Homicide totals in 2009 plummet in District, Prince George's

By Allison Klein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 1, 2010

The District and Prince George's County, long considered the region's most violent jurisdictions, logged their lowest homicide totals in years in 2009, with D.C. hitting a 45-year -low.

The number of slayings last year in the District, once known as the murder capital of the United States, was 140, a 25 percent drop from 2008. Prince George's recorded 100 killings, the county's lowest in nine years. Montgomery and Fairfax counties also had significant decreases in homicides in 2009.

But the drop in the District was unprecedented and significant for its size and its scope: Every police district in the city experienced at least a double-digit drop in homicides.

"It's huge," said D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. "We're making an impact."

The homicide numbers were compiled as of late Thursday night and could go up New Year's Eve, but any such increases are not likely to change the overall trend.

Crime across the country is falling, with FBI statistics from the first half of 2009 showing that homicides dipped 10 percent nationally, compared with the same period in 2008. Although final year-end totals have not been tallied, New York expects to post its fewest homicides since 1963. Philadelphia had a 9 percent decrease, and Chicago had an 11 percent drop.

Despite the widespread decreases, there is no consensus among police officials about why crime went down in 2009, but theories include more focused enforcement, better use of technology and stepped-up intelligence gathering.

It is notable that crime is dropping across the entire region because when violence is tamped down in one area, it often gets pushed to a neighboring jurisdiction.

That did not happen in 2009. Prince George's had its lowest homicide numbers since 2000. Montgomery recorded 13 killings, a drop from 21 in 2008. And Fairfax had 11, compared with 19 in 2008.

Prince George's Police Chief Roberto L. Hylton said the county made a concerted effort to reduce violence. "It's not about luck," he said. "It's really a methodical approach to crime. We're actually applying strategies. We're developing new relationships and partnerships with community groups, and I think that has a lot to do in the way of affecting crime."

In the District, city officials said they have come a long way from the bloodshed of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when street wars over crack cocaine helped fuel more than 400 slayings annually. The violence has been shrinking steadily since and took its most dramatic dive in 2009.

The 2nd Police District, which includes Dupont Circle, Georgetown and Cleveland Park, did not have any slayings in the past year.

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