Aug 8, 2023 - Politics & Policy

D.C. on pace for most homicides in two decades

Data: MPD; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: MPD; Chart: Axios Visuals

Washington, D.C., is on pace to have the deadliest year in two decades after starting the month of August with 16 homicides.

Driving the news: The violence led council member Trayon White, who represents one of the most crime-ravaged parts of town, to suggest "it may be time to call the National Guard to protect the children and innocent people."

  • The District's 161 homicides to date is a 28% increase over the same period last year. That eclipses the number killed in all of 2018 and follows back-to-back years of more than 200 homicides.

The big picture: Rising crime in the nation's capital has agonized residents and city leaders who have historically blamed it on criminals with easy access to illegal firearms, which escalates random disputes into gun violence.

  • Prosecutors are increasingly targeting criminal operations. In July, members of the Kennedy Street Crew were arrested over allegations of firearm stashes and a sophisticated drug-dealing ring across several blocks in Northwest.
  • The House GOP needled city leaders earlier this year over crime.

Meanwhile, new police chief Pamela Smith just took over the agency in July, after joining the force last year.

Zoom in: Nine people died last Saturday and Sunday, including three victims from an early-morning shooting in Adams Morgan.

  • Police said they did not yet know a motive for the killings.
Location of reported D.C. homicides, August 2023
Data: D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. Note: Two incidents occurred at the unit block of Forrester Street, SW. Map: Axios Visuals

What they're saying: "We are in a war zone," White said on Tuesday next to mothers of victims.

  • Mayor Muriel Bowser's office sidestepped White's unusual call for the National Guard to fight urban crime.
  • Instead, deputy mayor Lindsey Appiah told Axios, "Our focus, and where we will continue to request council support, is on attracting and retaining more officers at the Metropolitan Police Department and ensuring they have the resources and policy environment to do their jobs, have a strong presence in our neighborhoods, and make arrests and close cases."

Flashback: Homicides peaked in the early 1990s at more than 500 a year as crack ravaged the District. D.C. was called "Dodge City."

  • The tally declined to its lowest point — 88 — in 2012.

Go deeper: There's angst over D.C. crime in the sports capital

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