- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2001

The District has recorded 56 homicides this year, down from 85 at the same time last year, setting the city on course to break last years record low and meet the police chiefs goal of fewer than 200 slayings.
If that 34 percent reduction stays constant, the city will finish the year with 183 homicides, a level not seen since the early 1970s, Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said.
"People are trying to remember when they had a rate that low," he said. "We certainly cant rest on our laurels, but clearly theres some progress."
For a city that held the stigma of the "murder capital" for several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, "thats a tremendous improvement, " the chief said.
The District had 237 homicides last year, a 10-year record low.
The citys declining crime rate mirrors national statistics, which show a seven-year drop that has slowed recently. Many of the large factors influencing the national decline — a good economy, low unemployment, the absence of the crack cocaine wars — apply to the District, too.
Other factors include crime prevention, community policing and youth outreach, Chief Ramsey and others said.
Enforcement tactics such as the officer redeployment, Summer Mobile Force and a narcotics strike force, which made 700 arrests in its first 60 days of operation last year, suppress crime and drive out violence, the chief said.
"If weve learned one thing in this three years, its whenever we activate mobile force, you see a drop in crime, " he said. "Weve been trying to deal with street crime pretty aggressively. This is still a violent city in a lot of ways. People just have to stop shooting each other, frankly."
Even a patrol officer halting a game of late-night craps can have a huge, but unmeasurable, impact, Chief Ramsey said.
"If we break up a dice game, youre not just breaking up a game, youre probably stopping a murder," he said. "At 2 in the morning when youve lost all your money and been drinking, you can have a shooting. If you break up the game, you may have just prevented a murder. Do you know that for sure? No. But its a safe bet."
In the last few years, January, February and March "have been our worst months" for homicides, Chief Ramsey said, adding that "weve got summer to get through."
"Well have to take it a month at a time," he said. "Youre one bad weekend away from things going right up. Its not stable."
Police do not expect to begin any initiatives to keep the homicide rate low this summer but will tweak the current strategy of redeploying officers to crime hot spots.
"I hope our good fortunes hold, " Chief Ramsey said.
Meanwhile, Baltimore is having some success with lowering its homicide rate this year — the count is 72, down 20 percent from the same time last year — but five officers have been shot in the past two months, one fatally.
Officials said those shootings may stem from the frustration of criminals, particularly drug dealers, over a focus on violent neighborhoods. Mayor Martin OMalley made lowering the citys murder rate, which had topped 300 throughout the 1990s, a centerpiece of his campaign.
Last April, he appointed Edward Norris as police commissioner. Commissioner Norris was the chief strategist for New York Citys zero-tolerance crime-fighting approach. New York has been credited with drastically reducing the number of homicides, but police have been blamed for civil rights violations and fatal shootings of unarmed minority suspects.
Prince Georges County has had 28 homicides this year, compared with 23 at this time last year. The county finished last year with 70 homicides, down from 91 in 1999.
So far this year, Montgomery County police recorded two homicides. The county had only one homicide at this time last year and finished last year with 12.
Fairfax County also had 12 homicides last year, but by this time last year, the county already had six. This year, it has reported one.
Arlington County has reported no homicides this year. It finished last year with seven but had only one at this time last year.
According to Justice Department statistics, nationwide homicide rates in cities and suburbs peaked for the last 25 years in 1993, when 14,989 homicides were committed in large cities, compared with 5,030 in the suburbs.
Since that time, the number of homicides has decreased steadily to 9,007 in the nations large cities last year and 3,166 in the suburbs. In fact, the number of homicides in both categories is lower than 25 years ago. In 1976, 9,860 persons were murdered in U.S. cities and 3,954 were killed in the suburbs.



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