DC shouldn’t let 200 homicides become the norm

Washington DC Officials Address Press On Arrest Of Suspect In Homeless Attacks
WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 15: Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (L), joined by Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee III, speaks at a press conference on the recent shootings of the homeless individuals in Washington, DC and New York City on March 15, 2022 in Washington, DC. Bowser announced an arrest has been made and the individual was charged with first-degree murder. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images) Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

DC shouldn’t let 200 homicides become the norm

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Three shootings in eight hours last weekend pushed Washington, D.C., above 200 homicides for the second year in a row.

Mayor Muriel Bowser is, pleasingly, committed to increasing police funding and hiring 500 new officers. But unless she starts holding criminals accountable for their crimes, living in the nation’s capital will not improve.


Crime overall dipped by 7% in the district in 2022, but that included a 36% rise in carjackings, and juvenile homicides jumped 50%. As recently as 2012, only half as many people were murdered in D.C., down from almost 500 in 1991. The murder rate has therefore doubled in the past decade.

Nationally, President Joe Biden has been completely clueless on crime, wasting federal resources targeting “ghost guns,” which are involved in less than 3% of all crimes.

Bowser has been a little better, resisting a Washington City Council that cut millions of dollars from the police budget after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020. Bowser has tried to reverse those cuts, promising to raise the number of police officers from 3,500 to 4,000.

This is a good start, but, as at the southern border, additional resources help only if they are part of an effective policy. In the district, weak policies that fail to deter crime negate and waste the money spent on law enforcement.

National homicide numbers spiked in 2020, but the district murder boom started in 2018, two years before the “Defund the Police” movement started. Murders jumped 38% in 2018 (from 116 to 160), compared to a 19% jump in 2020 (166 to 198).

So what happened in 1998? District officials voted to lessen punishments for felons convicted of illegally possessing a gun. Then-D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham warned at the time, “Repeat offenders who have committed gun crimes will be back on the street sooner, once again endangering our community.”

This is why Biden’s call for more stringent background checks is useless. If jurisdictions aren’t punishing those who break existing laws, what good will more checks do?

In 2019, when asked to explain why murders had risen so fast, Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Chief Robert Contee explained, “We have a lot of people being arrested for gun crimes, but they’re not doing any real time. That’s a problem when you’ve seen a guy being arrested five, six times. Violent offenders repeatedly come through the system. The biggest frustration that we have here in the agency is when you see a person who has committed multiple violent offenses and there not being any real penalty with the crime.”

Contee is right. A 2022 study of D.C. homicides found virtually all of them were committed by a small number of people. In murders committed in 2019 and 2020, more than 90% of victims and suspects were male, 96% were black, 86% of them were already known to the criminal justice system, and nearly half had already served jail time.

We have editorialized before on how the district’s decision not to punish Metro fare jumpers led to a rise in fare jumping. Biden’s decision not to punish illegal border crossings has also led to a rise in illegal border crossings. If the district really wants to lower gun deaths, it should increase punishments for people who use illegal guns.


© 2023 Washington Examiner

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