D.C. Area Slayings Climbed In 2005

By Allison Klein and Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, January 2, 2006

The Washington region saw a rise in bloodshed in 2005, largely fueled by a spike in slayings in the D.C. suburbs, most dramatically in Prince George's County.

It was a reversal of the trend in the 1980s and 1990s, when the District gained notoriety as the country's "murder capital" during the crack wars of those decades. The District still has the largest share of area killings, with 194 slayings in 2005, close to 2004's total of 198.

Across the region, there were 466 homicides in 2005, compared with 420 in 2004 -- a rise of about 11 percent. About half of those slayings have been solved.

It was the first time the District has recorded fewer than 200 homicides in consecutive years since the mid-1980s. At the same time, the total in Prince George's climbed from 148 to 173, a grim record for the county. The Washington Post's analysis of homicide figures combines statistics from municipal and county police departments within the boundaries of a county.

Nationally, homicides in such large metropolitan counties as Prince George's and Fairfax are increasing, while cities the size of the District are seeing a slight drop, according to the latest preliminary FBI crime data.

In suburban Virginia, killings in Fairfax more than doubled in 2005, from 11 to 24. In 2004, Fairfax -- with a population of more than 1 million -- had the lowest homicide rate in the country among large jurisdictions.

Last year's Fairfax killings did not arise from any new or unusual motives: 17 were committed by people who knew their victims from domestic situations or ongoing feuds, police statistics show.

In Montgomery County, homicides remained about the same, with 19 last year and 18 in 2004.

Washington area counties that have had very small number of homicides saw increases in 2005 as well. Arlington had five and Howard logged four; each had just one in 2004. Southern Maryland was the only part of the suburban region that had a decrease.

In addition to having the highest number of killings, the District also tallied the highest homicide rate in the region: 35 per 100,000 residents. Across the country, cities similar to the District -- with populations of 500,000 to 1 million -- had an average homicide rate of 13.5 per 100,000 in 2004.

Prince George's, with a population of 850,000, had a rate of 20 per 100,000, and Fairfax had a rate of 2 per 100,000.

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey and Prince George's Police Chief Melvin C. High expressed frustration with the homicide numbers.

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