- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2004

More young people have been killed or wounded by gunfire in the District this year, even though the city is seeing a decrease in crime including its overall homicide rate.

So far, 17 youths under the age of 18 have been killed this year compared with a total of 12 last year. Almost 15 percent of the District’s homicide victims this year have been children, and most of them were fatally shot.

And, the rash of juvenile crime continues.

Metropolitan Police said two 14-year-old girls and a 15-year-old boy were wounded in a drive-by shooting at about 11:30 p.m. Sunday in the 3900 block of Martin Luther King Avenue SE.

Officer Kenneth Bryson, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department, said the wounds were not considered to be life-threatening. The shooting might have stemmed from a fight with another group of teens at a party earlier in the evening.

Crime involving the District’s youth, such as Sunday’s shooting, threatens to overshadow this year’s decrease in crime throughout the city.

As of yesterday, there have been 119 killings, compared with 163 at this time last year — a 27 percent decrease. The city is on pace to close the year with 190 homicides, a total that would be the lowest since 1985, when there were 147 slayings.

Overall, assaults with a deadly weapon have fallen to 2,134 as of last month, compared with 2,349 during the same period last year, according to preliminary crime statistics.

Police also report that fewer cars have been stolen. As of last month, there were 5,039 cars stolen, compared with 5,364 by the end of July 2003, preliminary statistics show.

Despite the decrease in overall crime, D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey declared a crime emergency last month because of teenage car thieves who have been blamed for a series of deadly accidents in several D.C. neighborhoods over the past three months.

The measure is a scaled-down version of a similar initiative the chief instituted last year when he suspended a clause in the union contract that would allow him to reassign officers without issuing notice. The initiative applies only to officers who work in the department’s specialized units.

Also last month, the D.C. Council’s Judiciary Committee passed a juvenile justice reform bill that is expected to go before the full council when it reconvenes in the fall.

The bill, among other things, would lift confidentiality restrictions to allow prosecutors, government agencies and victims of crime to share information in juvenile cases and require the court to decide within 90 days on requests to transfer juvenile cases to adult courts.

The bill aims at making offenders and their parents more accountable.

The council also last month passed a measure that requires parents to participate in hearings, counseling and court-appointed programs.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams has endorsed the legislation and proposed suspending the driver’s licenses of parents whose children repeatedly steal cars, blaming bad parenting for the summertime rash of juvenile crime.

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