A 13-year-old boy was fatally shot inside a Washington, D.C., apartment yesterday. The Washington Post reports that he was the latest victim in a surge of violence in the city that has claimed 21 young lives this year. The level of violence against juveniles has puzzled police because homicides have declined overall. Local residents want stronger law enforcement as well as better school and recreational opportunities. “The streets are hard,” said Sylvia Dark, principal of the junior high school that the latest victim attended. “It’s hard on the students, and they don’t expect to live long. They don’t get to be children.”
D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey could not explain the spike in juvenile killings. In 2003, 12 victims younger than 18 were killed, and 16 were slain in 2002. In 1999, 28 juveniles were homicide victims. Overall, the city is on track to finish the year just shy of 200 homicides, the fewest in nearly two decades. In Baltimore, a city of about the same population Washington, police are confronting a similar problem. Through yesterday, 29 juveniles have been slain this year. In 2003, 35 were killed. Ramsey said a culture of casual street violence could be a factor in some juvenile homicides. He noted that many of the youths were committing crimes when they were killed.