As of December 2018, 160 people had been murdered across the Washington metropolitan area, up from 116 in 2017, a spike of about 40%, according to new data from the Metropolitan Police Department.
In total, of the 534 people shot in the nation's capital through mid-December, 23% died, reported The Washington Post.
Out of control murders had been visible since the first half of 2018. In response, Mayor Muriel Bowser had to deploy additional officers in Spring to get ahead of the crime wave - traditionally in the summer months, to wards 7 and eight that had been experiencing spikes in violent crime. By early summer, Police Chief Peter Newsham said the region already experienced a 41% surge in homicides year over year.
“Just like when we had a spike in shootings and violence in 2015, we got all the agencies of the government coordinated to respond. We were able to drive that crime down then and we will do it again,” Bowser said during a Ward 4 “crime walk” in May, during which she spoke with residents about their crime concerns.
“We’re going to stop this little uptick in violence. Investigators are making significant progress in some of the recent violent cases we’ve seen in our city, so you’re going to see, we’re going to end up having a good summer here in the District,” Newsham said during the same walk.
By August, there had been 100 homicides in the District, compared to just 74 at the same time in 2017. One month later, there had been more people killed than all of 2017, with three months left in 2018.
City officials blamed the uptick in violence on illegal guns in the District. At a press conference in September, Newsham admitted that the current penalties for possession of an illegal weapon did not seem to be an effective deterrent. “The consequences of illegal firearm possession in our city is not changing the behavior. We’re arresting sometimes the same folks over and over again for carrying illegal firearms in the city,” he said.
Homicides in the District have been on a roller coaster over the last two decades, from a high of 262 in 2002 to a low of 88 in 2012. Now it seems that the violent crime trend is back.
While homicides soared around the nation's capital, killings were mostly down in other nearby metros.
In Montgomery County, Maryland, homicides dropped from 21 in 2017 to 19 in 2018, while in Fairfax County, Virginia, fatal shootings fell from 18 to 13 across the past two years.
Maryland’s Prince George’s County saw one of the most significant annual drops, going from 80 homicides in 2017 to 60 last year. In the Arlington, Virginia, murders went from four to just three in 2018.
However, in Baltimore's case, where wealth inequality, vacant homes, and homicides plagued the dying city, murders topped 300 for the fourth consecutive year. The wave of violence began not long after the April 2015 death of Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody. That triggered massive riots across the city, where the murders and violent crime have surged ever since.
It is certainly odd that in the "greatest economy ever," out of control homicides are surging across the Baltimore–Washington metropolitan area, just a stone's throw from the White House.