- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2002

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey acknowledged yesterday that homicides have escalated in the District, attributing a surge of 30 killings in May to gang battles and drug-related activity.

But the District isn't alone. With the exception of the city of Alexandria, every jurisdiction in the metropolitan Washington area has seen a rise in the number of homicides this year compared with the same time last year.

As of yesterday, there were 95 homicides in the District compared with 70 for the same period last year. Through all of last year, there were 233 killings, down from 242 in 2000.

"Last year we were on track at this time to set a 30-year low, so that's what we're comparing it to," Chief Ramsey said on WTOP-Radio's (AM1500) "Ask the Chief" show. "But obviously I'm concerned about it."

In Prince George's County, where police blamed a rise in homicides from 70 in 2000 to 116 last year on the easy availability of guns and drugs along the county's shared border with the District, killings continue to rise. The county has registered 53 homicides this year. Montgomery County has recorded nine homicides, after 18 all of last year. Fairfax County recorded seven killings this year compared with two killings at this time last year, and in Arlington a triple homicide and a Memorial Day weekend killing have pushed that county's numbers from one last year to four this year.

Chief Ramsey also suggested that a high number of people being released from prison and having difficulty returning to the community could be a factor. The 5th District in the Northeast has recorded the most homicides this year 18. There has only been one in the 2nd District in Northwest.

While the number isn't anywhere near the 454 recorded in 1993, when the District was routinely referred to as the "murder capital of the United States," the sudden surge threatens to reverse a generally downward trend in killings in the city since the mid-1990s.

Through April, the 65 homicides recorded were only four more than the 61 in the same period last year. But from May 1 to June 6 last year, there were just 10 homicides compared with three times that amount for the same period this year.

Among the homicides last month, two D.C. men were shot dead on May 5 while sitting in a car parked in the 3600 block of Warder Street NW.

The next day, two Prince George's County men were killed in a Northeast row house in the 200 block of 55th Street.

On May 23, three D.C. men were found dead from gunshot wounds in the 100 block of Franklin Street NE.

All the victims were in their 20s.

Michael Fitzgerald, the District's new executive assistant police chief, was successful in bringing down crime among people ages 16 to 23 when he was head of the city's Regional Operations Command East, which includes the 6th and 7th police districts east of the Anacostia River.

He said police can attack short-term causes of crime, but stressed that more attention needs to be placed on systemic causes.

"We do very well when at developing focused crime plans where we set up and make arrests for a short period of time," Chief Fitzgerald said. "There are a whole lot of systemic problems we have with the unemployment rate that's high [and] drug use [that] is high."

Chief Fitzgerald instituted several law enforcement partnerships with community-based religious organizations that he expects to spread to other areas of the city and hopes could present a longer-term solution to youth violence.

Police in Montgomery County say victims tend to know their attackers, which makes preventing the homicides more difficult. They say the trend seems to be less related to gangs or drugs and more to arguments between husbands or wives or between co-workers that often escalate to violence.

"They're very hard for us to prevent here in Montgomery County," spokesman Derek Baliles said. "Most of them occur behind closed doors. It's not like we could clear out a neighborhood and drive homicides down."

Police in Alexandria said part of what has kept their homicide figure low is programs geared to curbing domestic violence and putting police officers in schools to help prevent violent situations.

"When you're on top of it from an intelligence standpoint and you have a good police presence that deters it," said Alexandria police Lt. John Crawford.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide