“In 2016 the District saw a ten percent decline in violent crime, including a 17 percent reduction in homicides and a 13 percent reduction in robberies.”

by Prince Of Petworth January 11, 2017 at 1:50 pm 65 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric P.

From the Mayor’s Office:

“Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser joined Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Interim Chief Peter Newsham to share Washington, DC’s 2016 crime statistics and announce MPD’s transition to a sector patrol strategy.

Under the Bowser Administration, the District of Columbia has seen a nine percent decrease in total crime, with violent crime down seven percent and property crime down nine percent. In addition, over the past two years, burglaries are down by one-third and car thefts are down by almost one-quarter.

“It is clear that our efforts to create a safer, stronger DC are paying off – over the past two years, property crime has decreased by nine percent and violent crime has decreased by seven percent ,” said Mayor Bowser. “In 2017, we will not let up. Through new initiatives and through enhancements to the programs we already have in place – like the transition to a sector policing model, we will continue making our streets safer and our neighborhoods stronger.”

In 2016, the District saw substantial reductions in almost all categories of crime. Citywide, the District saw a ten percent decline in violent crime, including a 17 percent reduction in homicides and a 13 percent reduction in robberies. The city also saw a four percent decline in property crime, including a 17 percent reduction in burglaries and a 13 percent reduction in motor vehicle thefts.

To build on the city’s progress and ensure that the District is using all resources as efficiently as possible, MPD has implemented sector policing. Sector policing has been lauded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as an innovative, proactive community policing technique that improves accountability and performance by creating a single chain of command. The sector model also ensures that younger command staff can be mentored by more experienced colleagues.

Under the MPD implementation of sector policing, each patrol district is divided into three sectors with a sector being an informal grouping of Police Service Areas (PSAs). Each sector will be led by a captain, who will report directly to their respective police district commanders. Sector captains will be responsible for their assigned areas 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Lieutenants will share responsibility for overseeing the PSAs and personnel in their sector on any given shift. Sergeants and officers will continue to be assigned to their current PSAs.

Residents will see no change in deployment under the MPD sector model.

“The dedicated members of the Metropolitan Police Department recognize the importance of community engagement as a crime reduction strategy and we will remain committed to strengthening our relationships with residents, neighborhood associations and businesses to achieve even greater success. The reduction in crime across our city is also a testament to the relentless efforts of the men and women of MPD to ensure safety as a top priority,” said Interim Chief Newsham.

On February 4, the Mayor’s Office and MPD will host a datathon to engage community members in improving data visualization on MPD’s website. The datathon will make it easier for residents to see and understand the crime data that MPD currently posts on their website.

Complete 2016 crime data can be viewed here and additional information about the District’s sector policing strategy is available here.”

  • northeazy

    How is that possible? I could’ve sworn I read articles, even here on Popville, that the District was on target to smash last years homicide rate. I thought all big cities were experiencing increases in homicides.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      It smashed the homicide rate in 2015 (like 50% increase) v. 2014, and then dropped again in 2016 to somewhere between the 2014 and 2015 number.

  • PetworthGuy

    We still have a long way to go, but good to see crime is trending in the right direction! Let’s hope 2017 is even better!

  • Jojo

    So the mayor is taking credit for the fact that these statistics are regressing after a wacky spike in 2015.

    • jcm

      Well, she was getting the blame last year, why not take credit this year? If you blame me for a thunderstorm you can bet I’ll take credit when the sun starts shining again.

      • MoldieOldie

        “why not”, because it’s disingenuous. jcm, how about telling the families of those murdered this year how great things have improved year-over-year. how about telling them “the sun start(ed) shining again” because of ME.

        • Bobby McBob

          So your standard, apparently, is that if there are ANY homicides, and thus grieving families, etc., nothing else matters and we can’t be happy about it, because someone out there in a city of 700K was murdered this year. Makes sense.

          • U neighbor

            What you state should, unsarcastically, be the standard.

          • Bobby McBob

            For everyone at MPD, and the mayor, and every cop and mayor in every city in the world, I’m sure it is. And yet, if you take the position that anything less than that is unacceptable and a reason to complain, you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. “Murders down from 2015” is not the same as “Cancer cured and infinite free source of energy found,” but it is still good news. Pretending like it isn’t is, in my opinion, a bad way to go through life in this harsh world of ours.

          • MoldieOldie

            your logic is flawless. anyway, lives (and words also) have meaning – as do figures (and simple math), like year-over-year homicides or accurate population statistics. make sense?

          • Bobby McBob

            So is yours! Thanks for not at all responding to my critique and reminding me that “lives have value.” What I said totally contradicted that, I know.

            Year over year homicide figures certainly DO have value. Care to comment on my point that 2016 was equivalent to 2010 and better than every year in DC prior to that, going back several decades?

  • ModlieOldie

    so with 2015 as an outlier, homicides are still up 30% to 50% (more or less, depending on the year) since 2012. great job

    • Also. “The criminal justice system in this city is broken, It is beyond broken.”https://www.popville.com/2016/09/great/

    • JS

      This is kind of confusing. Can you clarify?

    • Tsar of Truxton

      The numbers are all still really low. The number of homicides is going to fluctuate based on a variety of factors, including dumb luck. For example, someone who got shot in 2012 may have survived because the bullet missed a vital organ or because they were a block from a hospital whereas someone in 2016 may not have been as lucky. Also, overall, homicides went up in the U.S., so a decrease is a good thing.


    • Bobby McBob

      And 2012 was a crazy low outlier, with the lowest number of homicides the city had seen since the 1960s. 2016 was almost exactly equivalent to 2012, and had fewer homicides than any ayear going back decades before that. So what’s your point? Why is everyone so desperate to act like we’re living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland? Things are pretty good around here. If you’d rather live in Baltimore or Philly, be my guest.

      • Bobby McBob

        Idiot me requires a double post–2016 was almost exactly equivalent to 2010, not 2012. Rest of my point stands.

      • MoldieOldie

        my point being (again, words have meaning):

        “… with 2015 as an outlier, homicides are still up 30% to 50% (more or less, depending on the year) since 2012.”

        • Bobby McBob

          Here, we may be talking past each other, so check the bottom of this page:


          Every single year going back to the 60s or 70s (FBI data indicates the early 60s, but I’m OK with ballparking it as “several decades” was worse than 2012. So maybe, just maybe, 2012 isn’t really the best data point to use as a basis of comparison for any year, include 2016.

      • Bobby McBob

        You have missed the point: 2012 is a complete outlier, even within this decade. Why did you choose it? That choice had meaning.

        • Tsar of Truxton

          Exactly. Cherry picking stats to prove a point is a bad way to prove a point, especially with a volatile stat like homicides which inevitably fluctuates up and down annually. We are still near historic lows.

          • Tsar of Truxton

            Ugh, I am tired. “Cherry-picking stats to prove a point is a bad way to make an argument” is what I meant to say.

          • MoldieOldie

            lordie lord. alright child, so should we have/use statistics or not? homicides never happened in the District of Columbia before there was a District of Columbia. BUT THAT’S CHERRY PICKING AND ACCURATE!!! anyway, i’ve again and again stated the parameters of my example (except in those instances like here to illustrate your foolishness). if you want to “cherry pick” stats. go right ahead and also live in your dream world. OR grow up, be honest, study reason/logic/arithmetic, and join reality.

        • MoldieOldie

          yup, 2012 had meaning in my example given that relative to that year (THAT YEAR) and excluding 2015 as an outlier homicides have increased 30% to 50%. that was my example and my parameters (as clearly stated). but if you want to play games with statistics as Tsar thinks i am, then sure – using your example – things are GREAT compared to the ’60s and ’70 (taking your word for it) and certainly since 1997 (breaking news! homicides down OVER 50% as compared to 1997 – ALL CREDIT TO BOWSER). so you kids nitpick about “cherry picking” stats. all I know is that homicides have increased 30% to 50% in the example (sample) I provided (i.e., kind of the here and now), not the 1960/70s at which time you lived here … oh wait, you didn’t. :(

          • Tsar of Truxton

            But can you understand why that is cherry-picking? You are picking the year with the lowest homicide rate since the 60s as a start point. This year has ~15 less homicides than any other year this decade, so it is not a good point of reference, i.e., it seems to be an outlier. You are also cherry-picking because you are excluding 2015 for no reason other than to make your argument work.

          • MoldieOldie

            @Tsar of Truxton: alright, so in 2015 (as compared to 2012) homicides were up 84%, while in 2016 (as compared to 2012) homicides were up ONLY 53%. Or how about this, no more stats – just give the Mayor credit for whatever she/he wants credit for. OBEY. sound good?

          • Anon

            Nobody in their right mind is giving Bowser credit for anything. Folks are simply pointing to your dubious use of 2012 as a baseline for comparison. They (rightfully) point out that it’s not the best year to use as a baseline for meaningful analysis.

          • Tsar of Truxton

            Moldie, guess what? Since 2008, homicides are down 27%! See, I can play this game too.

    • A

      MoldieOldie hit the nail on the head. 2015 was an awful year, but DC has gotten more unsafe over the past there years. Not saying she can’t take credit for a decrease in 2016, its just a little disingenuous when you look back at the past five years.

    • Bobby McBob

      I will say one last thing to ModlieOldie and leave it at this, in an attempt to be constructive rather than just argue (arguing being my default behavior, for better or worse). The tone of some of your comments makes it sound like you may have had a personal connection to a homicide in the District this year. If that is the case, I am very sorry for your loss. Sincerely.

      At the same time, in my opinion, taking the attitude you have taken here is not constructive towards fixing the system or preventing further crimes/murders in the future. Every murder is a tragedy. And yet, people are people and cities are cities. There are going to be murders in a place the size of DC every year, no matter what anyone tries to do about it. Tracking them and trying to reduce them over time is, sadly, the only thing we can do. When they do happen to go down over time (not just as they did from 2015 to 2016, but as they drastically have from the 80s and 90s to the 2010s), I think it’s reasonable to be happy about that. If you find that you can’t be happy because of your personal experiences, well, arguing with strangers about it on the internet probably isn’t going to help either.

      Just my $0.02.

      • MoldieOldie

        sorry if I came across as over argumentative. i think we both agree that things are much better (I feel it’s a golden age for DC) but still work to do. thanks for the dialogue.

      • anon


        Let’s make 2017 the year we start assuming the people on the other side of the interwebs are similar to the people we encounter in our daily lives: sane, reasonable, and not prone to extreme positions. Let’s all be less angry on the internet.

  • CoHi

    DC knows how to juke the stats every bit as well as Burrell, Rawls, and Daniels.

    • jcm

      Deputy, as familiar as we all are with the urban crime environment, I think we all understand that there are certain processes by which you can reduce the number of overall felonies. You can reclassify an agg assault or you can unfound a robbery, but how do you make a body disappear?

  • Paul

    One way to keep the numbers low is just by routinely not responding whatsoever to 911 calls, including for violent felonies in my experience.

    • Patrick Division

      +One million to every single word Paul wrote. They either just don’t show up; show up an hour or two after the call; or show up only after you call 3-4 times. If it’s something that can be done without getting out of the squad car (scaring off boisterous kids, breaking up a smoke session, etc.) you might get a “timely” response. If it’s something that requires a report, better be prepared to wait. And be disappointed.

    • houseintherear

      Please report these instances to the office that oversees the 911 center… there’s a guy in charge and you can find his info online. I reported an ambulance call that took 25 minutes a few years ago and he was very responsive, and even followed up a few weeks later to tell us they had updated their maps and drivers so they could find our carriage house block better. Every time something is reported to him, apparently, it goes on a record of some kind, so it’s worth reporting!

  • Anon

    Way to go everyone! We’ve only had 120 violent crimes committed in the District in 2017!

  • anon

    I just can’t stop thinking that the numbers are cooked. Based on everything I see, read and hear, it’s not possible.

    • ParkViewneighbor


    • Anon

      Maybe. Or maybe click-hungry media outlets sensationalize their crime reports to make it seem like the city is descending into chaos, even though violent crime in DC is lower than at almost any other point in the last 30 years (aside from 2012-2014)

  • Lauren

    Cook the books much?

  • Anonymou

    Its all relative. Statistics can also be easily manipulated. I think MPD routinely downgrades crimes where they can… They are so stat focused that they miss the point that the District doesnt feel as safe as it did three years ago. Depending on where you live, your experience may be completely different as well. Tell the residents of Ward 4 and Ward 1 that violet crime is down and theyll laugh in your face. Id encourage the mayor to talk to local residents and not rely on stats or reports from MPD on what is happening in DC. Everyone is trying to cover their own backside and the residents are the ones paying the price.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      What does “feel as safe as three years ago” even mean. Every person will have a different feeling, and most likely, how you feel presently is going to stick out in your mind more prevalently than how you remember yourself feeling three years ago. We hear about a small minority of crimes that are committed. I bet if you go back and search for news stories on crime the number of newsworthy crimes is quite similar today as it was three years ago. I don’t feel any less safe than I did three years ago.

      • Bob Sacamento

        Completely agree with Tsar of Truxton. I know I live in ward 1 and I don’t feel unsafe whatsoever. I want lower crime as much as the next person, but please stop acting like this is Chicago or Baltimore based on anecdotes from popville or other online sources. It simply isn’t.

