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In Case You Missed It: Addressing Violent Crime in Washington, DC

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

In Case You Missed It…

Below are facts from Police Chief Cathy Lanier regarding violent crime in the city that were provided to the Council for the District of Columbia and members of the community.



Most major cities are experiencing similar problems with violent crime.

  • However, none of these cities are dealing with the legalization of marijuana, and
  • None have had any significant new strategies or reorganizations.

*But what the cities do have in common are:

  • 3 out of every 4 responding cities have seen increases in homicides this year;
  • 60% have seen an increase in non-fatal shootings;
  • Nearly half reported scenes with cases from multiple guns and/or high capacity magazines;
  • Nearly half reported an increase in gang-related/retaliatory violence;
  • 30% reported an increase in violent crime in which the offender is under the influence of synthetic drugs

From an August 2015 survey by the Major Cities Chiefs Association.


Release of Repeat Violent Offenders:  At a time when there is growing consensus about the need to modernize the criminal justice system – from policing, through sentencing, to incarceration – we cannot forget that our communities need to be protected from violent offenders.

In DC, we are seeing an increase in the number of repeat violent offenders involved in our shootings and homicides.  So far this year:

  • At least 22 of our homicide arrestees were under supervision pending trial or on probation or parole at the time of the crime.  This is a substantial increase from the 15 under supervision we had all of 2014.
  • At least 20 of our homicide victims were under supervision pending trial or on probation or parole at the time of the crime.
  • 10 individuals involved in homicides this year had prior homicide charges.
  • Almost half, or 45%, of the homicide arrestees had prior gun-related arrests in DC (compared to 27% in 2014); meaning nearly half of the persons responsible for these homicides had previously been arrested for carrying or using illegal guns in the commission of a crime.
  • And when it comes to illegal guns, like the national trend, we too are seeing more instances in which multiple guns or high capacity magazines were involved or recovered.

Synthetic Drugs:  Often referred to as synthetic marijuana, this drug is not at all like marijuana and the effects are very different.  It is an extremely dangerous drug and if not addressed federally, we will have a public health crisis on our hand as its use continues to expand. More and more cities are seeing increased violence associated with the drug.

In Washington, DC, we are already seeing the growing impact of the drug:

  • In June of this year, the DCFEMS transported almost 450 patients to local hospitals suffering from overdoses on synthetic drugs.
  • In July, Pretrial Services Agency, one of the federal supervision agencies for the District of Columbia, tested 136 individuals arrested for violent crimes and found that 20% were positivefor synthetic drugs.  Synthetic drugs have now replaced cocaine as the most frequently found in the test of arrestees other than marijuana.  Why is this occurring?  Because there are no requirements for its inclusion in universal drug screenings; therefore, people don’t worry about losing a job or being returned to jail if their conditions of release prohibit drug use. That is why the Major Cities Chiefs Association recommended that this type of drug screening be mandatory for everyone under supervision in our communities.  


Centralization of Drug Units:  There are those who assert that the centralization of the drug units has led to an increase in violence; however, the evidence does not support that assertion.

  • Homicides began to increase in March; the vice units were not centralized until June 16th.
  • Simply put, the vice units had ceased to be as effective as they once were, largely due to the changes in criminal enterprises and drug markets that have made our tactics obsolete.
  • The productivity of the vice units had dropped precipitously.  In the first four months of 2015, non-marijuana drug arrest had decreased 31 percent.  Search warrants and gun recoveries by these units were also declining.  Those were telling signs that we had to modernize our approach and change our tactics.
  • The fact is, the violence does not appear to stem from the legalization of marijuana or disputes over drug markets.
  • Additionally, when you look at the number of non-marijuana drug arrests, and also remove arrests for mere possession, from June to mid-August compared to the same time last summer, our drug arrests have increased 9 percent, which would suggest that our new strategy – and our focus on the seller, not the addict – has been effective in getting more dealers off the streets.

As of August 25, there have been 103 homicides.  At this same time last year, there had been 72 homicides.

