Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) is on track to leave office Jan 2. having just achieved the fewest yearly number of homicides in decades, probably improving on his administration's success last year in bringing the tally down to 143 killings.
According to statistics supplied by D.C. police, the District has logged 115 homicides this year. At this point last year, there had been 123 homicides, which helped pave the way for the lowest annual total since 1966.
Although the decline is part of a national trend, the drop-off in the District has become symbolic in a city once known as the nation's murder capital.
During his unsuccessful campaign for reelection against D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, Fenty (D) often pointed to the declining homicide rate as a sign of the city's progress under his leadership. But to the dismay of some key supporters, Fenty never aggressively pushed the issue through television ads, perhaps denying his campaign a message that had the potential to cross racial and economic lines.
With six weeks remaining until New Years, there's still a chance that this year's total could creep past last year's. But the overall pattern appears set, helping to shape Fenty's legacy.
The District's improving homicide tally could also increase pressure on Gray (D) to reappoint Police Chief Cathy Lanier.
While it can be debated whether Lanier's crime-fighting tactics are responsible for the decline, she remains one of the most popular figures in the city, according to recent opinion polls.
Lanier has had a few stumbles recently, including being criticized for speaking out too soon about the circumstances surrounding a suspicious death outside the DC 9 nightclub on U Street. And some of Lanier's critics, including the Fraternal Order of Police, note other crime categories have risen even as homicides have declined. But Gray has publicly praised her for being effective, heightening expectations that she will be retained.