construction workers renovating the owned but unoccupied house opposite mine were robbed at gunpoint (15th/jackson) .

I saw the crimnals 1 minute before the actual robbery took place, as I was pulling away from the curb they were walking up the front steps. Fortunately, no one was physically harmed as all three had guns; unfortunately, I did not get a good look to give a better description: 3 young adult males approx 17-early 20s, medium black complexion, average height, lanky build, one in a gray sweatshirt and jeans, the other two dressed in black sweatshirts/ black pants.

What I learned from those robbed — one guy came by earlier and walked in the open door as they were working. When questioned why he was there he said he was looking to buy a house. They told him that it was owned and was not selling. They regret not calling the police at this first round because the age, dress, and line and method of inquiry (walking in and looking around, no standard questions in line with home buying) of the person clearly demonstrated ‘kid’ more than ‘potential home owner,’ and thus after the fact realize this was the stakeout for the later return in the day, when his friends were available to assist.

What I learned FROM THE POLICE — 1.) construction workers are an easy target for robberies of their property (tools, $) and your household property, because since they don’t know every one of your relatives, friends and neighbors, they allow themselves to be approached by strangers visiting. [SNIPPED by InShaw] 3.) the pre-visit is a common robbery set up pattern, on a type of people commonly marked – contrators.

So my take away from this experience is this:
1. If someone shows up on your property that doesn’t quite ‘fit the bill,’ better to be suspect and guarded, as you are only protecting yourself and your property. If the person is innocent, well the questioning by the cops ultimately does him/her a service to wake up and realize that in today’s time you just don’t walk up on someone’s property and into an open door uninvited. They should know they were lucky to encounter you, a nice person who only called the cops to check them out — another person may not be so nice and may try to physically protect their property…
2. If you are not in your property yet, make it a point to visit often, even if it is an inconvenience since you have so many other things to do … Meet your neighbors now, not the week you move in. Let them know point blank that they are free to question anyone on your property. The neighboring young new couple had expensive things stolen from their house (whole central air/heating system) because they were
never ever there in a one years time of construction. ..
3. Same for your contractors — let them know that a) you demand they work behind locked door, no matter how much of an inefficent hassle it is; b) no friendliness to strangers you have not specficially pointed out to them are on the ok to fraternize with list, not even the elderly woman in the floral apron with a plate of home-baked cookies who claims to be your mother, and c) they must call the cops immediately.

Historic Preservation

Richard Layman of Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space, has a posting where the comments exchange got me to thinking about what Historic Preservationist people could do to improve. The topic was attracting younger volunteers but something in the comments about the problem with leadership, made me wonder if what would make the groups appeal to younger volunteers would also make them more attractive to the general public. First, need to state that I’m a bit distrustful of historic preservation groups and historic districting. Not for the sake of being contrarian, but because I see some HP and HD efforts counter to certain values I hold.
So here are some suggestions:

1. Get leadership that inspires and engages the general public. Not just wealthy donors, but the volunteers, all generations, homeowners, renters, regular Joes and such with a vision that speaks to them and their values.

2. Discernment and at least do a better job at publicizing it. Historic preservation groups come off to me like the girls who can’t say no. But I do realize that you don’t approve everything, and you don’t find every old building to be ‘historic’. If you publicized what isn’t historic a bit better that would calm my fears a bit. Not completely, but it builds confidence that you might be able to determine what is historic and what isn’t.

3. More honey and less vinegar. Take a cue from the environmental/ green movement. Knowing that some people will do wrong, trust that most people want to do right and encourage them and their efforts big and small.

4. Show more sensitivity to different income levels, abilities, and aspirations. Some people are DIY people, some people are on fixed incomes, some people need to age in place and some are really into being green and saving the environment. Tax breaks and low interest/subsidized loans are not the same as a grant (learned that in college I did). What options exist for green homeowners who want solar panels, green roofs, compact florescent bulbs in exterior light fixtures and maybe some other early adapter type green tech that isn’t really pretty?

5. Be positively proactive. In a neighborhood with townhouses where the average square footage ranges below 1,000 to 1,500, it is possible that families intent on remaining in the District might want to add space. If you’ve got architects and artists, maybe they can draw up a pattern book of acceptable additions for the various District building styles, for various needs (growing family, aging in place, etc) at various price points. Same for wheelchair ramps, not-so-steep stairs, and wider door entrances. And though it is something that can get dated quickly, provide local locations where items to purchase are and price ranges. Telling me not to use regular cement from Home Depot to patch up a brick wall is useless information. Telling me that I need type 3 cement and I can get it at Fragers on Capitol Hill for around X dollars, helpful. Maybe HP and HD groups do this, if they do publicize it more. Realize what peoples’ needs are and address them before the construction/ repairing begins.

These are just suggestions, dismiss at will.

DC Republicans come out and gather


St. George’s Episcopal Church
160 U Street, NW
(Corner of U & 2nd Street, NW)

October 17, 2007 (Wednesday Night)

6:30PM – 7:30PM

WHY: To hear how the DC Republican Committee can better serve you.


Paid for by the DC Republican Committee
Not endorsed by any candidate or candidate committee
1275 K Street, NW Ste 102
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202 289-8005 I Fax: 202 289-2197
Email: I