- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The number of homicides in the District and Prince George’s County last year crept above the totals for 2006, reversing declines in killings in both jurisdictions.

As of yesterday, Metropolitan Police recorded 182 killings, up from 169 in 2006. It was the first time the homicide total has risen since 2002, but it was the second lowest total in 22 years.

“I’m satisfied with the work my officers have done because I see how hard they work,” Chief Cathy L. Lanier said. “I’m never satisfied with crime numbers because I always want them to be lower.”

Prince George’s County recorded 141 killings last year, up from 134 a year earlier. In 2005, a record 173 homicides were reported.

Other jurisdictions also recorded increases in their homicide totals. Montgomery County reported 19 killings last year, an increase of four from 2006. Alexandria had six killings, an increase of one.

In Fairfax County, police recorded 13 homicides, down six from 2006. Arlington County also posted a decline, with two homicides, after recording four for all of last year.

Despite the increase in killings in the District, Chief Lanier said she is pleased with the department’s work. She lauded the department’s homicide closure rate, which rose from 65 percent in 2006 to 70 percent last year — a 10-year high.

Chief Lanier attributed the increase to her five All Hands on Deck weekends, during which the entire department was required to work patrol shifts.

“I can’t say enough about how much information we got from our community this year that has made this a lot easier for us to close cases quickly,” Chief Lanier said. “I think going into the new year we’ll be able to drive [homicide] numbers down even further.”

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said he is pleased with the police department’s efforts and expected this year that homicides would continue a downward trend that began in the early 1990s, when the numbers were close to 500.

“We want the police department to be all hands on deck to stabilize crime, to use smart techniques,” said Mr. Fenty, a Democrat. “I think they’re doing that, but as the months go on they’ll keep getting better at it.”

Preliminary numbers from the department show that the crime rate has increased overall in the city, with armed robbery up 25 percent and shootings up 6 percent.

However, Chief Lanier testified at a hearing last month that the numbers have a 10 percent margin of error because the papered records must be corrected and updated manually.

Chief Lanier said yesterday that the department is about two months behind in updating the records.

She said she will focus on integrating technological improvements that include outfitting 800 patrol cars with wireless reporting capabilities and transitioning to an electronic record-keeping system.

A spokesman for the department’s technology office said all patrol cars will have the technology by December and electronic record keeping and some advanced reporting features will be completed in 10 to 12 months.

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