Another Look at DC’s Murder Rate (and Why is It So High?)

by Borderstan.com December 30, 2009 at 12:55 pm 1,981 3 Comments

I asked the question, “Why is DC’s Murder Rate 4.56 Times Higher Than New York City’s? in a December 13 posting. I don’t have the answer, but the point of my posting was this:

We hear a great deal about DC’s declining murder rate. It is, indeed, very good news. But here is the ugly reality. The murder rate in New York City is 4.99 homicides per 100,000 people (through Nov. 22 this year). In DC, the homicide rate is 22.77 per 100,000 people (through Dec. 10 this year). So, what is the answer? I don’t know, but I do wish that we (residents and elected officials) would start to ask why and try to figure out what we can do to bring down the rate of violent crime in DC. At the very least, shouldn’t we be asking the question?

Yesterday dcist ran a posting on DC’s declining homicide rate, “D.C. To Record Lowest Number of Homicides in 40 Years.” As of now, there have been 67 comments (and some good discussion) on DC’s murder rate and why it is so high (or not, I guess, depending on your perspective what data you might choose to include). Go over and check out the comments. Let the discussion continue. We need some answers. Or, at the very least, we should be asking the question.

  • WhoddaThunk

    While clearly we’d like a lower murder rate, I think its important to note what an unbelievable improvement we have had since the murder rate hit its peak.

    For an apples to apples comparison, in 1991 when DC was the “Homicide Capital of America” there were 80.6 homicides per 100,000 residents. The 489 homicides in the District during 1991 breaks down to over 1 homicide every 1250 residents.

    Sources: Washington Times, 5/8/1991; Washington Post, 1/3/1992; FBI Bureau of Crime Statistics, Uniform Crime Reports via disastercenter.com

  • It’s not possible to compare crime rates of City A versus City B, because city boundaries are so inconsistent, sometimes including lots of low-crime suburbs, sometimes (as in DC) not. For DC, we could reduce the homicide rate quite substantially by adding Montgomery County to the District. That wouldn’t change anything in reality, but would sharply reduce the per-capita homicide rate. Conversely, if we gave the low-crime neighborhoods of Upper Northwest back to Maryland, the crime rate for the remainder of the city would be sharply increased. That wouldn’t mean a thing, in reality. It would just change the number.

    • I am preparing some info and stats that do just that. I am looking at stats for surrounding counties in the DC area (plus Alexandria City). I am also looking at stats for the five individual boroughs of NYC. So far, I have to tell you that DC and the DC area do NOT come out well.


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