In 1955, Langley Park was "the fastest growing trade area in Metropolitan Washington" with 200,000 people located within a 3-mile (4.8 km) radius. Affordable housing attracted a community consisting mostly of young couples with families. In the following decades, Langley Park became a middle-class enclave of predominantly European American, Jewish residents.
During the 1970s, after desegregation, increasing numbers of African Americans moved into the community. Although some established families remained, the white population declined due to white flight to the outer suburbs. In 1970, the first language of 6.1 percent was Spanish; by 1980 that number climbed to 13.4 percent. During the 1980s, Hispanic and Caribbean immigrants from countries such as El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala, Jamaica and the West Indies lead a new wave of migration into the community. In addition, Asian and African immigrants from places like Vietnam, India, Ethiopia and Nigeria settled into the area. It proved to be an attractive locale for immigrants due to the availability of affordable housing that could also accommodate families. The integration of these new groups into Langley Park reflected a larger trend of increased migration to the Greater Washington area during the 1980s and 1990s. By 1990, the area was 40 percent Hispanic.
At the same time, the area suffered through a period of physical decline and increases in crime. During the 1980s, the community struggled with blighted residential and commercial areas. The apartment complexes experienced substantial turnover in occupancy. Residents in the 14th Avenue and Kanawha Street area in particular were subjected to "open air drug markets" and other criminal activity. Long time residents and the new immigrant communities were both victims of crime. Some homeowners organized to address neighborhood concerns about rising crime. For the 1988-89 school year, bus service for children who lived in walking distance to school was implemented to ensure their safety. Police also increased their presence in the community. Apartment complexes, under new management, initiated safety measures to discourage drug activity such as installing new lighting, security doors and maintaining general upkeep of their properties. At the same time, police in Prince George’s County conducted multiple raids in an effort to shut down drug activity in the county. By 1991, officials were taking note of an increase in illegal immigrants from Central America and day laborers were beginning to become a common sight on area streets. By the mid-2000s, it had become a center for MS-13 gang activity in the state along with nearby Takoma Park.
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