Big city murders way down E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

The crack epidemic that began in the 1980s brought death and destruction to the nation’s capitol. At one point D.C. was the official murder capital of the nation in addition to being the regular capital. But after approaching a grizzly 500 slayings a year in the early 1990s, the annual murder rate in D.C. rate has fallen to the point that the city is now on the verge of a major milestone.

In an amazing crime fighting success story the number of 2012 killings in the District of Columbia stands at 78. With a little luck that could mean the city might finish the year with fewer than 100 homicides for the first time since 1963.

‘‘It strikes me probably daily as I ride around the city, or sometimes when I’m sitting at home at night, and it’s 10 o’clock and my phone’s not ringing. Or I get up in the morning, and I go, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve slept five hours,’’’ Police Chief Cathy

Lanier told the Associated Press. Lanier joined the department in 1991. There were bodies. There were riots back then.

‘‘It strikes me quite often how different things are now,’’ Lanier added.

And it’s not just D.C. that has seen things move in the right direction.

The drop there reflects a downward trend in violent crime nationwide and is in line with declining homicides in other big cities.

With the usual exceptions like Chicago where murders are up, New York City officials say homicides sank to 515 last year from 2,262 back in 1990. Houston police reported 198 homicides last year, down from 457 in 1985. Los Angeles ended last year with fewer than 300 murders after reporting 1,092 in 1992.

The number of homicides in D.C., a city of more than 600,000 residents, averaged about 457 between 1989 and 1994.

‘‘If you asked people what would happen first, there’ll be a thousand murders in D.C. in a year or there’ll be less than a hundred, I think virtually everybody would have said there would be 1,000,’’ said John Roman, who works at the Washington-based Urban Institute.

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