“Some of the murders that have happened recently are domestic ones, they are crimes of passion, and there’s no pattern to that.”

—D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray

Truth Teller rating: 

Yes, certainly “some” of the city’s spike in homicides so far this year can be attributed to domestic disputes – one in five, to be precise. But that number does not fully explain the doubling of D.C.’s homicide rate over the first two months of the year.

Also, many big-city police departments no longer treat domestic homicides as inherently unavoidable. In nearby Baltimore, for example, prosecutors more aggressively pursue less violent domestic assaults under the theory that earlier intervention can head off more serious altercations down the road.

Overall, District police say that through early March, at least five of this year’s 25 killings were confirmed to be domestic related. At least one might be retaliation for a fatal shooting several years ago, and several others are believed to have been committed by acquaintances. Whether the motives in those are the result of personal grievances are not yet known.

The number of killings so far this year far exceeds the pace set in 2013, when 12 people were killed through the first week of March. In all, 104 people were slain in the District in 2013, well above the 50-year low of 88 in 2012. Last year’s numbers include the 12 killed at the Navy Yard in September.

Six people were killed in the District in 35 hours between Feb. 27 and March, 1, and eight people in 23 days were killed during daylight hours, most of them outside. There have been three double homicides – all unsolved – and two infants killed in 2013 but ruled homicides in 2014.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier has made it a priority for officers and detectives to detect early signs of trouble in neighborhoods and head it off, part of an effort to stop the retaliatory killings that can quickly escalate.

Peter Hermann contributed to this story.