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Lanier pleased with DC's improvement in homicide cases

Not often is D.C. Police Cathy L. Lanier in a smiling mood when she faces the media to discuss crime in the nation’s capital.

On the first day of 2010, however, she seemed almost giddy.

“I remember my first year on the department,” Lanier said at a news conference Friday, formally announcing the remarkable decline in homicides in the District in 2009|.

"There were 479 murders in the city in 1991, my first year out of the academy and out on the street.” That was at the height of the crack epidemic, when feuding drug dealers turned some neighborhoods into war zones.

The 2009 total, including three slayings Thursday, was 143 -- a 23 percent drop from 2008’s body count (186) and the lowest annual homicide toll in Washington since 1966.

“I think I’m probably the only chief in the country who can say that the last time homicides in this city were this low, I wasn’t even born,” Lanier said, chuckling. “So that’s a really good feeling.”

Joined by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and a bevy of police officers, the chief stood outside the building in Southwest Washington that houses the department’s homicide unit. “We’ve still got a lot more work to do,” she said, citing the three homicides that occurred on the final day of the year. “And we’re going to get out there and do it.”

Lanier said the decrease in homicides is rooted in closer police-community relations.
“We’ve been this big, anonymous police force for a very long time,” she said. “Now people actually know the name of an officer who works in the neighborhood, who walks the beat. We’ve created ways for people to reach out and communicate with us anonymously by phone, by e-mail, by listserv. It’s just a matter of taking the time to build those good relationships.”

With the public more willing to provide tips, the homicide unit’s 2009 closure rate was a strong 75 percent, Lanier said. Because many killings in the city are committed in retaliation for earlier slayings, she said, the closure rate affects the death toll: More arrests means fewer opportunities for payback on the streets, which leads to a decline in violence.

“We’ve said all along that the cornerstone of our strategy has been to focus on those repeat violent offenders,” the chief said. “You take an offender who’s involved in shootings and homicides off the street, not only do you stop them from committing a spree, but you also prevent retaliation, because typically there’s someone out there looking for that offender.”

--Paul Duggan

By Washington Post editors  |  January 1, 2010; 1:53 PM ET
Categories:  Cathy L. Lanier , Crime Statistics , Paul Duggan , The District  
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The results speak for themselves, so well done Chief Lanier.

Since crime usually increases in bad economic times, yet it is down many places this year, what is different? Could it be the election of President Obama?

Now hear me out. Young black males commit a disproportionate amount of crime. The American people gave these boys hope and something to be proud of when they elected a black man president. The boys are emulating Barak Obama - moving toward being productive citizens instead of committing crimes. This has occurred spontaneously, unplanned and unexpected, but none the less one of the many biproducts of Obama's election.

Posted by: JudyK1 | January 2, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Keep dreaming.

Posted by: gpl2411 | January 2, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

From a press release issued by the mayor's office on June 26, 2008, responding to the Supreme Court's decision in Heller:

“I’m disappointed in the Court’s ruling and believe introducing more handguns into the District will mean more handgun violence,” said Mayor Fenty.

Well, well, well. In light of the 2009 decline in homicide, would you care to amend your statement, Mr. Mayor?

Posted by: Hk45 | January 4, 2010 7:31 AM | Report abuse

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