Washington, D.C., recorded had fewer than 200 homicides last year for the first time in nearly two decades, says the Washington Post. It was a steep drop from the deadly bloodshed that was fueled by drugs and gangs in the 1980s and 1990s. At the same time, the number of homicides climbed in neighboring Prince George’s County, Md. Homicides have more than doubled there in the past four years, with most of the violence occurring near the Prince George’s-D.C. line. Authorities unable to explain why killings are on the wane in one area and rising nearby.
There were 198 killings in the District in 2004, down from 248 the previous year. Prince George’s County had 148 homicides, up from 128 in 2003. Outside experts and civic leaders said police are only one factor in deterring crime. The homicide decrease also appears to be driven by a stronger economy, the waning of the crack wars, and the growing number of young men in prison. Despite last year’s reduction, Washington remains one of the most deadly cities in the country. Its homicide rate of 35 per 100,000 residents was only a bit behind Baltimore, with 43, and Detroit, with 41. Boston, which is about the same size as Washington, had a rate of about 10 homicides per 100,000 residents. Washington saw an increase in the number of juveniles who slain in the city last year–24, twice as many as in 2003. “That is still where a problem can reemerge if we’re not careful,” said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University. “It should remind us that the potential is there for a resurgence in youth homicides.”