- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The number of violent crimes committed with guns in the first six weeks of the year has increased by 50 percent compared with the same period last year, according to Metropolitan Police Department statistics.

Preliminary statistics indicate that 267 gun-involved robberies and assaults have been reported this year through Tuesday, compared with 181 in the year-ago period.

“It’s a big concern,” 4th District Cmdr. Hilton Burton said yesterday. “We’ve definitely seen an increase in robberies since the beginning of the year.”

Robberies involving guns jumped from 17 last year to 25 in the 4th District, which lies in Northwest east of Rock Creek Park. Assaults with guns have increased from five to 13 this year.

Such increases are sometimes due to a few criminals who go on crime sprees, Cmdr. Burton said.

“Generally, we find it’s the same group of individuals that may be hitting over and over again,” he said. “One, maybe two arrests will generally close out most of the cases.”

But he has noticed that the recent robberies haven’t been limited to one area.

“It’s all across the 4th District,” he said.

The biggest increase in robberies involving guns occurred in the 1st District, where such incidents jumped from 10 last year to 31. Assaults with guns went from seven last year to 10.

Cmdr. Diane Groomes, who heads the 1st District, said she isn’t sure what is causing the increase. Her district — which includes much of the downtown core — showed the largest increase, with a 140 percent jump in gun-related assaults and robberies.

She attributed much of the increase to juveniles “going around in vans and jumping out on people.”

The 7th District, located entirely in Southeast, showed a 200 percent increase in robberies with guns, going from 10 cases through mid-February last year to 30 cases. On Tuesday, an off-duty police officer was shot while being robbed by two men in that district.

Reports of assaults and robberies involving guns increased in every police district except the 6th District, which includes parts of Southeast and Northeast. That district showed no significant change.

There were 408 robberies, including those in which guns were not used, this year, compared with 404 last year.

Overall assaults have declined from 347 last year to 301.

The only substantial decline in gun-involved robberies occurred in the 3rd District, which recorded a drop from 35 last year to 31. However, gun-involved assaults in the 3rd District, which encompasses Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant in Northwest, went from eight last year to 20.

Council member Jim Graham, a Democrat who represents Ward 1, which largely overlaps the 3rd District, said the increase in violence is “an extreme concern.”

“The 3rd District has been experiencing a continuing spike, and that has worried me very much,” he said.

Charles H. Ramsey, the former police chief, had declared a crime emergency in July after a wave of armed robberies and assaults. Homicides and robberies dipped in the months after the emergency.

Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, said he also was concerned about gun-crime levels in the District, but he cautioned that the statistics only cover six weeks.

Mr. Mendelson, who heads the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, which has oversight of the police department, said the main concern remains the amount of guns in the city.

“It’s a continuing problem,” he said. “There are far too many guns.”

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