D.C. mayor says city is ‘safe,’ despite recent homicide spike

WASHINGTON — As the number of D.C. homicides ticks higher and discontent among residents spreads, Mayor Muriel Bowser is facing pressure to do something about it.

Now, challenged with a perception that the nation’s capital is dangerous, Bowser is contending that the city is safe.

“This city is among the safest cities anywhere in the United States,” Bowser told Fox 5. “And while we’re experiencing a spike in crime, overall our crime statistics are flat.”

On Tuesday, multiple shootings were reported in D.C., leaving at least one person dead and bringing this year’s homicide tally to 95 deaths.

Homicides for this year are up 30 percent compared to the same eight-month period in 2014 according to police data.

Meanwhile, residents’ long-brewing frustrations with what they felt was a lack of police presence came to a head after the fatal shooting Saturday of Matthew Shlonsky, 23, in the Shaw neighborhood. Residents claimed that their complaints about drug dealing and other problems had gone unanswered.

Police Chief Cathy Lanier said Shlonksy was walking with friends when he got caught in the crossfire.

“We don’t believe in this time he was the target of that shooting,” Lanier said.

No arrests have been made.

Bowser’s comments, that the city was “safe,” were made in response to the shooting in Shaw.  She told WTOP that the police force was doing everything it could.

“We’re working very hard to get ahead of any problems in all neighborhoods,” Bowser said. “The police have been very active in terms of deployment, but also in terms of investigations, and are going to hold people who mean harm to any resident accountable.”

According to police data, overall crime has increased by only 4 percent in D.C. The data provided by police compares crimes reported between Aug. 18, 2013, and Aug. 18, 2014, to those reported between Aug. 18, 2014, and Aug. 18, 2015.

The crime figures were similar for homicides. There were 119 homicides reported in within that 2013-14 timeframe. There were 124 homicides reported in the 2014-15 timeframe.

But  the data — and Bowser’s comments — may offer cold comfort to communities rocked by recent gun violence.  Asked if the city was reverting to an era akin to the 1980s, an era plagued by murders and gun violence, Bowser said, “No.”

“We’re not headed in that direction,” Bowser said. “This city is a very different city from those days. I lived here. I lived through it. It doesn’t feel like it and it’s not like it. But, at the same time any homicide, any shooting, any robbery is too much in our city.”

WTOP’s Kristi King, Mike Murillo, Andrew Mollenbeck, and Dick Uliano contributed to this report

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