Newsham: Concerted effort to curb illegal guns part of DC crime drop

WASHINGTON — D.C. once was called the murder capital. But this year, the District has seen a drop in all violent crime and homicides are down 16 percent from last year.

The downward trend in crime is due in part to a concerted effort to remove illegal guns off the streets, said interim Police Chief Peter Newsham in an exclusive interview with WTOP.

Newsham said D.C. officers are tasked with finding and confiscating illegal firearms.

“This past weekend, I want to say we recovered as many as 18 illegal firearms from the District of Columbia; that’s not uncommon over the course of the weekend,” he said.

Newsham acknowledged part of the reason for the statistical drop in crime is because the numbers are compared with an especially violent year. The 2015 homicide rate was an outlier, with a 54 percent increase over 2014 and 162 lives lost.

However, police statistics show violent crimes, including robbery, sex abuse and assault with a dangerous weapon, have dropped across the board.

“The other thing we have been going after pretty significantly is the robberies in the city. We did have a number of robberies that did result in deaths, or homicides,” he said of 2015.

The last thing police want, Newsham said, is for a petty dispute to end up in gun play because a gun is there.

Although he won’t learn until sometime after the presidential inauguration, if the job is his, the interim chief said he’s pleased to be leading a department that is seeing results from its efforts.

“We’re down in every single crime category, something we’re very very proud of, especially homicides. You know, people don’t feel safe when your violent crime is going up in the city,” he said.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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