Homicides edged up in 2013 in the District, a year after hitting their lowest mark in more than half a century.
The 103 killings recorded by the Metropolitan Police Department as of Dec. 31 include 12 people gunned down during a September mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. Without those victims, the city recorded 91 killings — just more than the 88 homicides seen in 2012.
Most jurisdictions around the D.C. area recorded declines.
Prince George’s County had the second-most homicides in the region in 2013.
The county police department investigated 56 slayings — a decline from the 64 cases investigated in 2012. Separate law enforcement agencies investigated another six homicides in the county, bringing the total number of homicides in Prince George’s to 62 this year, according to county police.
Officials from Fairfax and Montgomery counties reported eight killings in 2013.
Fairfax County saw a decrease in killings from the 16 recorded in 2012.
A Montgomery County Police Department spokeswoman said the county also saw a decrease, from 15 homicides in 2012, and added that investigations in seven of this year’s eight homicides have been closed.
“When you have just a handful, it’s more important to understand the facts of each of those cases,” said John Roman, criminologist with the D.C.-based Justice Policy Center. “If you have some sort of tragic murder, a family murder-suicide, you’ve doubled a safe place’s homicide rate.”
Several of the incidents reported in Fairfax County were domestic murder-suicides.
In one incident in Chantilly, a 20-year-old man stabbed his brother and later shot himself. In another, a man shot his 64-year-old mother-in-law before killing himself inside his Falls Church apartment.
Arlington County recorded no homicides this year, after five homicides in 2012.
Alexandria saw just the opposite of Arlington — recording five homicides this year after none in 2012. Police said investigations have closed three of this year’s slayings while detectives continue to investigate the other two deaths — including that of 69-year-old Ronald Kirby, a longtime planner with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments who was found fatally shot in his home in November.
D.C. police were unable to provide the department’s closure rate.
Across the country, major cities like New York and even Chicago — which counted the most homicides of any city in the country last year — have seen major progress this year.
As of Dec. 30, the New York Police Department reported 333 killings — the fewest in recorded history — and far below the 419 homicides recorded last year, according to the mayor’s office. The city, which topped out at 2,245 homicides in 1990, has seen dramatic decreases over the last decade.
Even Chicago, which saw 500 homicides in 2012, experienced a decline in 2013, with city officials reporting 413 homicides as of Dec. 30.
“It’s about resources. Big cities have invested enormously,” Mr. Roman said of public safety initiatives. “It’s the mid-sized cities where the trouble seems to be.”
Mr. Roman cited both Baltimore and Indianapolis as cities struggling to reduce the number of homicides. Both cities have seen homicide spikes this year, but in each city police chiefs have sought to make residents feel safe by downplaying the deaths.
Indianapolis Police Chief Rick Hite said an analysis of the city’s 109 homicides showed that 86 of the murder victims this year had “local adult criminal histories,” according to the Indianapolis Star.
A similar assertion by Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts made waves Tuesday. The commissioner said in a WBAL-TV interview that crime in the city is “localized” and that “everyday citizens” are seeing crime drops, despite an increase in the number of homicides for the last two years.
“Just saying its just criminals engaging in criminal lifestyles misses some real opportunities to work on some places that have been poisoned and can be inoculated against violence,” Mr. Roman said.
In the coming year, he expects technology to play a major role in reducing violence both locally and in police departments across the country.