D.C. Homicides Hit Lowest Level in Almost 50 Years

Second straight year of decline

By John Wist
|  Sunday, Jan 2, 2011  |  Updated 9:45 AM EDT
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D.C. Homicides Hit Lowest Level in Almost 50 Years

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WASHINGTON - MARCH 29: Eric Croom (C) and Anthony Montgomery (L) of Metro Transit Police patrol with their canines Kota (C) and Sabre (L) stand during a photo opportunity for the media at Gallery Place-Chinatown Metrorail station March 29, 2010 in Washington, DC. Metro Transit Police Acting Chief Jeri Lee said in a new release by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority that Metro Transit Police has conducted random station and rail yard sweeps throughout the day as part of heightened security associated with the terrorist attacks on subway stations in Moscow. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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As the Gray Administration takes office this morning, they have some promising numbers to look at when it comes to crime. According to the Washington Times, there were 131 homicides in the District in 2010, down nine percent from last year. It’s the lowest number of slayings since 1963.

The Times reports that it is the second straight year that homicides have declined in the city and the seventh time in 10 years that the nation’s capital has recorded fewer than 200 homicides.

Police Chief Cathy Lanier told the Washington Times she believes there are three reasons for the reductions.

First, she says the department is receiving more tips and cooperation from witnesses thanks to improved community trust. She tells the Times that the city’s police tip line is recording triple the calls it received three years ago and the amount of reward money being distributed in that time has doubled.

Second, Lanier credits the department’s investment in technology. The Washington Times reports that surveillance camera networks have expanded, police are using systems that recognize the sound of gunfire and there is recently installed license plate recognition technology.

And third, the Chief says gang intelligence has greatly improved.

“We can prevent homicides,” Lanier told the Times. “We do prevent homicides. We can’t prevent them all.”

Still there is work to be done. The Times reports that a troubling trend is forming among the city’s youth. One in five homicides between September 1, 2009 and August 31, 2010 involved a juvenile in the city’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services as either a suspect or victim.

That includes one of the worst mass shootings in city history that happened back in March. Nine people were shot, four of them killed, after a funeral let out. The suspect is a ward of the city, as was one of the victims.

But Lanier says she still believes it’s possible for the city to record less than 100 homicides in a year.

“I know it’s doable,” Lanier told the Times. “We’re bringing the numbers down – just not fast enough for me. I want it to happen while I’m here.”

Homicide numbers for other jurisdictions in our area has mixed results. The Times reports Prince George’s County reported 90 homicides, down from 99 last year. That’s the lowest number of murders since 2000, when 67 were recorded.

According to the Washington Times, Montgomery County saw an increase from 2009, with 17 homicides compared to 13 last year. Fairfax County also saw an increase from 14 slayings in 2009 to 16 in 2010.

Arlington County only recorded one homicide in 2010, compared to two in 2009.

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