A Spike in Homicides has Police and Communities Searching for Solutions

The first ten weeks of 2014 have been the bloodiest D.C. has seen in recent years. A total of 26 people were killed between January 1, and March 14 in comparison to 15 homicides at the same time last year.

Homicides Table“We haven’t seen anything like this in a really long time,” said Metropolitan Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier.

According to police none of the cases are connected and there has not been any sign of retaliatory patterns related to gang rivalry.

Lanier attributes some of the surge in homicides to the extended periods of cold weather and a rise in domestic violence.

Most of the communities affected are located east of the Anacostia River, where 17 of the murders have taken place, eight of them during daylight hours.

“The majority of cases have happened indoors, and the homicide is recorded at the time that the homicide is discovered,” said Lanier, who believes reported times can sometimes be misleading.

On Monday MPD called an emergency public safety meeting in the Northeast D.C. neighborhood of Deanwood, only blocks away from where four of the recent homicides occurred, including a double homicide.

The Washington Post reported that over 100 people showed up asking for “more police patrols, and for more officers walking beats instead of driving by in cars.”

Lanier told Homicide Watch that since January additional specialized units from the first and fifth district where moved to the sixth district in Northeast D.C. in response to crime projections from that area.

“We move our resources based on the information that we get and we do get a lot of the information from the community and that helps us a lot,” Lanier said.

A recent report by Lanier outlines a new unit aimed at reducing homicides. The Nightlife Unit was launched in October of 2013 and is made up of almost 90 members. The officers received targeted training to police nightlife areas on foot, bicycle and on Segways.

Kristopher Baumann, chair of the Federal Organization of Police calls the current murder rate “staggering.” While Lanier is focused on nighttime assaults, Baumann is critical of MPD’s efforts to halt daytime killings.

Twelve of the murders this year happened during daylight hours, most of them in the afternoon.

Baumann said the number of daytime murders is related to a lack of patrolling, overworked police officers and a low morale.

“There is no fear of getting caught,” Baumann said. “[Criminals] don’t see the need to work under the cover of night anymore.”

Several police officers told Homicide Watch DC that daytime homicides are not unusual, but a review of Homicide Watch DC’s data shows that as a percentage of total deaths, daytime homicides have become more prevalent.

In 2012, 20 percent, or 18 of 92, were reported between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

In 2013, 35 percent of all homicides, 37 out of 106, were in those same hours.

To date this year, 46 percent of homicides have been between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

***Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the location of the most affected communities as west of the Anacostia River. We regret the error.

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