Washington D.C. recorded its lowest homicide rate in 45 years in 2009. The number of murders dropped twenty-five percent from 2008: falling from 186 to 140 in a single year. Even more impressive is the decline since 1991, where killings in Washington D.C. spiked at 489 deaths.
“It’s huge,” said D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. “We’re making an impact.”
While the District’s improvement is heartening and well above the ten percent national per-capita rate decline, when compared to many other large cities, D.C. still ranks among the most dangerous cities in America. In 2009, there were 23 killings per 100,000 D.C. residents, almost four times the per-capita rate for New York City.
The Seventh Police District had the highest number of murders (40) last year, while the Second District (which contains Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and Cleveland Park) was among the safest areas of the city, with no killings reported in 2009.
Photo from Flickr user Davidsonscott15 used under a Creative Commons license.
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Last week, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier and D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles jointly testified before Councilmember Phil Mendelson’s (D – At Large) Judiciary Committee on the “Omnibus Anti-Crime Amendment Act of 2009” and the “Public Safety and Justice Amendments Act of 2009,” two hefty crime bills originating from the Mayor Adrian Fenty’s office and Mendelson’s office, respectively.
Fun facts! Out of their testimony, City Paper’s Jason Cherkis reports, comes some startling estimates of how many gang members there are in the District, and not-so-startling reports as to where they are not:
“I am not sure if this is an overwhelming number. But here’s what Lanier and Nickles stated: ‘At the present time, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) estimates that there are approximately 1,730 active gang members in 87 gangs in the District.’ …. Looks like only 2D (of course) is gang-free turf. Hey kids: Georgetown is yours for the taking!”
Will Georgetown University best GWU? It begins.
What’s in those bills anyway? Mendelson’s bill and the mayor’s Crime Omnibus are sometimes at odds, but they both seek to (among other things) curb gang activity using harsher sanctions against gang members. The mayor’s bill seeks to give judges the right to issue gang injunctions against juveniles in addition to adults. The Crimnibus also broadens stalking definitions and would put the lockdown on police records concerning violent crimes to protect witness and victim information. Cherkis notes it “beef[s] up the penalties associated with gun charges.”
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Georgetown neighborhood is going to start sharing its Metro cops with more of the city if Police Chief Lanier gets her way. Her plan to organize police districts would re-zone higher crime Dupont Circle, part of downtown, and some of U Street into the more genteel Second District, which includes Georgetown.
Of course, people in the old Second District aren’t pleased about having to share. “Most concerning is that there will be a de facto drain of resources away from us,” Spence Spencer (!), the president of a neighborhood association in the 2nd District, told The Washington Post. Obviously, the change should be done responsibly. But don’t think Georgetown is defenseless, or ever resigns itself to sacrificing for the rest of the city.
Last year, I went to an Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting when the commission discussed a resolution to buy protection from off-duty police officers. After one of the commissioners talked about how concerned he was that we were using our money to buy better treatment than the rest of the city gets, the measure passed unanimously. Check out this Voice article from January to see more about local residents’ mercenary hiring practices.
Via Why I Hate DC. Photo from Flickr user dchousegrooves
-Will Sommer, blog editor
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