District celebrates historically low homicide rate

Mayor Vincent Gray speaks during a press conference Thursday with Chief Cathy Lanier (right) announcing that the District\'s 88 violent deaths was the fewest homicides in the city since 1961. Other types of violent crime however have ticked up in the District. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)

Andrew Mollenbeck, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – In a dramatic turnaround from the one-time reputation as the “murder capital,” District leaders on Thursday announced the number of homicides last year was the lowest since 1961, while noting increases in other crimes.

The District recorded 88 murders in 2012, continuing a downward trend that has taken the homicide rate below 100 for the first time in 50 years.

As recently as 2008, the District reported 186 violent deaths.

“D.C. is certainly out-pacing most of the rest of the nation in terms of the reduction in homicide,” says Police Chief Cathy Lanier.

She highlighted the reduction of gun violence and juvenile victims.

“If you look back just in 2008, 142 people were killed with a firearm,” she says. “That number has dropped down to 59.”

Comparing the same years, 20 children were the victims of homicide. Four years later, just three children were victims of homicide.

The motive in killings has also changed from the District’s more violent past. Whereas drug battles often fueled the aggression, there has recently been a spike in attacks related to robbery.

“I think robbery and the taking of property is one of the ones that we’re seeing become more prevalent,” Lanier says. “That is worrisome.”

Most recently, Jason Emma was shot and killed during a robbery two blocks from his Capitol Hill apartment.

And a group of five men were arrested this fall in connection with robbing and beating Thomas Maslin near Eastern Market that left Maslin unable to speak and blind in one eye. The group has been tied to several other violent assaults in the city.

Sexual Assaults

By far, sexual assaults made up the largest increase in violent crime in 2012. And Lanier calls those cases her greatest concern in an otherwise positive yearend report.

Sex abuse cases jumped 51 percent from the previous year, with 263 incidents.

Among those, police saw a noticeable increase in the number of cases involving an attacker and a victim who knew each other.

“There really is a role for all us,” Lanier says of the city’s response to combat the rising number of assaults. “We went out and educated the bar owners and the managers on things to look for, to help identify and intervene when there’s potential for those assaults to happen.”

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(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)


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