A man walking down the street.
Safety Ambassador Stephen Brice patrolling Columbia Road businesses in Adams Morgan. (Dima Amro/ ҹֱ)

More safety ambassadors join the force as crime grows in Adams Morgan

The Adams Morgan Partnership BID wants to bulk up its ambassador program to help curb various security issues in the community. It has three ambassadors now. More could soon come.

A new face walks around Adams Morgan to look out for residents and businesses in need.

D.C. native Stephen Brice joined the Adams Morgan Partnership BID in October as a safety ambassador to ensure the neighborhood’s safety and build trust with locals.

“I enjoy just being around and talking to people,” Brice said. “I’m starting to introduce myself to the businesses, talking with people. I also recognize that there is a homeless population, so you have to be sensitive about that and maintain a friendship with them.” 

Brice, who also works in law enforcement at Catholic University, trains through Omar Castillo, who has been full-time with the BID for about a year. 

Two men walk down the street.
Omar Castillo (left) and Stephen Brice patrol Columbia Road in Adams Morgan. (Dima Amro/ ҹֱ)

On a sunny October afternoon, ҹֱ went on patrol with Brice and Castillo. They walked up and down Columbia Road and 18th Street to check for safety hazards, including downed scooters, misplaced trash and people in need.

They stopped to speak with pedestrians, put trash in bins and check if any poles wobbled. 

The safety ambassadors report any issue, crime or accident to the police or the proper authorities, Castillo and Brice said. The patrol also connects with rehab organizations in the area to offer resources to those experiencing homelessness. 

“We know all the homeless in the area,” Castillo said. “First thing when I walk outside, we check on the homeless because we need to make sure that they are okay.”

Public safety in the neighborhood remains a top concern for the Adams Morgan Partnership BID, and the organization hopes to get more money for more ambassadors in the area, said Kristen Barden, executive director of the BID.

A man picks up a scooter.
Omar Castillo lifts a scooter off the ground to make more room on the sidewalk. (Dima Amro/ ҹֱ)

“This fall, we’re going to apply for a grant with the city, the city’s made available just this fiscal year,” Barden said. “And depending on how much money we get, we’ll be hiring more ambassadors because we want to ideally have two people working all the time.”

Barden said the ambassadors are her “eyes and ears on the street.”

The safety ambassadors look out for criminals or suspicious people reported by authorities or residents.

However, Castillo said they try to keep a distance from police issues since “crime is very often,” but the neighborhood has constant law enforcement patrol. 

with 361 incidents as of October 17— 315 of those included thefts and burglaries, according to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. 

A sign that reads "Drug free zone" and another no littering sign.
A “Drug free zone” sign and no littering sign on 18th Street in Adams Morgan. (Dima Amro/ ҹֱ)

The police department reported an increase of 81 property crimes in the neighborhood. 

That rise in business break-ins, carjackings and theft from vehicles keep Castillo and Brice on the lookout.

“We go to the MPD crime meeting every month,” Castillo said. “We want to make sure we know what’s going on, we need to keep our eyes open.”

Safety ambassadors especially watch out for businesses after learning of a string of robberies last winter. 

Currently, Adams Morgan has two part-time and one full-time safety ambassador. The budget sets aside about $150,000 for safety ambassadors each year. 

Ambassadors roam the streets from noon to 8 p.m. daily and encourage residents to reach out to them. 

Dima Amro

Dima Amro is a reporter for ҹֱ covering the Adams Morgan neighborhood. She is an investigative journalism graduate student at American University. Prior to that, she worked at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tennessee.

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