Although violent crime in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area has declined by more than 27 percent since 2006, there has been a recent surge in homicides, according to a Sept. 14 Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments report.
The report showed violent crimes had decreased from 21,483 reported incidents in 2006 to 15,543 in 2015, while property crime decreased 21 percent during the same period.
In the 2014 to 2015 period alone, violent crimes fells from 16,617 in 2014 to 15,543 in 2015.
However, last year saw a 55 percent increase in homicides, from 197 incidents in 2014 to 307 in 2015, and the incidence of sexual assaults increased by 3.7 percent. All other offenses were down year to year.
Maryland’s Takoma Park Police Department Chief Alan Goldberg noted the crime rate declined in the area despite an 80,000-person population increase in D.C. alone since 2000. The Takoma Park Department is one of the 21 departments covered in the report.
“It’s almost counterintuitive, since the population density has gone up and the crime rate continues to drop,” Goldberg said. “That’s a good thing, and we really don’t want to complain about it too much.”
Despite the decline, Goldberg said he found the increase in homicides over the past year troubling, particularly because they primarily occurred among subjects who knew each other — a factor Goldberg said makes them difficult to prevent.
“The vast majority of homicides are still known subjects,” Goldberg said. “They’re not stranger homicides, [so] there’s very little we can do to prevent that kind of crime.”
Goldberg noted the difficulty of pinpointing one factor contributing to the lower crime rate. He suggested addressing gang violence and fostering better communication between different police jurisdictions as a way to allow officers to use technology to stop criminals.
“The criminals go from one jurisdiction to another without concern, and we are limited by our jurisdictions,” Goldberg said. “We actually do a much better job now of communicating and cooperating. We have been targeting some of the more violent criminals and groups.”
The MPD also noted the importance of community policing in lessening violent crime. In a statement to The Hoya, the MPD said the department would continue to assess its crime stopping capabilities in order to make D.C. safer.
“The Metropolitan Police Department is pleased to have seen a decrease in violent crimes in the District of Columbia the past ten years,” the statement read. “It is our philosophy to reduce violent crimes and we do this by building trust among all segments of the community, and by building relationships.”
Georgetown University Police Department Chief Jay Gruber said crime rates tend to fluctuate due to the large number of outside factors involved, including legislation and the state of the economy. He said another reason crime rates have decreased is due to better community policing in neighborhoods around the District.
“[Community policing] is being part of the community,” Gruber said. “Getting out of your cars and meeting the community, getting to know the people in the community, doing joint community events, going to community meetings, helping with problem solving in the community.”
Gruber noted despite the decrease, places like Georgetown are not immune to crime, citing the four recent sexual assaults in the Georgetown neighborhood as an example. He said students should continue to help GUPD keep the community safe by reporting suspicious activity to officers.
“Georgetown’s insulated in some ways because we’re in a contiguous campus and we’re in a nice neighborhood, but we still have crime here,” Gruber said. “We had the sexual assaults, the unlawful touching and we still see property taken from campus because of unlocked and open doors.”
Georgetown Law’s Institute of Criminal Law Co-Director and Professor William McDonald attributed some of the decreased crime in the city to the increase of immigrants, who he said statistically have lower rates of crime in their communities.
“Migrants, such as in New York City, are moving into old areas of the city where nobody else would want to live and they’re fixing them up,” McDonald said. “They’re not involved in crime, and they have lower crime rates than natives.”
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