Not long ago, many considered Washington, D.C., one of America’s dodgiest cities. But since 1993, when nearly 500 reported murders in the District earned the city the dubious title of the country’s “murder capital,” reported crime has fallen by nearly 60 percent.
According to Metropolitan Police Department statistics, citywide reported crime decreased over eight percent in the last year alone. PD’s second police district, which includes much of northwest Washington and Georgetown’s campus, netted a particularly large reported crime reduction of 13.4 percent.
And despite several high-profile violent crimes near campus last semester and over the summer, including two armed robberies on Prospect Street July 15 and August 17, reported crime has continued its steady decline, MPD Lt. Felicia Lucas said.
Reported crime immediately on-campus has followed city trends and fallen too, according to Department of Public Safety Director Darryl Harrison.
DPS’ latest crime statistics from the 2003 school year show a decrease in total reported crime of 46.8 percent from 2001. Harrison said that DPS will be releasing a new set of crime statistics for the 2004 school year on October 1. Reported crime likely decreased last year as well, he added.
Lucas, who supervises patrols in the area immediately surrounding Georgetown’s campus, attributed the decrease to “high visibility patrols” and MPD personnel “taking pride in what they do.”
“What we’re doing is being consistent in our patrol efforts and consistency is always key,” she said. “We are having the cooperation of the area’s residents in our crime reduction efforts, which plays a large part as well.”
While many law enforcement officials say that consistent police enforcement has lead to a decrease in the second district and D.C.’s overall reported crime rate, some people have pointed to other possible factors, such as social forces.
Robert Bennett, a professor of justice, law and society at American University, said that many of the most active criminals have been put in prison or are aging. He also said that the national crime rate has decreased overall in the last few years and added that the District may simply be following a nationwide trend.
“Crime is a youthful occupation and we’re seeing a demographic shift right now,” he
said. “I don’t know to what extent high police visibility is going to have an effect on overall crime.”
Rising property costs may also be pricing some criminals out of the District and into neighboring counties.
Areas bordering D.C., especially Prince George’s County in aryland, have seen a sharp increase in reported violent crime, even as the District becomes safer.
Reported homicides and rapes have increased by more than 50 percent in Prince George’s County over the last year, crime statistics show.
David Morrell, vice president for university safety, emphasized that despite decreasing reported crime near campus, spikes sometimes occur. Last fall, the area immediately surrounding Georgetown’s campus was hit by a string of street robberies, he said.
That’s why, according to Harrison, students should always remember to take basic precautions to reduce their risk of becoming victims.
“Be aware of your surroundings, walk in groups, look for anything that looks strange and if you notice anything you feel is out of the ordinary, call DPS or MPD,” he said.