- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The District’s homicide rate remains among the highest in the nation, but the figure has dropped nearly 20 percent since 2003, when the city was last determined as the “murder capital” of the United States.

The highest homicide rate among the nation’s big cities last year went to Baltimore, which had 269 killings, according to the FBI’s preliminary 2005 Uniform Crime Report, which was released Monday. The preliminary report lists the number of violent crimes and property crimes in U.S. cities with more than 100,000 residents.

For the second straight year, the three cities of 500,000 or more residents with the highest homicide rates were Baltimore, Detroit and the District.

Baltimore’s murder rate among its 634,279 residents was 42.41 killings per 100,000 residents. Detroit, with 359 killings among its population of 914,353, had a murder rate of 39.26.

The District, with 195 homicides and a population of 553,523 had a murder rate of 35.23 — a slight improvement over 2004, when the rate was 35.77.

The homicide rate, the number of killings per 100,000 residents, represents the number of killings divided by each city’s population and then multiplied by 100,000. The number was calculated by The Washington Times using population figures reported to the FBI for its 2004 crime report.

The finalized 2005 FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics will not be available until the fall.

Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said that the city is making progress, but that there is a lot of work yet to be done.

“I think 195 is way too many,” he said. “It’s way too high for a city our size.”

In 2005, both St. Louis and Flint, Mich., generated higher murder rates than the District, but each of those cities has a population less than the FBI’s threshold of 500,000 residents for the city to be compared with the District.

St. Louis had a murder rate of 39.08, and Flint had a rate of 39.78.

Two other smaller cities with populations of at least 100,000 even eclipsed Baltimore’s bloodshed.

In Virginia, Richmond’s 84 killings among a population of just less than 200,000 produced a murder rate of 42.71, and Gary, Ind., with 100,637 residents, had 58 killings, or a homicide rate of 57.63.

As of yesterday, the District had 75 homicides — two more than the total at this time last year.

Chief Ramsey said he thinks the number of homicides can be brought to less than 100 per year. He said he is alarmed by a dramatic upward trend in youth crime, particularly robberies, that could lead to more serious crime.

The homicide rate was at 56.9 in 1997, the last full year before Chief Ramsey took the job.

As recently as 2003, the District topped the nation’s big cities even though the homicide rate had fallen to 44.2, or 249 killings among the city’s 563,384 residents.

But even then, the figure was well below those of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when turf wars among gangs dealing drugs, particularly crack cocaine, fueled homicide rates more than double their current levels.

In 1991, when there were 482 killings in the District, the murder rate was 80.6.

The lowest homicide rates among the nation’s big cities last year were in Honolulu, with 15 killings for a rate of 1.65; El Paso, Texas, with 13 killings for a 2.19 rate; and San Jose, Calif., with 26 killings for a rate of 2.86.


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