Peter Hermann and Michael Brice-Saddler, Washington Post, June 7, 2023
Three fatal shootings Tuesday night and early Wednesday in Southeast and Northeast Washington — including one of a 63-year-old woman — pushed D.C.’s homicide count to 102, the earliest point in the year the city has recorded 100 killings in two decades.
“It is indeed a grim milestone,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said at a news conference.
The city is on pace to surpass 200 homicides for the third consecutive year. Before 2021, D.C. hadn’t reached 200 killings since 2003. Homicides this year are up 19 percent compared with this time in 2022.
The rise in violence comes as federal lawmakers have focused intently on D.C.’s crime, successfully blocking a measure that would have overhauled the city’s criminal code in ways some members of Congress felt were too lenient, and raising concerns about previously passed police reform measures.
D.C. police said the last time the city reached 100 homicides before June 6 was May 27, 2003. A decade ago, the District did not have 100 homicides until Dec. 7. The city never reached triple-digits in 2012, when 88 people were killed, the fewest in a half-century.
D.C. has seen rises in shootings and carjackings over the past three years, with violence against youths emerging as a particular concern in recent months. Eight youths between the ages of 10 and 17 have been killed in violence this year.
June has been particularly deadly, with a one-a-day homicide pace. In one instance, police say, a man shot another man who threw a bottle at him. In another, a man died after he was doused with a flammable liquid and set on fire in Southeast Washington during a dispute.
The D.C. police union issued a statement blaming the uptick in homicides in part on a police reform bill, arguing its provisions are driving officers off the force and impeding those who remain in stopping crime — a claim lawmakers have disputed. Among other things, the bill limits police searching people or property based on getting consent, instead of a warrant, and requires police to make video from body cameras public when officers shoot people.
As of June 2, D.C. police had 3,343 sworn members. So far this fiscal year, which started in October, police said 210 officers have left the force, including 85 who resigned and 80 who retired. The department has hired 96 officers in that period.
Contee, the former police chief, said in April that he expected the size of the force to drop to 3,130 officers by the end of fiscal 2024, despite new hiring efforts by the city. The department had about 3,900 officers in 2014.
“Resignations are now outpacing retirements, and recruiting numbers are abysmal,” Greggory Pemberton, the chairman of the D.C. police union, said in a statement Wednesday.