D.C. sees 17% dip in homi­cides

Mayor cred­its polic­ing changes for drop.

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY RYAN M. MCDERMOTT

The District has con­tin­ued to record some of its high­est homi­cide counts in seven years, de­spite a dou­ble-digit de­cline com­pared with 2015.

The city tal­lied 134 homi­cides as of Dec. 29, com­pared with 162 last year. The over­all crime rate is down 4 per­cent, with vi­o­lent crime drop­ping by 10 per­cent from 2015.

Mayor Muriel Bowser touted the 17 per­cent year-to-year de­crease in homi­cides at a re­cent press con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing full de­ploy­ment of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Depart­ment’s body-worn cam­era pro­gram.

“It is one of many steps we’ve taken over the past two years — along with a se­ries of in­no­va­tive ser­vices and pro­grams — to build safer and stronger com­mu­ni­ties and, as a re­sult, we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing re­duc­tions in crime across the board,” Miss Bowser said.

The mayor gave a laun­dry list of ini­tia­tives that “are chang­ing the District’s ap­proach to fight­ing crime,” in­clud­ing ex­pand­ing men­tal health and so­cial ser­vices, cre­at­ing a public safety academy and giv­ing re­bates to res­i­dents who in­stall se­cu­rity cam­eras out­side their build­ings.

Deputy Mayor Kevin Don­ahue, who over­sees public safety, said the city has spent sig­nif­i­cant re­sources this year to take a “mul­ti­fac­eted ap­proach” to curb­ing the homi­cide tally. The city is fo­cus­ing on get­ting il­le­gal firearms off the streets; im­prov­ing its di­ver­sion pro­grams for low-level, non­vi­o­lent of­fend­ers; and im­ple­ment­ing job train­ing pro­grams that lead to long-term em­ploy­ment, he said.

“We be­lieve these ef­forts — in ad­di­tion to the hard work by the men and women of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Depart­ment — have con­trib­uted to mak­ing the District safer,” Mr. Don­ahue said Thurs­day.

Mean­while, the homi­cide tally in Prince Ge­orge’s County jumped from 81 last year to 99 as of Thurs­day. Mont­gomery County’s homi­cide count fell from 30 in 2015 to 14. Fair­fax County’s in­creased from 12 homi­cides in 2015 to 17 this year. Prince Wil­liam County’s homi­cide tally dou­bled from 11 in 2015 to 22 this year. Ar­ling­ton County re­ported two homi­cides last year and one this year.

The District’s sta­tis­tics, how­ever, don’t tell the whole story. The over­all crime rate has de­creased since last year, but a broader view shows higher crime lev­els than in the re­cent past.

In an Au­gust in­ter­view with The Washington Times be­fore leav­ing the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Depart­ment, Chief Cathy L. Lanier called a year-to­date com­par­i­son dan­ger­ous be­cause a larger data set, such as a five-year span, is more in­dica­tive of how crime is trend­ing.

“I al­ways cau­tion year-to-date stats,” Chief Lanier said. “They don’t give you real un­der­stand­ing of where crime is.”

The District’s five-year trend shows higher homi­cide tal­lies af­ter a pre­cip­i­tous de­cline.

The num­ber of homi­cides dropped to 108 in 2011 and to 88 in 2012. In 2013 and 2014, the num­bers rose to 104 and 105, re­spec­tively.

In 2015, Miss Bowser’s first year in of­fice, the num­ber bal­looned to 162 — the high­est level since the 186 in 2008. Po­lice of­fi­cials at­trib­uted the jump to sev­eral fac­tors, in­clud­ing re­peat of­fend­ers and more guns on the streets.

Sev­eral other ma­jor cities across the coun­try, in­clud­ing Bal­ti­more and Chicago, re­ported sim­i­lar spikes in homi­cide counts.

But Mr. Don­ahue said the 17 per­cent de­cline this year shouldn’t be dis­missed. “Any homi­cide is one too many,” he said.

Homi­cides counts in Wards 1,2, 3, 5, 6 and 8 de­clined this year but in­creased in Ward 7, which had 38 this year and 32 last year, and Ward 4, which had 14 homi­cides this year and seven last year.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Depart­ment has had to re­spond to fewer scenes of vi­o­lence this year, with a 17 per­cent de­cline in the homi­cide rate over last year. Still, the city’s re­ported 134 homi­cides as of Thurs­day are part of a larger in­creas­ing trend.

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