- The Washington Times - Friday, August 2, 2002

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday that police must "do something about the violence." A surge in killings last month pushed the number of homicides to 141 for the year.

The 31 homicides police recorded last month were the most in a month for the District since October 1999, when there were 32 homicides.

"It's unacceptable," Chief Ramsey said. "I mean, 141 is too high for a year-end total, let alone the end of July. We've got to do something about the violence."

At the same time last year there were 104 homicides. The city finished the year with 233 homicides.

The chief said the average for July in the past five years was 28.

Chief Ramsey, appearing on the WTOP-AM (Radio 1500) "Ask the Chief" program, said there's no clear-cut pattern to the killings.

"There are a variety of motives," he said, adding that 30 percent were gang- or drug-related.

He also attributed the high number of homicides to family and social issues, as well as the easy availability of guns.

"In 74 percent of the murders, guns were involved," Chief Ramsey said. "So guns continue to be a huge problem here in the District."

He said extra officers on summer redeployment have been targeting certain "hot spots." The 5th and 6th Police Districts in Northeast and Southeast have seen the biggest increases, he noted, but the killings have been "pretty much spread out" through the city.

He said there had been an increase in domestic homicides, and officers were talking with witnesses and suspects to determine whether the release of about 2,500 offenders was contributing to these homicides.

"It's hard to prevent them," he said. "A lot of them occur indoors. It's a crime of passion, and people do it in the spur of the moment. Still, there seems to be an increase, and that's very, very troubling."

Chief Ramsey said there are times when police have suspects in homicides but no witnesses, which makes closing cases difficult. The homicide case-closure rate stands at 49 percent, he said.

"You struggle to get that because people don't come forward. We're doing everything we possibly can to get people to come forward, but the fear factor is very great out there. Unless we break that somehow, it's going to be very, very difficult to get these people off the streets."

Chief Ramsey said despite the homicide figures, total crime is down 2 percent from last year.

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