Washington, D.C. could record fewer than 200 homicides in 2004, reports the Washington Post. That would be a significant drop from last year and a mark not reached for nearly two decades. Through the first six months of the year, D.C. recorded 91 killings, down about 25 percent from the same period in 2003. At the current rate, the city will end the year with about 180 homicides. The last time Washington recorded fewer than 200 killings was in 1986, when it tallied 196. That was before the spread of crack cocaine and firearms fueled a homicide surge that had the city dubbed the nation’s “murder capital.” In 1991, the city had 482 killings.
Homicides and other crimes have fallen steeply across the nation since the early 1990s, when drug gangs were gripped in fierce battles over turf. “We have not seen a drug reappear with the violence associated with its buying and selling on the streets like we saw in the late 1980s and early 1990s with crack cocaine,” said criminologist Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Rosenfeld and other specialists also attributed the drop in crime to higher incarceration rates — nearly 2.1 million people are being held in prison — and an improving economy during the mid- to late 1990s. When the economy slumped in recent years, some jurisdictions experienced an increase or stabilization in homicide rates.