For the first time in a quarter-century, the year’s homicide toll in Washington has surpassed 200 before October — a mark of surging violence that has angered and distressed local leaders, drawn scrutiny from Congress and made some residents question whether they can safely live in the nation’s capital, the Washington Post reports. On Tuesday, a teenage student was shot near Dunbar High School in Northwest Washington. Then a man was caught in a crossfire of gunshots in Southeast.
And with three months to go in 2023, the annual body count could be among the worst since the late 1990s, when the nearly bankrupt District began its resurrection from economic atrophy, municipal mismanagement, widespread social dysfunction and rampant crack-fueled street killings that overwhelmed D.C. police in the last part of the 20th century.
At the scene of the youth’s fatal shooting, acting D.C. police chief Pamela A. Smith brought uncertainty to the total number of killings in the city by announcing that a recent review of all homicides found eight cases that had not been included in the department’s count, meaning the year-to-date total could be as high as 209.
The circumstances of those additional killings were not immediately clear.
As in the past, a majority of homicides this year have been targeted attacks, with the tragic burden falling acutely on Black residents in the District’s most underserved neighborhoods. Yet almost every ward in D.C. has experienced at least one killing, and almost as many children and teenagers have been slain so far this year as in all of 2022.
The last time D.C. logged its 200th homicide before October was Aug. 12, 1997, in a year that ended with 303 people slain, according to police data. After that, annual totals generally trended downward, staying below 200 from 2004 to 2020, with a low of 88 in 2012. But the killing pace has picked up again, reaching 226 in 2021.
Last year, when the District recorded 203 homicides, the toll on Sept. 26 stood at 155.
The victims in 2023 have ranged in age from 10-year-old Arianna Davis, struck in the head by a stray bullet in a barrage of indiscriminate gunfire on Mother’s Day evening, to 71-year-old Eddie Curtis, found shot to death Aug. 14 on a Northeast street.