Murder decreases in D.C.
The District is shedding its reputation as one of the most violent cities in the nation, with homicides in the city falling by more than 25 percent this year.
Eighty-eight murders were recorded through June 25, compared to 121 killings through the same date in 2003, representing a decline of 27 percent, The Washington Times reported. If the current trend continues through the remainder of 2004, D.C. could see fewer than 200 killings in a year for the first time since 1986.
In the 1990s, D.C. was known as the “murder capital of the country.” But in recent years, the city has seen its violent crime numbers fall below many large cities, including Detroit and St. Louis.
Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey told The Times that he believes the Homicide Prevention Project, which groups narcotics officers and violent crimes units to identify offenders in violent neighborhoods, is responsible for the reduction. Ramsey also said aggressive execution of arrest warrants and daily briefings on crime “hot spots” also contributed to the reduction.
“Obviously, we still have half a year to go and all of the summer, but the numbers are encouraging,” Ramsey told The Times.
The District will also be getting federal assistance to help ensure that the trend continues. The U.S. Justice Department announced in June that MPD will receive additional aid from federal law enforcement to prevent violent crimes.
District crime is down 11.9 percent across the board through May, according to early statistics. Ramsey said his goal is to reduce crime by 10 percent and keep the homicide total under 200, though he would like to set the bar higher.
“That was our goal at the beginning of the year, but still that’s an awful lot of people to die,” Ramsey told the Times. “So it’s not something to brag about.”
Anti-smoking campaigners encouraged by restaraunt numbers
Activists pushing for a smoking ban in District restaurants scored a victory last week after learning that revenue in Montgomery County restaurants is up in the six months following the county’s smoking ban.
Tax revenue generated by the restaurant industry increased this year by more than 7 percent from October to March, The Washington Post reported. The ban took effect Oct. 9.
“The fears we heard that this was going to devastate the restaurant industry don’t appear to be true,” County Executive Douglas M. Duncan told The Post. “These early numbers are very encouraging.”
Restaurant industry leaders said the results should be examined more closely, and they attributed the increase to an overall boost in the economy after slumps caused by the September 11 attacks and 2002 sniper shootings.
“I hope smarter politicians won’t be fooled by the inaccuracy of this data,” Melvin Thompson, vice president of government relations for the Restaurant Association of Maryland, told The Post.
Anti-smoking advocates said Montgomery County’s results should help their attempt to institute a similar ban in D.C. restaurants.
-compiled by Ryan Holeywell
This article appeared in the July 6, 2004 issue of the Hatchet.