WASHINGTON — Heading into the hot summer season, when crime traditionally tends to increase, D.C. leaders are pointing to encouraging numbers and expressing optimism that 2017 will be a productive year when it comes to keeping criminal activity down.
“We’ve seen dramatic reductions,” said D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen, who cautioned that “the summer months can be a particularly challenging time.”
Allen, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, spoke at a Monday hearing on summer crime prevention.
“Two years ago, where we experienced a significant increase in violence, we could start to see that trend earlier in the year. Here, at roughly the halfway point, you do have some positives,” he said.
The District has seen drops in nearly every category of crime.
Overall violent crime is down 26 percent this year from the same time in 2016. Robberies are down 33 percent, assaults with a dangerous weapon are down 22 percent and homicides are down 15 percent.
“We ended 2016 having recorded the fewest number of violent crimes in the city’s history,” explained the deputy mayor for public safety and justice, Kevin Donahue. “In 2017, we are down from this historical low.”
Donahue told the committee that the city is working to keep those numbers low, in part by focusing on initiatives that help teens and young adults get jobs and have productive things to do.
“An enormous amount of work goes into preparing for summer, across many agencies, with an eye on creating positive activities for residents,” Donahue said.
Other initiatives are all about law enforcement.
“We study and analyze repeat offenders who affect the entire city,” said D.C. Police Patrol Chief Lamar Greene. “The chief’s focus on taking handguns and weapons off the street has a definite impact on violent crime as a whole.”
An annual program that puts extra resources in neighborhoods that face challenges with rising summer crime is also underway.
The program began in May and runs through the end of August.
“The summer crime initiative isn’t just about putting more officers in the street,” Donahue said. “The goal is to engage community residents in order to build and deepen trusting and respectful relationships.