  • In the Seventh District, homicides have increased by 95 percent.  The Fifth District has seen the next largest increase, with a 67 percent increase from last year.
  • Taken together, the Fifth and Seventh Districts account for 84 percent of the overall increase from last year.

Trends in Motives?  In terms of the “reasons” for or other identifiable similarities that may account for the increase in homicides, a glance at the known motives reveals an array of troubling reasons.  A common theme being individuals are choosing to settle arguments or disputes through extremely violent means.  (* = DOMESTIC)

Table of Motives
Motive Number
Robbery 16
Illegal Gambling/Dice 7
Altercation 6
Disputes 3 (including 2 neighborhood disputes)
Retaliation 3
Unintended Target 2
Child Abuse 1
Accidental 1

*some of these motives may fall under more than one incident

Motive Situation Means
Argument * Between step-son and his step-father, who is fatally stabbed Stabbing
Argument Between victim and suspect over a woman Shooting
Argument Between the victim and suspect (acquaintances); at a nightclub Shooting
Robbery In an attempt to rob victim, suspect had made arrangements to meet victim at hotel Stabbing
Argument * During which boyfriend asphyxiates his girlfriend Asphyxiation
Retaliation Suspect believed the victim had allowed another suspect to be robbed during a gun deal at which the victim was present Shooting
Argument * Between two brothers, who had a history of not getting along Shooting
Argument The victim was heard arguing with an unknown individual Stabbing
Retaliation The victim reportedly fired multiple rounds into the suspect’s grandmother’s home.  The suspect retaliated by fatally shooting the victim. Shooting
Argument Over $20 and illegal gambling Shooting
Argument Between the victim and mother of his child, when her brother intervened and fatally stabbed the victim Stabbing
Argument Between victim and suspect over a woman Shooting
Altercation Victim, who was intoxicated, struck the suspect with his fist. The fight was broken up, but the suspect fatally stabbed the victim Stabbing
Argument At a nightclub; one party was elbowed by the other Shooting
Argument That began in Maryland when one party looked at the other party in the wrong manner Shooting
Argument Stemming from the victim stealing drugs and guns from the suspect Stabbing
Robbery Suspect attempts to rob three family members and housekeeper Other
Argument * Between victim's mother and her husband; Victim intervened Stabbing
Argument Victim came to the area to pick up the girlfriend of one of the suspects Shooting
Unintended Target Victim was not the intended target of the suspect(s) Shooting
Argument * Between victim and suspect, who were intimate partners Stabbing
Argument * Between victim and suspect, who were intimate partners Stabbing
Argument Between victim and an individual in the area in which he was killed Blunt Force Trauma
Altercation The victim was reportedly involved in an altercation the day of or day prior Shooting
Dispute A longtime feud between neighborhood groups Shooting
Dispute A longtime feud between neighborhood groups Shooting
Retaliation Victim was said to have been killed for shooting another individual who resides in same neighborhood Shooting
Argument * Between cousins Shooting
Argument Victim thought suspect was having an affair with his girlfriend; he approached suspect and was stabbed Stabbing
Altercation Victim and suspect were involved in an altercation; suspect left and retrieved gun; returned and killed the victim Shooting
Altercation Victim had an altercation with a woman while boarding a bus; victim became involved in another altercation with the suspect, who followed the victim into the street and stabbed him Stabbing
Child abuse * Abuse at the hands of father results in death of infant Blunt force trauma
Unintended Target Victim was not the intended target of the suspect(s) Shooting
Argument The suspect had been hit by a rock thrown by the victim's son Shooting
Argument * Between cousins; over rent and alleged theft of a ring Shooting
Altercation Between the victim and suspect during a basketball game Stabbing
Argument Between victim and suspect, who struck the victim in the face causing him to fall and strike his head on the sidewalk/curb Blunt Force Trauma


Locations 2014 2015
Outside 56% 74%
In Vehicle 11% 20%
Inside 33% 6%

Homicides by Month: 2008 to 2015

chart showing homicides by month


Homicides and Closures by District