- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Two killings in Baltimore over the holiday weekend pushed that city above last year’s homicide total, with 270, while the District is on pace to record its lowest number of killings in decades.

With five days left in the year, the District has tallied 162 killings — well below the total of 194 at this time last year.

“That’s still a lot of people,” Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said in an interview last week, adding that he was “very pleased with where our numbers are.”

Chief Ramsey, who has been the District’s police chief since April 1998, is serving out the last days of his term.

Mayor-elect Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, announced earlier this month that Cmdr. Cathy L. Lanier would replace Chief Ramsey. Mr. Fenty takes office Jan. 2.

The District likely will finish the year with the lowest homicide total since 1985, when police recorded 147 killings in the city.

Before that, the lowest total was in 1966, when 141 persons were killed.

Chief Ramsey said he remains optimistic about further declines in the District’s homicide totals.

“I think we can get under 100,” he said, adding that he thinks the homicide total should be between 60 and 80 per year. “That should be average for a city this size.”

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, pledged upon talking office in 2000 to reduce the city’s annual homicide total to below 175. He never achieved that goal.

Five permanent police chiefs served during his two terms as mayor, and the lowest homicide total recorded was in 2002, when there were 253 killings in Baltimore.

Mr. O’Malley was elected governor in November and will take office Jan. 17.

The slight increase in homicides in Baltimore is in line with a national trend.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, homicides nationwide were up 1.4 percent in the first half of the year.

In cities with populations between 500,000 and 1 million, like the District and Baltimore, homicides were up 8.4 percent.

In July, the homicide total in the District briefly exceeded the total from last year, after 14 persons were killed in the first 12 days of the month.

Chief Ramsey responded by declaring a crime emergency on July 11.

The chief canceled the crime emergency on Nov. 3, but the reduction in homicides during the four months the emergency measure was in effect appears to be holding.

Three unrelated killings over the holiday weekend brought to eight the total number of homicides for December, which in recent years has been a violent month in the District.

Last December, Chief Ramsey declared an emergency when four persons were killed in unrelated incidents in a six-hour period during the first two days of that month. The city finished the month with 11 homicides.

Police recorded 15 homicides in December 2004.

Meanwhile, D.C. police are solving a greater percentage of homicide cases.

As of Dec. 22, detectives had closed 107 homicide cases this year for a closure rate of 67.3 percent.

D.C. police last year had a closure rate of 60.7 percent, compared to a closure rate of 54.3 percent for Baltimore police.

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