- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2000

According to recently released statistics, the senseless bloodletting of gangland killings, drive-by shootings and violent carjackings that punctuated the 1980s and 1990s in the District are on the decline, as are the overall numbers of homicides. Finally, it seems, the combination of a variety of hard-line tactics, including beefed-up street patrols and tougher sentencing, are consistently paying off.

The trend began in 1997, when the District recorded fewer than 300 slayings (excluding justifiable homicides) compared to 1991, when they peaked at 489. Indeed, federal and local authorities have said that since 1997 the city has experienced a 42 percent drop in killings, including a 12 percent decline in 1999 alone. The decline is most noticeable in poor pockets of the city and neighborhoods that border Prince George's County, where street-level violence and drug sales are serious problems.

Much credit for the decline in 1999 can be attributed to the Metropolitan Police Department's Mobile Force, a special cadre of officers who work overtime to cool off hot spots around the city. Between late April, when it was formed, and late December, the unit made 1,820 felony arrests, 5,111 misdemeanor arrests, seized $415,568 in cash, 151 guns and an estimated $1.7 million in drugs. The strike force also helped solve 10 of the 228 homicides committed last year in the District.

Despite such success, problems remain. "I used to have to walk through a group of guys to get to my front door," one crime-weary woman told The Washington Times' Kristan Trugman. "While they didn't bother me specifically, you don't want to walk through drug dealers to get to your home." Moreover, she said, the drug gang has re-established itself on the same block.

Of course, local police can hardly afford to let up. In fact, if recent headlines are any indication, the Metropolitan Police Department and the District must work even harder to control crime. There have been several multiple slayings and assaults in recent weeks, including the killings in Adams Morgan.

For his part, Chief Charles Ramsey is instilling a long-needed sense of urgency and professionalism among the upper and lower ranks of the department. And last week he hired 30 veteran cops, vowing to have a force of 3,700 officers by this October and 3,800 officers by the end of October 2001. No doubt, more seasoned and well-trained officers on the force means more officers on streets. And that, by any statistical measure, is precisely what the District needs.

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