        • bubbe

          I lived in Chicago for 14 years and never felt unsafe even during their low point in the 90s. Why? Because crime is concentrated and I simply don’t ever need to be in the south and west sides. (Why it’s concentrated is another story). I feel unsafe in Ward 1 however b/c anything can happen on any block at any time of the day. Yes, it’s a “feeling” but it’s rooted in fact. (eg. how yesterday there was a shooting on the 1300 Block of Columbia at 16:51. Or how my building was shot this summer). Chicago proper has more than 4xs the population of DC so multiplying DCs #s by 4 is 540 murders (vs Chicago’s 750). DC’s not doing that great. I believe Baltimore’s is double Chicago’s. This isn’t a blog for Chicago people though, but part of my point is that the Mayor and Council will manipulate statistics to make us feel like hey it’s not so bad, we’re not Chicago and things were soooo much worse before in the good old days. (& yeah, maybe I should unsubscribe to DC alerts)

          • Bob Sacamento

            I certainly dont want to diminish how you feel. And I am sorry to hear about the violence happening in your neighborhood. That area your talking about around the 1300 block of Columbia has been undergoing gentrification. Just because there are some fancy stores near by does not mean that the area is crime free. It would be like moving to any boderline area in any city. Like Bushwick and Bedstuy in Brooklyn where gentrification is starting to take hold (or so I am told).I know U street has changed for the most part now but it was a mess not so long ago. I mean the city was a complete mess just in the 1990s. And there are plenty of super safe areas in DC (pretty much all of DC west of the park). Lets point out the areas that the city can improve and demand change, but this is not a disaster zone.

      • Anon

        Right. Why rely on actual stats and reports when you can instead rely on how much crime people FEEL like there is? The best way to feel safer is to stop reading sensationalized crime reports and start ignoring the Republicans who want to pretend crime is at an all-time high.

      • HaileUnlikely

        I feel less safe than I did 3 years ago. However, the places that I frequent (near work and near home) account for well under 1% of all violent crimes in the city, thus I don’t take how safe I feel as a trustworthy indicator of whether crime is really getting better or worse citywide.

        • dunning-kruger

          Stop being self-aware and let irrational fear wash over you.

  • MadMax

    Almost 30 comments into a crime story and not one use of the word “uptick”. That’s got to be a new record.

  • anon

    At the height of the crack epidemic (1991), there were 482 homicides in DC. As recently as 2008, there were 184 homicides. This does not mean we ignore spikes in violence (certainly not like the 2015 variety), but it’s helpful to look at things in 5 year chunks rather than year to year. If you look at it that way, we’re more or less where we were in 2009 – 2010.

    Also, Baltimore, which has more or less the same population as DC, there were 318 homicides last year.

    • NW Transplant

      How is the (higher) homicide rate in Baltiomore in 2016 relevant to the homicide rate in DC in 2016, or DC in the past? Seattle has a similar population (650k) and had 17 homicides in 2016 according to Seattle city statistics…is Seattle’s homicide rate relevant too? If so why? And if notwhy not? I’m only concerned with holding current city leaders responsible for safety, I’m not at all concerned with historical crime rates or similarly sized cities crime rates…I just want to be safe in DC today and for the foreseeable future.


      • Tsar of Truxton

        I think it is somewhat helpful to compare a big city to other similarly-sized cities to give perspective. Obviously, it would not be productive to compare DC to some farm town in the middle of the country where there are 0 homicides. On the other hand, DC is not in the top 10 cities in homicides per capita, so I suppose that is good, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be better. With regard to Baltimore v. Seattle as a point of reference, I think geography, demographics, and historical crime rates make DC and Balitmore much more similar than DC and Seattle. That doesn’t mean that DC shouldn’t strive to have lower numbers like those in Seattle. In the end, I think the point that myself and others have been trying to make is that while DC is not perfect by any means, we don’t live in a war zone. There are much worse cities and DC itself was much worse not too long ago. I think we all agree that things could be better, but some of the over the top reactions to crime in this city are not helpful in doing anything besides spreading fear.

  • bluewhite15

    I know it’s just a typo, but I found it funny given the fact that some people are suspicious of the numbers that on the data website it says there were 346 cases of sexual abuse in 2015 and 3466 in 2016, yet there is a 0% change.

  • Eckingtonian

    I see lots of comments about how DC is doing compared to past years. Fine. Crime is down compared to two decades ago, up compared to 2012, maybe we should feel safer, maybe we shouldnt, etc. But is this the right comparison? Should we be patting ourselves on the back for being safer than we were during the worst years of the crack epidemic?

