Two killings in Washington D.C. Friday pushed the city's homicide tally this year past its total for the whole of 2014, as the city's mayor and law enforcement launched increased efforts to crack down on the violent crime.
Two men died and eight were wounded in a shooting in the nation's capital on Friday night, pushing the number of murders in the city so far this year to 105, one more than the the 104 the city saw throughout 2014. By this date in 2014, there had been 72 murders in Washington D.C., meaning there has been a 45 percent increase on the year to date. The murder rate in D.C. dropped to a 20-year low in 2012, with 88 killings in the city that year, CNN reported.
In response to the spike in homicides, hundreds of D.C. police officers have been pulled from administrative roles to resume patrol duty, part of an an “all hands on deck” strategy pushed by Mayor Muriel Bowser, which started Friday.
While the homicide rate is still far below the 1991 peak of 479 murders in the city, authorities have expressed deep concern about the uptick in homicides after years of falling rates.
"We can't tolerate this amount of violence anywhere in this city," D.C. Mayor Bowser said earlier this week, according to ABC News. "My message, especially to the children... is that this is not normal, okay? This is not how life is supposed to be."
D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier, appearing on National Public Radio's Washington-area affiliate WAMU, said 95 percent of the murders are occurring in the city's Ward 8, a high poverty district.
"We're seeing a dramatically increasing number of people who are out on community release, under supervision, that have long, violent criminal histories that are just continuing to commit crime" in Ward 8, she said.
In addition to putting extra officers on the street, Bowser has also proposed increasing penalties for crimes committed on public transit or in parks or recreation centers, funding an incentive program to encourage businesses and residents to purchase security cameras, and taking violent criminals on pretrial supervision back into custody for 72 hours if their GPS ankle bracelets are removed or damaged, according to a Washington Times report.
On police union leader, Delroy Burton told the Washington Post he believes that the nationwide scrutiny of police shootings has made officers less assertive -- the “Ferguson effect,” as it is known.
“The bad guys are emboldened,” he said, “because the officers are hesitant.”
Washington D.C. is not the only U.S. city to have seen its homicide rate spike in 2015. Baltimore, Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York City, St. Louis as well as Washington, D.C., have seen murder rates jump so far this year. Homicides in St. Louis, for example, were up 60 percent year-on-year by July, Time reported.