“I don’t think it has anything to do with neighborhoods; it’s people,” Lanier says of D.C. Homicides

Mayor Vincent Gray and Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier announced Thursday that the official number of homicides for 2012 is the lowest number since 1961. MPD’s official total is 88 homicides.

That number does not include the four deaths that were ruled self-defense. Homicide Watch D.C. has counted the self-defense cases, bringing the total homicide count to 92, because MPD includes those cases when tallying homicide case closures at the end of the year. The case closure rate for homicides in 2012 was 82 percent.

“While we’re going in the right direction, our goal is to get that number down to zero,” Gray said. “Public safety will remain as one of our top priorities. It has to be.”

Chief Lanier attributed the decrease in homicides, which is a 19 percent reduction from 2011, to the department’s increased focus on gangs and guns, an investment in technology, and the community’s willingness to help the police. Additionally, MPD and other federal and local agencies throughout D.C., Prince Georges County, and Montgomery County have collaborated more in their efforts to reduce crime.

“When we share information, we all succeed,” Deputy Mayor Paul Quander added. “As information comes in, we share it, we spread it out, we make sure we are responsive to all citizens.”

Of significant importance is the reduction in the number of homicides committed with a gun. In 2008, there were 142 gun homicides within the district. That number, however, dropped 58 percent in 2012 when there were 59 gun homicides.

More important is the reduction in the number of homicides involving youths. In 2008, there were 20 juvenile homicide victims; last year there were three. All of those victims were young children under the age of two.

“That is the best number I’ve seen in a long time, an 85 percent reduction in juvenile victims,” Chief Lanier said.

Chief Lanier attributed the reduction in homicides involving youth to MPD’s focus on keeping young people from being involved in violent crimes over the summer when they are most vulnerable. With funding from partners of the D.C. Police Foundation, MPD was able to reach over 19,000 families and youths over the summer. And in the areas where the various community programs were implemented, there was a 71 percent reduction in homicides.

“So it is not all about enforcement,” Lanier said. “It really is about collaboration, prevention, positive programs, and then arrests hopefully is the last resort.”

Chief Lanier added that the reduction in overall homicides has not been the result of a focus on specific neighborhoods.

“I don’t believe in focus on areas,” Lanier said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with neighborhoods; it’s people. So we focus on the people that are creating the violence and not a neighborhood. Every corner matters.”

According to Lanier, MPD used to focus on neighborhoods where a lot of violent crime occurred, but that strategy alienated the people of those communities; and as a result, those people were less willing to help the police solve crimes.

Chief Lanier further added that homicides within the district are driven by arguments, disputes, and robberies, as opposed to being driven by drug markets, as was the case years ago.

Looking ahead to 2013 and beyond, MPD will be introducing more technology to aid in the prevention of violent crime.

“Right now we’re in the process of integration of our shot spotter and our CCTV,” Lanier said.

When a gunshot is fired, the camera will turn in the direction of the gunfire, and officers will have a view of what they’re driving into from their vehicles.

Lanier, Gray and Quander made their remarks Thursday afternoon at a press conference at MPD headquarters.

The MPD press release has been added to this post.

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