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Nation’s capital records most homicides in 2 decades: ‘A brazen return to lawlessness’

Washington, D.C., police have recorded 250 homicides so far this year — the highest number of murders that the nation’s capital has seen in two decades — with a month left until the year’s end.

The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) recorded 248 homicides in 2003, after which homicides began to steadily drop to a low of 88 in 2012 and then picked back up again, according to citywide crime statistics. 

“It’s perverse, and it represents a brazen return to lawlessness,” Kathy Henderson, commissioner for the Advisory Neighborhood Commission in Ward 5, told Fox News Digital. “We need to really reassert lawful boundaries and protect our residents and our visitors to the city. And there’s no legitimate reason why the nation’s capital should be leading the nation in homicides and, I believe, in carjackings.”

MPD crime stats

Last year, the MPD recorded 189 homicides, meaning there has been more than a 32% increase in killings in D.C. since 2022.

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MPD has its own carjacking crime statistics web page that shows 908 carjackings so far this year, 77% of which have involved firearms. Police reported 429 carjackings over the same period in 2022. The majority (65%) of carjacking arrests involve juveniles, with 15 being the most common age for offenders.

There has also been a 93% increase in motor vehicle thefts, with 6,345 incidents reported this year compared to 3,291 last year. Violent crime has risen 40% on average across the nation’s capital, MPD statistics show.

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On Wednesday, an FBI employee was carjacked around 3:45 p.m., according to MPD. Last month, Texas Democrat Rep. Henry Cuellar was targeted by three armed carjackers in D.C.’s Navy Yard.

Rep. Henry Cuellar

“I was just coming into my place. Three guys came out of nowhere, and they pointed guns at me,” Cuellar said at the time. “I do have a black belt, but I recognize when you got three … guns – I looked at one with a gun and another with a gun, a third one behind me. So, they said they wanted my car. I said, ‘Sure.’ You’ve got to keep calm under those situations. And then they took off.”

Reasons behind the rise

Henderson, who says she has never supported the “defund the police” movement and has advocated for “lawful, credible and conscientious policing,” said one particular city leader is to blame for D.C.’s crime wave.

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“We didn’t have a problem here. And then we had people on the city council – who should be singularly focused on making the best legislative decisions to protect our residents and our visitors and to move our city forward – decide to rewrite the criminal code and to weaken a lot of the protections that citizens had,” said Henderson, who has lived in the capital for 40 years. “And all hell broke loose, and crime continues to rise. There are people that commit crimes here that think, ‘Who’s going to stop us?'”

The commissioner went on to name Charles Allen, Ward 6 councilman and former head of D.C.’s Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, who advocated for a $15 million budget cut to the MPD in 2020 and helped overhaul D.C.’s criminal code, as a driver behind the city’s rising violent crime.

Fox News Digital has reached out to Allen’s office for comment.

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“It’s a number of factors, but it started with a member of the city council, the former chair of the committee on the judiciary, Mr. Charles Allen. This starts and stops with him,” Henderson said. “He convened one circus of a hearing after another where he invited people from all over the country to talk about how horrible D.C. police are and [how] they need to stop killing Black people.”

“They conflated a growing national narrative with what was not happening here.”

— Kathy Henderson

After the MPD budget cut was approved, Allen said the D.C. City Council was “grappling with undoing centuries of layered and systemic racism and its permutations throughout our society,” according to the Washington Post. “This budget reflects significant action and aligns with other sweeping reform this committee has undertaken, but it’s also one piece of a movement. … Every level of government, including among executive branch agencies, must make change.”

A Metropolitan police car in Georgetown

Henderson said the changes to D.C.’s justice system over the last several years have made it difficult for officers “to enforce the law,” pointing to the city’s Metro as an example of a once-great transportation system that has crumbled under a lack of law enforcement.

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The commissioner said activating the National Guard to combat violent crime is not out of the question.

Changes over time

Alan Henney, a freelance journalist, has been reporting on crime in D.C. since the late 1980s, he told Fox News Digital via email. 

“For sure, crime in D.C. has gotten worse in the past few years. The city’s own stats support that,” he wrote. “Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was largely attributed to drugs (crack) and related turf wars. But what we see now is much different.”

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Henny listed some of the factors that are contributing to the city’s increasing violent crime: disrespect for MPD officers, the COVID-19 pandemic and decreasing prosecution rates, among other reasons.

“Prosecution rates have dropped as the murder rates increased. To answer your question, that is the ultimate reason why the murders have increased. The lack of accountability and punishment has decreased,” he wrote. “If you look at nearly every single D.C. high-profile murder or shooting case, that suspect has a frightening arrest record and/or criminal history.”

“This is now the norm, not the exception.”

— Alan Henney

The freelance journalist, who reports the latest crime news in D.C. in real time by listening to police scanners, added that people “who are not from D.C. do not understand the problem,” especially as it relates to youth violence. He said D.C. “teens are typically cast into a gang (known in DC as a crew) which is usually based mostly on the housing project where they reside,” citing the National Center for Criminal Justice Reform’s 2021 Gun Violence Problem Analysis Summary.

Police outside of the Ivy City Hotel.

The center found that 96% of “victims and suspects in both homicides and nonfatal shootings were Black, despite Black residents comprising only 46 percent of the overall population in the District.”

“In Washington, DC, most gun violence is tightly concentrated on a small number of very high risk young Black male adults that share a common set of risk factors, including: involvement in street crews/groups; significant criminal justice history including prior or active community supervision; often prior victimization; and a connection to a recent shooting,” the report concluded, noting that social media also plays a significant role in today’s D.C. shootings.

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