    How about this – instead of comparing DC to past years, compare DC to other similar cities today. Boston (pop 645k), or Seattle (pop 652k) are similar sized cities with similar characteristics (large number of college graduates, recent waves of gentrification, politically liberal, still some stubborn areas of concentrated poverty, robust transit systems, strong local industries demanding high-skilled workers, etc). And yet their crime rates are FAR lower than ours.

    Homicide/Overall violent crime rates per 100k population: Boston 8.1/725; Seattle 3.9/603; DC 16/1185. And these are 2014 figures, i.e. before the huge 2015 spike.

    Bottom line – sure, crime may be down from historic highs and from last year’s spike. But comparing ourselves to the worst years in our history and saying “wow, we’re super safe now” is a pretty bad comparison. Look at what other similar cities are managing to do on the public safety front and it’s clear we are way behind. Matching other cities today should be our goal, not beating the astonishingly high rates of the past. Crime is way higher here than it should be, even with this news.

    • stacksp

      Boston and Seattle aren’t similar cities in my opinion so I’m not sure that the comparison is valid.

      • James W.

        In terms of population they’re very similar. Eckingtonian has a valid point. Consider also that MPD has the most officers per capita of any major city police force in the country.

        • Anon

          You have to consider how income distribution plays into the equation. The Gini coefficient is FAR higher in DC than either Seattle or Boston. This means that there’s a far greater level of income disparity in DC than either of those cities – this makes a world of difference.

        • Tsar of Truxton

          Population alone does not make two cities similar. Go look at the demographics, historical crime rates, income disparity, etc. of those cities and you will see that they are not so similar at all.

          • HaileUnlikely

            I agree with Eckontonian’s larger point, even if the specific cities selected for the comparison aren’t perfect.

          • Anon

            Larger point being that crime should be lower than it is? I don’t think you’d find any rational person to disagree with that.

          • Eckingtonian

            I cited plenty of reasons beyond just “population alone” that DC, Boston, and Seattle are similar – education, jobs, gentrification, etc. Historical crime rates is kind of a circular argument – “DC’s crime rates today are higher because historically crime rates have been higher” doesnt explain high crime rates today – it just makes me wonder why our rates have been higher historically, too.

            As for Gini Coefficient/Income disparity (2014 data) – Boston/Seattle/DC is .477/.446/.437. DC’s is lowest, indicating the LEAST income disparity. Clearly our low Gini coefficient isn’t the cause of crime higher than two other cities with worse income inequality.

    • Bobby McBob

      “But comparing ourselves to the worst years in our history and saying ‘wow, we’re super safe now’ is a pretty bad comparison”

      1) That’s a lovely straw man you have there. Don’t beat up on it too hard. No one in this thread has expressed anything close to that idea. We’re merely happy about the direction in which things are trending. Obviously, there is still a lot of work to do.

      2) Speaking of bad comparisons, your choices of Seattle and Boston are laughable. I don’t need to go into too much detail about it as others in this thread have done much of the work already, but saying “similar population, politically liberal (as if 90% of cities in this country aren’t), good local transit (as if 50% of cities in this country don’t have that)” isn’t going to cut it. Seattle is culturally, historically, economically, and demographically in a different solar system than DC. Boston is a better choice but still different in tons of very important ways, chief among them the prevalence of colleges and universities and the prevalence of white collar professions other than legal. Try harder.

      • Eckingtonian

        Cities tend to be politically liberal, but Seattle and Boston happen to be in very liberal states as well (obviously not the case with 90% of cities). Similarities on state-level policies like gun control or funding for social services are going to be more significant. DC may be dominated by government/legal jobs, but Boston is dominated by academia and medicine – pretty comparable in terms of high levels of education required and salaries paid. Obviously any two cities are going to be different, but it’s not like I’m comparing DC to London or to Tokyo or Johannesburg. If you’re just going to reject any comparison to any city because it’s different from DC, why bother making comparisons at all? I’d argue that DC in 2016 to Boston or Seattle in 2016 is a much better comparison than DC in 2016 to DC in 2000 or even more recent. If we’re going to make good policy we need to know where we stand compared to other cities.

        Finally, even assuming some unbridgeable difference between these cities, your vague mentions of a cultural/historical/economic/demographic gulf between Seattle and DC don’t really explain a four-fold difference in the homicide rate… please draw that one out for me as I’m not buying your hyperbole.


Subscribe to our mailing list