By Police District, 2001-2009
BY Joshua A. Markman and John K. Roman
In 2009, the District of Columbia
experienced a dramatic drop in homicides,
and violent crime more
broadly. Homicides decreased from
186 in 2008 to 143 in 2009, a decline of
more than 20 percent. The last time the
District of Columbia had fewer than 143
homicides was 1966 and the homicide rate,
which incorporates District population
changes, in 2009 was the lowest since 1968.
Mirroring national trends, homicide in the
District of Columbia has declined more
than 70 percent since 1991 when there were
483 homicides at the peak of the crime
wave. As has been true in many major
cities, the declining homicide trend was followed by a slow increase in homicides from 2006 to
2008. While the decline in 2009 is a welcome respite from that trend, the question remains whether
the drop in homicide in 2009 was the start of a new downward trend or simply an aberration. So
far this year, that trend has continued: as of May 20, there have been only 34 homicides in 2010,
compared with 48 on the same date in 2009.
Citywide Homicides, 1960-2009
This brief is the first in a series of briefs describing the changes in crime patterns in the District of
Columbia over the last decade. This series will report on statistics for all major cateogories of crime.
Brief: Homicide in the District of Columbia
Among crime statistics, homicide trends are uniquely unstable, and thus forecasting future homicide
rates is risky. However, given the overall homicide decline, it is fair to ask whether the entire city has
experienced a decline or whether the trend has been localized in select police districts. This brief
examines police district trends in homicide for the past nine years to answer this question. In
general, six of the seven police districts follow the city-wide pattern. The exception is District 4,
where there has been a steady, but small, increase in homicides throughout the period from 9 in
2006 to 17 in 2008 and again in 2009. Because its homicide rates are steady while the remaining
districts show declines, District 4 is encompassing a larger percentage of the city's overall homicide
In 2009, there was one homicide not assigned to a District. Because it could not be attributed to a specific District, this homicide
was ommitted from the analysis.
In this paper we report the number of homicides in Districts per 10,000 to develop the rate. Police District populations vary, thus
using a standardized rate allows for comparison across Districts.
All Police District figures were generated by the District of Columbia Crime Policy Institute using Metropolitan Police
Department data for years 2001 - 2009. Data used in the analysis are available at data.dc.gov.
However, this trend hides some interesting variation in homicide patterns by police district.3 Most
police districts experienced modest declines in homicide from 2006 to 2009. In District 5, the
homicide rate was the same in both years, though it did decline from 2008 to 2009 after an uptick
from 2007 to 2008. In Districts 1, 2, and 3, where homicide is rare, it became even rarer, with
homicides declining in District 1 from 2.8 to 1.2, in District 2 from 0.27 to zero, and from 2.28 to
1.49 in District 3. District 7, which has the highest homicide rate of any police district, experienced
a 5 percent decline. Similar to District 5, which saw an uptick in crime in 2007, District 7's crime
rate declined 30 percent from 2007 to 2009.We also note the pattern of homicide across police
districts. In 2006, slightly more than half of homicides (50.9 percent) in the District of Columbia
occurred in Districts 6 and 7. In 2009, despite a large overall reduction in homicide, that figure was
almost identical (51.7 percent). By contrast, District 4 accounted for just more than 5 percent of all
D.C. homicides in 2006, a share that increased to almost 12 percent in 2009. Two other police
districts also had an increasing share of D.C. homicides. Despite no change in the number of
homicides in District 5, the share of D.C. homicides increased from 14 to 17 percent. District 7,
despite a decline in homicides from 44 to 42, experienced a larger share of D.C. homicides in 2009
(29 percent) than in 2006 (26 percent). Overall, District 7 had the highest homicide rate with
Districts 5 and 6 each also having a rate double that of the next closest police district.