January 2, 2013 in Nation/World

D.C. killings down in ’12

Fewer than 100 homicides recorded in nation’s capital
Richard Simon Los Angeles Times
Chicago counts 506

CHICAGO – Chicago ended the year with 506 homicides, according to an unofficial tally released Tuesday, making 2012 the first year the city has had more than 500 homicides in four years, and marking an increase of more than 16 percent over last year’s total.

Crime experts caution not to read too much into year-to-year increases in homicides, especially since 2011’s and 2010’s 435 homicides were the lowest the city had seen in more than 40 years. But Chicago’s tally in 2012 was the highest since 2008 and the second-highest since 2003.

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint a single cause for last year’s increase, statistics show the early part of 2012 suffered the biggest spike in homicides. Experts and some law enforcement sources believe the unseasonable warmth that hit Chicago during that period contributed to a homicide spike as high as 66 percent in April, and the month of March – the warmest March on record in Chicago – was hit especially hard when there were 53 homicides, up from 23 in March 2011.

Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON – The District of Columbia, once known as the nation’s murder capital, ended 2012 with fewer than 100 homicides for the first time since 1963.

The city recorded 88 homicides, down from the more than 400 a year it saw from 1989 through 1993 amid a crack cocaine epidemic. The decline reflects the trend in many other cities, though Chicago surpassed 500 homicides, the highest annual total since 2008.

Homicide Watch D.C., which tracks killings in the city, put the number at 92 because it included four cases ruled self-defense and not included in the police department count. That still would put the number below the 95 homicides recorded in 1963.

In 1961, there were 88 homicides, according to a police spokeswoman. The district recorded 108 homicides in 2011. D.C. police Chief Cathy L. Lanier attributed the reduction to a combination of factors, including increased focus on guns and gangs and investment in technology.

Since the department’s gang intelligence unit began operating in 2008, “we have not seen the retaliatory shootings like we used to,” the chief said through a spokeswoman. “While there are still times when getting information is a challenge, we are getting more information than I have experienced in 23 years,” the chief said. “We have developed trusting relationships with our communities, and that pays off.”

Kristopher Baumann, head of the D.C. police union, said that while his organization was pleased with the decline in homicides, it was concerned about the rise in other violent crimes.

“Instead of taking the time to pat ourselves on the back and talk about how homicides are down, we need to focus on the fact that other assaults are up,” he said. “That raises questions about what are we not doing that we should be doing.”

A spokeswoman for the police chief responded that while the department expected to finish 2012 with a “slight increase in violent crime, we have had reductions in violent crime each year for the last several years.”

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