“We used to be known as the murder capital of the world and the city of unsolved homicides,” DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier said at a press conference marking the end of a year that has seen the District’s murder rate drop to its lowest level since the early 1960s.
“Our detectives and our police officers have done an amazing job in turning that around,” Lanier added. “We are no longer either one of those things.”
Mayor Vincent Gray joined Lanier at MPD headquarters today for a far-reaching roundup of the year in crime.
Highlights included the city’s homicide count which, barring a historic outbreak of violence before midnight tomorrow, is a 48-year low.
As of 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 30, MPD had recorded 108 murders in the city. That’s the fewest reported number of murders since 1963, Lanier and Gray said. It’s also an 18 percent decrease from last year, when there were 132.
“It’s phenomenal progress,” said Gray. “I’m certainly very proud of the reduction in homicide.”
Lanier credited a number of factors as contributors to the decrease in murders. She said detectives this year arrested suspects in cases quickly—often in just seven days—and that that quick action prevented retaliatory violence that could have multiplied the number of fatalities.
Homicides in DC have been on the decline for several years. In 1991 there were 479 homicides reported. Since then, only five years saw increases in the homicide count over the previous year.
Read MPD’s and the Mayor’s joint press release about 2011 crime below.
December 30, 2011
Mayor Vincent C. Gray and District Public Safety Officials Welcome Big Drop in Homicides and Announce Plan to Improve Police Service
Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Paul Quander and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier today announced a plan to improve the delivery of police services in the District of Columbia and highlighted crime-fighting successes from 2011 – including a significant decrease in murders compared to the same period last year.
As of today, there have been 108 murders in the District, putting the city on pace to have its lowest number of homicides in nearly half a century.
“While a single murder is one too many, this figure shows our city is on the right track,” Mayor Gray said. “The days when the District was known as the nation’s ‘Murder Capital’ are long behind us, and the plans we are announcing today will enable our police to continue this progress.”
In 2011, Chief Lanier launched an effort to realign patrol-service boundaries because of current and projected future imbalances in patrol-district workload.
“With increasing business and residential development and the thriving tourist and entertainment areas throughout the city, workload in the police districts has shifted significantly since the last boundary realignment was done in 2004,” said Chief Lanier. “The goal of the boundary realignment is to improve police service to the city.”
The city is divided into seven Police Districts, each of which is subdivided into five or more Police Service Areas (PSAs). The realignment plan, which will go into effect on January 1, is based on evaluation of crime, calls for service, development and road-construction plans, community concerns and other factors. The new boundaries will distribute crime and calls for service almost equally among the districts. While some police districts are changing more than others, all are undergoing some change. In addition, under the new boundaries, the largest PSAs will be reduced in size, with the total number of PSAs increasing from 46 to 56.
“All of this means more efficient police services for residents, as well as those who work here and visit our city,” said Mayor Gray. “I want to commend Chief Lanier and the men and women of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) for the progress they have made in combating crime.”
MPD has experienced continued success in driving down homicides. This year’s homicide total will be the lowest since 1963, the last year the District had fewer than 100 homicides.
For the year 2011, with 108 homicides to date, the District has seen an 18 percent decline in homicides over last year’s total of 132. MPD’s homicide case-closure rate is currently 94 percent, which is well above the national average and an increase over the year before.
“Our positive results can be attributed to proactive patrol measures and a collaborative approach with partners in the community and the criminal-justice system,” said Chief Lanier. “A key to the success was convincing all partners that we could prevent the next homicide through immediate and coordinated action. The Department has also improved its use of technology, which helps detectives analyze data and solve crimes. We are continuing to close homicide cases quickly, which removes violent offenders from the streets and is essential in our efforts to focus on gang violence.”
Chief Lanier also highlighted the dramatic reductions in homicides in the portion of the city east of the Anacostia River, which has long had the dubious distinction of leading the District in homicides. Before 2005, there were consistently more than 100 homicides annually in the police districts east of the Anacostia. So far this year, homicides east of the river have been reduced by half.
“There are still too many old wounds in families and communities that have survived homicides,” Chief Lanier said, “but dramatically reducing the number of new homicides – together with solving past homicides – helps families and communities to heal. This reduction certainly supports the resurgence of many of our neighborhoods east of the river.”
MPD also had successes this year in removing drugs and guns from the city’s streets.
A joint operation between MPD and federal partners led to the arrests of 70 suspects for the possession and distribution of firearms and narcotics with a street value of more than $7.1 million. The operation – which involved MPD and federal partners at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the FBI; the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency; the Drug Enforcement Administration; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office – was initiated to disrupt and dismantle illegal firearms trafficking, drug trafficking and fencing operations within the District of Columbia.
“This year we celebrated the 150th Anniversary of the MPD, and we continue to look for creative ways to fight crime in our city,” said Chief Lanier. “We are looking forward to great things in the New Year.”