D.C murder rate drops to 237

A strong local economy, lower unemployment and blossoming neighborhood development projects across the city contributed to a decline in the number of recorded homicides in the Washington, D.C. for the fourth year in a row.

Murders fell by 50 percent in past decade, hitting their lowest level since 1987, Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey announced earlier this month.

Preliminary figures for last year indicate 237 homicide victims-a reduction of 2.5 percent from the 241 victims recorded in 1999, MPD reports show. Murders throughout the nation's capital have lessened every year since 1996 when the police department reported 397 killings.

Marking a 51 percent reduction over 10 years, 2000's figure contrasts peak year 1991 when the city experienced 482 homicides.

As in prior years, the majority of last year's murder victims, more than eight in 10, were killed with a firearm, department records reveal. In addition, more than 80 percent of those killed were black and male and another 10 percent were black females.

Juveniles accounted for 19 of the homicide victims-approximately 18 percent of the total. In 1999, 28 young people were murdered representing 12 percent of that year's total.

Through MPD's Policing for Prevention crime prevention strategy, Ramsey said the department is taking a number of steps to address less serious crime before it escalates and turns violent or deadly.

In 2000, the MPD expanded its Partnerships for Problem Solving community training program; created a new Narcotics Strike Force to pursue street-level dealers; took thousands of weapons off the street with its controversial gun buy-back program; and put hundreds of new officers on the streets.

"These and other community policing initiatives are continuing to pay off in safer streets and reduced citizen fear," Ramsey said.

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