New Urban Institute Report: “Violent crime in DC – patterns between 2000-2014”

“Aggravated assaults declined citywide but remained high in some DC neighborhoods”

From Urban Institute:

“Public safety is the focus of the latest chapter of the Urban Institute’s Our Changing City interactive web feature, which tells the story of change in the District of Columbia.

Known in the 1990s as the nation’s “murder capital,” this chapter explores how DC went on to experience dramatic drops in violent crime from 2000 to 2014, particularly in places like the Navy Yard, Gallery Place, and downtown. However, this summer’s spike in violence has demonstrated that there is still a clear need for innovative strategies to protect communities from violence and support healthy development for residents affected by it.

While it’s too early to tell if the violence we have seen this summer is the start of a worrying new trend, we know violent crime inflicts devastating harms on DC’s communities. The tragic loss of life challenges us to respond with a sense of urgency and deliver innovative new strategies to build safer, healthier cities.

If we want to make a meaningful impact on these issues and make DC a safer place for all, we must employ a holistic public safety approach. It must go beyond policing to include social services and give communities a leading voice in designing and delivering these services.

To learn more about violent crime patterns in the District, explore the newest chapter of Our Changing City.

24 Comment

  • Finally some data! Thanks for posting this! It’s really hard to suss out actual trends from the individual crime reports we often see here, so this is a really welcome addition to the dialogue.

    • Actually, just noticed this is only through 2014, so it doesn’t exactly inform our discussion of this summer’s alleged crime spike. Still cool to see though.

      Curious as to why DC is divided into hexes… Is police crime data divided like that? Or is this just preparation for a really ambitious new Settlers of Catan board?

      • They also divide up the city into weird sections on the 6th slide of the report (“Which neighborhoods had the biggest changes in violent crime?). Columbia Heights and Mt Pleasant mostly makes sense as a group, but adding Pleasant Plains and Park View is pretty gracious. Had you split off Pleasant Plains and Park View into its own group you’d see a much different picture when it comes to crime.

      • The crime data typically gives a block where the crime occurred.
        It’s divided this way because the software program they likely used to analyze the data (R) has a convenient way of doing this. It makes sense in some ways (the hexes are much smaller than a PSA for example) but not in others (the hexes do not correspond to natural geographical barriers.
        Often maps create the illusion of continuity by averaging across territory, but many argue that method is worse that the map above because it gives the reader the impression there is more granularity in the data than actually exists (whereas the above graph is obviously averaged.
        Overall either method are good for giving an overall impression for where crime occurs in the city and how patterns have changed. Neither method is great for evaluating the safety of a specific block/corner or the effectiveness of a particular PSA.

    • brookland_rez

      Trust me. As someone that spends a lot of time on the streets, the city is vastly safer than when I got here in 2004.

  • With all the postings lately and reports from local news and others about a crime increase in DC, I think its important to keep it in context. The worst thing that could happen is for the city to regress and the perception of DC to revert back to it being crime ridden. I am not trying to minimize anything and every murder that occurs truly saddens and weighs heavily on me, but as Chuck Brown said, DC Don’t Stand for Dodge City.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      D – Chuck said that when DC was in the middle of a crime epidemic.

      “The worst thing that could happen is for the city to regress and the perception of DC to revert back to it being crime ridden.”

      No the worse thing that could happen is that people, and our pandering politicians will minimize the crime problem and in turn nobody does anything to address it.

      • +1. We’ve certainly made progress in the 12+ years I’ve lived here, but that is no excuse to get complacent or not see the latest issues that we most definitely are experiencing (along with a lot of other places: Baltimore, Chicago, NYC, and Milwaukee coming to mind right now).

      • Exactly. All I hear from MPD or the mayor is deflection. There is always an excuse as to why what we believe (ie more crime) isnt accurate. Or they say we need to do more (ie be vigilant, call 911). We get it. But what are they doing? There is certainly no concrete plan to deter violent crime. As a citizen, I wouldn’t necessarily need/want to see a plan, but things aren’t getting any better. No arrests. No decrease. So yes, I need to see proof you are doing something.
        Furthermore, talk to any of us that live in any of these hot spots and we don’t need a map to tell you that crime is bad. We’ve been trying to get the attention of MPD and the Mayor for over 6 months now. Maybe this will cause them to listen. Ward 1 and Ward 4 are awful right now. Tired of public meetings. I want results.

        • SusanRH

          First the city didn’t want to admit there was a problem, now that there is no denying the problem, lets blame it on synthetic drugs. How stupid do our elected officials and police think we are? I am tired of the talk, I want to see a plan and results!!

      • I think Chuck Brown said “DC Don’t stand for Dodge City” as a way of encouraging the bad actors to stop killing each other, not to combat an unfair negative perception. The fact is that at one point DC might as well have been Dodge City, with all the shootings and killings that were happening.
        It’s like calling Chicago “ChIraq.” Chicago isn’t Iraq. But there are neighborhoods in Chicago that are less safe than Iraq. Facts are facts.

      • I think D’s point is that if people start seeing DC as a crime-ridden cesspool again, it’s going to trigger the same kind of disinvestment and white/wealthy flight that will only create the conditions for more and worse crime.

  • The change around 2004 is incredible.

    • It’s also heartening (in light of recent events) that the progress seems to come in fits and starts.

  • note to self: avoid columbia heights

  • Doesn’t change the fact that TOTAL crime has gone up since Chief Lanier took office. Thefts, the most prevalent crime, has gone up 40% from 17,382 to 24,533.

    Chief Lanier has to go.

  • “Lanier has also rejected zero-tolerance and “hot spots” policing, aggressive strategies that combat violent crime by cracking down on minor offenses and flooding high-crime areas with police.” Unfortunately, cracking down on some things, such as open-air drug dealing and the clearly high people milling about the Columbia Heights Metro stop, would probably be a blessing to law abiding people who use these areas.

    • The call for zero tolerance, broken windows, stop-and-frisk policing is not new. I moved to DC in 2000. Crime was way worse back then. And there were daily calls on the OneList for these kinds of aggressive police tactics, along with the old standard “we need more foot patrols.” Ramsey rejected those calls. But whatever he did, crime went down.

      • That had nothing to do with Ramsey. It’s a nation wide trend that had is related to the economy and the revitalization of urban centers.

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