City Desk

Murder Is Down In D.C., But Why?

On WAMU's DCentric, Elahe Izadi explores why murder rates have dropped to a 50-year-historic low in D.C. One thing's for sure: It's not due to gentrification.

Since 1990, the percentage of people living in poverty has remained relatively stable or slightly increased in the east of the Anacostia River communities, places which also experienced the biggest recent decreases in murders. The number of murders dropped by 55 percent in 2011 in the police’s 7th District, where more than one-third of people live below the poverty line, according to census estimates. In 1990, about 28 percent of residents there were impoverished.

In recent decades, many people moving out of east of the river communities settled in Prince George’s County. But those individuals who were moving weren’t the poorest people in their communities, and they didn’t leave because of gentrification, according to demographer Roderick J. Harrison. Many moved to the suburbs because they could afford to and they were getting more for their money further away from the city.

But despite Police Chief Cathy Lanier's natural desire to take credit ("We had to go out there and really build relationships with people in the neighborhood. They have to trust us."), it isn't all due to community policing either:

What does explain the drop in murders east of the river? For one, violent crime nationwide is on the decline, and the exact reasons aren’t fully known.

The correlation between U.S. murder rates and District murder rates is pretty clear. As of this year, for the first time in nearly 50 years, murder is no longer on the top 15 causes of death for Americans. Back in the early '90s—when D.C. was the "murder capital"—homicide was at its highest position on the list, at 10.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Og

    Homicide is down all across the country, not just DC. Even PG County experienced a decline in murders.

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