While D.C. officials are busy locking down the city for fear of the spread of the coronavirus, data from the Metropolitan Police Department show that homicides in the city are at the highest number since 2004.
On New Year’s Eve, the data showed that 198 people had been killed in 2020, the highest number in 16 years. The number killed is up 19 percent from 2019 — at 166 and 198, respectively.
Shootings were up too — more than 920 people were shot in D.C. in 2020, which is a 64 percent increase from the number just three years ago.
The Washington Post reported on some of the victims who lost their lives last year and on how the D.C. region also has seen a spike in violence:
The victims of deadly violence include a beloved school bus driver, a construction worker killed while renovating a home and a grandmother who survived covid-19. A little boy was fatally shot at a “stop the violence” cookout, and a toddler was killed by gunfire as he was strapped in a car seat. Most victims of deadly violence in 2020 were black males. Twenty-six were women, and nine were homeless. The youngest was an 11-month-old girl who was injured while living at a homeless shelter; the oldest an 81-year-old man.
In the greater Washington region, some other areas also experienced an increase in deadly violence in 2020 while homicides remained relatively steady in some jurisdictions. Homicides in the Maryland suburbs rose from 2019 to 2020, going up slightly in Montgomery County and up nearly 30 percent in Prince George’s County. Homicides in Northern Virginia went down slightly in 2020, compared with 2019, led by Prince William County, which had seven killings last year, compared with 15 the year before.
Police and experts who study crime patterns cite myriad possible reasons for the spike in killings and shootings in the District and some other cities. They point to the coronavirus crisis, which slowed arrests and complicated efforts to mediate disputes on the streets before they turned violent. Many people struggled with the stress of job loss and, with schools and community programs shuttered or moved online, safety nets were limited for young people.
“It breaks my heart when I think of the promises not fulfilled as a result of violence,” the District’s newly named police chief, Robert J. Contee III, who takes the post on Saturday, said in the Post report.
“The new chief, who must be confirmed by the D.C. Council, promised that officers ‘will be relentless in pursuit of criminals who make our communities unsafe,’” the Post reported. “He also promised he will be mindful of residents’ challenges and concerns, starting with ‘community conversation and agreement.’”
Troy Donte Prestwood, who is chairman of an Advisory Neighborhood Commission in one of the District’s most violence-ridden neighborhoods in Anacostia, said that back in the high-crime era of the 1990s, people were “leaving the city because they were scared for their safety.”
“I’m beginning to hear that conversation come up again in communities like mine,” Prestwood said.
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