- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 2004

The District had the fewest homicides it has recorded in 18 years in 2004 but saw an increase in the number of children killed.

As of last night, the District was set to finish the year with fewer than 200 homicides for the first time since 1986, when there were 194 killings. There were 197 killings in 2004, including one last evening, compared to 248 in 2003.

Twenty-four children were killed in 2004 — about 12 percent of the city’s homicide victims. Twelve children were slain in 2003.

“No one should take another life, but we have to work on the problem of juvenile crime,” Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said.

The increase in youth killings is connected to a rise in overall juvenile crime, he said.

“When you engage in high-risk behavior, you include the possibility of getting injured,” the chief said.

Five of the juvenile victims last year were infants. The remaining 19 were teenagers, of whom 18 were shot to death.

Chief Ramsey said juvenile arrests were up by 17 percent over 2003, outpacing a 14 percent increase in adult arrests. He said about 60 percent of homicide cases were solved in 2004, the same figure as in 2003.

Meanwhile, violent crime was down by 13 percent in the District last year, and overall crime fell by 12 percent.

As the year neared its end, a 39-year-old Alexandria man was found fatally shot in the head outside a Giant Food store at 1050 Brentwood Road NE last evening, the 197th homicide of the year. The man’s name was not released.

The second straight year of decreases in homicides lowered the District’s homicide rate to 35 killings per 100,000 residents, down from 44.2 killings per 100,000 residents — the highest rate in the nation in 2003 among cities with more than 500,000 residents.

The chief attributed the drop in overall crime to a number of factors, including a healthy local economy.

He also cited a “hot-spot” initiative started earlier this year that focused resources on 14 neighborhoods plagued by high crime. Crime in those areas is down by 33 percent, the chief said.

He said a realignment of the city’s patrol service areas and the recent introduction of daily crime briefings allow commanders to deploy officers to high-crime areas based on real-time information.

The downward trend in killings was mirrored around most of the region.

Montgomery County had a total of 17 homicides in 2004, down from 23 in 2003. All but two of the 2004 killings have been solved.

Only one homicide was reported in Arlington County in 2004, compared with three in 2003. There were two homicides in Alexandria in 2004, compared with four in 2003.

Fairfax County had nine homicides in 2004, the same as in 2003.

Only in Prince George’s County was there a significant increase in homicides, from 128 in 2003 to 148 in 2004.

Officials there have complained that economic and housing policies in the District have pushed disadvantaged residents across the border into Prince George’s County. They say the majority of killings have occurred in neighborhoods along the D.C. border.

Prince George’s County Police Chief Melvin C. High plans to introduce initiatives targeting high-crime areas. He said the measures include prevention, intervention and enforcement strategies aimed at enforcing drug laws and seizing illegal firearms.

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