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Slaying Toll Already Equals Last Year's
In response to the District's crime, Lanier has beefed up street patrols and put more officers on foot. She has also focused more attention on neighborhoods that have had persistent violence -- including Columbia Heights and lower Georgia Avenue in Northwest Washington and the Knox Hill area and the neighborhood around Suitland Parkway and Southern Avenue in Southeast.
When Lanier took office at the end of last year, she decided to abandon the "crime emergencies" that Ramsey used to try to cut crime during violent surges, including last summer. The emergencies allowed Ramsey to shift officers' schedules and mandate that they work last-minute overtime. But they were costly. The price tag for summer 2006, for example, was $14 million.
Instead, Lanier has had four "All Hands on Deck" initiatives, in which most available officers work during a predetermined two- or three-day span. The first one cost $1.2 million. For the remaining three, she rearranged officers' schedules so it wouldn't cost extra money.
The level of homicides is far from the bloodshed of the late 1980s and early 1990s, during the crack cocaine epidemic. In 1991, the city had 489 killings. If the current pace continues, the city will be closer to the number of homicides it had in 2004 and 2005: slightly less than 200.
More than half of this year's killings -- 94 -- happened east of the Anacostia River.
The death toll is increasing in pockets, most significantly in the 7th Police District -- the southernmost section of the city east of the Anacostia River, where there have been 57 killings this year, an increase of about 41 percent from this time last year.
"That's not inconsistent with what we've seen historically," Lanier said. "It's very sporadic; there's spikes and valleys."
Assistant Police Chief Winston Robinson, who oversees criminal investigations, pointed to more guns, drug battles and clashing neighborhood youths as causes for the increase.
"A lot of it is neighborhood crews. They go back and forth with each other," Robinson said. "There's turf issues, arguments over girls, arguments over something that may have happened that nobody can remember."
Thirty-eight homicides this year are blamed on arguments.
The next largest category of killings was robbery, which accounted for 22 slayings this year.
In recent months, two restaurant workers were robbed and shot as they delivered food in Southeast. On Nov. 11, Hong Zhi Wang, 29, was killed as he brought food to a home in the 1300 block of Barnaby Terrace. Ling Mao, 36, was found fatally shot Sept. 1 at Savannah Street and Ridgecrest Court.