A recent rash of shootings and violent crimes in Washington, D.C. is leaving officials troubled and scrambling for answers, while transit crime rates and disturbing homicide data continue to rise across the city.
The District is off to a violent year, with over 50 confirmed homicides across the city. D.C. saw a staggering 53 percent spike in the murder rate in 2015, the highest rate in eight years. The alarming spike in homicides is spilling into 2016, tracking closely with last year’s figures.
On a recent violent Monday in May, police responded to five shooting incidents across the District within a four-hour period, which left two dead and city officials in shock. (RELATED: Officials ‘Horrified’ After Bloody Monday In DC Leaves Five Shot, Two Dead)
“We are just horrified by what we saw today,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a May press conference “It’s a level of violence that’s not acceptable in our city. And we are going to put every single resource – police and otherwise – to get rid of this violence.”
The District experienced a violent Memorial Day weekend due to a number of shootings, including one in a Metro station, that left three dead and six injured. In less than a three-hour time span Thursday night, four men were shot and another stabbed in three separate incidents, though none were fatal. (RELATED: Bloody Memorial Day Weekend Leaves Six Shot, Three Dead)
Residents across the city, particularly in wards troubled by rampant violence such as Wards 6 and 7, want answers from city leaders on the troubling trend and what they are doing to combat it. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Denise Krepp of the District’s Ward 6, is demanding answers after having Freedom of Information Act requests (FOIA) repeatedly ignored by the Department of Justice.
Krepp is trying to get statistics on how many arrests in the District resulted in officials following through with prosecutions. Residents in Krepp’s community feel the D.C. court system is a “revolving door of justice,” where repeat offenders are released back into neighborhoods, allowing violence to go unchecked. (RELATED: Spiraling Violence Leads DC Citizen To Sue DOJ)
“Sometimes, we just scratch our heads,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier told The Washington Post in May. “We feel like there’s a revolving door for violent offenders. It’s very frustrating for us because we see the victim, and we see the impact on the victim.”
Perhaps most alarming is the current situation in Ward 7, which is ravished by violence at an unprecedented level. Rattled residents in the ward are witnessing a tripling in the homicide rate compared to 2015, accounting for nearly half of all homicides in the District this year. Despite the rampant violence, the community is fearful to voice criticism of the crimes publicly.
“We need people to talk to us,” Lanier said in May. “There’s ways you can talk to us anonymously. The reason we’ve been able to take violent offenders off the streets so far and all the way up through today is because people talk to us.”
Former Mayor Vincent Gray, who is running to defeat Yvette Alexander for the Council seat in Ward 7, blasted Alexander over Twitter for failing to see the seriousness of the crime issue. Lanier says political campaign rhetoric does nothing to help the community and makes it less likely for informants to come forward and speak. (RELATED: Crime In The DC Metro System Sees Dramatic Year-Over-Year Spike)
“Politicians spinning about how it’s getting out of control shuts that down for me,” said Lanier.
Rampant crime is not just reserved for communities and neighborhoods in the District. D.C. Metro crime is up year-over-year by 10.1 percent, and is only increasing. Several grizzly crimes on the Metro this year stoked rider fears and led to an increased police presence at stations and more patrols. A 15-year-old was shot and killed on the platform of the Deanwood Metro station while on his way to get a haircut the day before Easter with his family.
“We’re not going to tolerate it,” Mayor Bowser said at the Deanwood Metro crime scene. “Anytime somebody comes on Metro property, we’re going to know who they are.”
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