A Good Summer in D.C.: Lanier, Gray

Violent crime is down sharply this summer in Washington, and city officials are crediting some new programs for keeping the streets safe.

D.C. Police say a 50 percent drop in homicides in June, compared to the same month last year, Mayor Vincent Gray said at a news conference today in southeast Washington. In addition, curfew violations are down, as is violent crime involving youth.

"This has been one of the safest summers thus far that we have experienced in recent memory,” Gray said.

So what’s different this year? Mayor Gray credits a collaboration of several city agencies that have banded together this summer to offer proactive programs in the community.  Among them: summer camps, summer school, arts programs and the Summer Youth Employment Program.

One of the biggest successes, Gray said, has been police walk-throughs in some of the city’s most at-risk neighborhoods.  Police officers have made their presence known and ensured that neighborhoods are clean, damaged lights are replaced and abandoned vehicles are towed away.

“When a community looks like it has been trashed, that’s the way people treat it,” Mayor Gray said. “That is exactly antithetical to what they set out to do this summer and what we were able to accomplish.”

The walk-throughs targeted the parts of the city with the highest concentration in crime, and officials said it really paid off.  Homicide rates have dropped 71 percent in those target areas, which include Trinidad, Carver Terrace, Rosedale and Benning Ridge. As a result, the walk-through program that started as a summer initiative will now continue as a year-round initiative.

Chief Cathy Lanier said the city is headed in the right direction -- working proactively to prevent crime rather than waiting to react when it happens.  

“We go out, engage the community, bring the services to them,” Lanier said.  “It’s 85 percent prevention and proactive engagement and then go in with the rest and focus on the repeat and violent offenders."

The biggest success, Lanier said, has been keeping the city’s youth safe.

“We’ve had a 50 percent reduction in the number of children under the age of 18 who have been the victim of homicide,” Lanier said, “so if nothing else was accomplished, that in and of itself makes everything that we have done worth it.”

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