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As several cities have fallen out of step with the national trend and recorded homicide spikes last year, Chief Lanier emphasized the importance of monitoring the cause of those increases so the District does not also fall victim.

Among the measures most successful at preventing homicides and violent crime, Chief Lanier credits officers’ development of sources and information about violent offenders which has enabled the department to be in place before violence begins and target the individuals most likely to be involved. Working with residents to target offenders wreaking havoc on neighborhoods proved far more effective than targeting the neighborhoods themselves.

“Hot-spot policing was not as effective for us in D.C. because we alienated a lot of people in the neighborhood that we need to work with us,” she said.

But the success the city has seen in achieving fewer than 100 homicides last year also prompts the question of where it can go from here.

“Once you cross benchmarks it’s important to stop and figure out what the next goal is,” said John Roman, a senior fellow at the D.C.-based Urban Institute. “Is it no homicides of youth under 18 from here? Is that attainable? I don’t know. Is it 50 homicides?”

Reducing gun violence and robberies will both remain priorities for the department in 2013, but Chief Lanier may also be sizing up her next hurdle — one that might seem as improbable as her goal of 100 did several years ago.

“For a city our size, there shouldn’t be more than 50 homicides,” she said.

Economic development booming in many quarters of the city should continue to promote the “virtuous cycle” of lowering crime rates, said Mr. Roman, pointing to the changes the development around Verizon Center brought to Gallery Place as one such example. But at a certain threshold, it becomes a challenge to maintain a low homicide total, much less realize further declines.

“The lower the homicide numbers go, the more apt they are go in the wrong direction,” Mr. Fox said. “Homicide numbers are not going to go to zero in a city of any size.”