Posted on January 3, 2012

DC Touts Lowest Murder Rate in Nearly 50 Years

Eric Tucker, Seattle Pi, December 29, 2011

The nation’s capital, ravaged more than two decades ago by a violent crack epidemic that drove up murder rates, is on pace to record the fewest number of homicides in nearly a half century, officials said Thursday.

The District of Columbia’s decline mirrors a nationwide trend of falling rates in major American cities, but it’s nonetheless a stark drop for a city that had 479 homicides 20 years ago.

There were 108 homicides in 2011 as of Thursday, down from 132 at the same time last year, according to D.C. police department figures. The homicide rate hasn’t been this low since 1963, officials said, though the numbers have been steadily dropping over the past two decades.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier credited the decline to the quick turnaround time in closing cases, which removes the killer from the street before he can kill again or himself be killed in retribution — a common problem in gang violence. She also touted the department’s work in targeting violent gang members and improved technology and use of social media that helps detectives analyze data and solve crimes.


Still, the success in bringing down the murder rate is hardly unique to the nation’s capital.

New York City, for instance, has had a two-decade decline in crime, and officials there predict a murder rate drop of at least 4 percent in 2011. {snip} And Baltimore officials said last week they were on pace to record fewer than 200 homicides for the year, the lowest rate in more than 20 years.


Kris Baumann, the leader of the D.C. police officers’ union, said he was pleased by the homicide decline but disappointed that the numbers were as high as they were and by the fact that crime totals in several categories, including sex abuse, theft and theft from auto, had increased in 2011 from last year. Overall, total crime is up by 2 percent over last year, the figures show.


“I’m thrilled and everyone is thrilled,” he said, but added, “The numbers are still shocking.”