Every time someone is shot dead in Washington, D.C., the city pays at least $1.53 million in response, says a new report from the nonprofit Peace for D.C., the Washington Post reports. Police race to the scene; an ambulance transports victims to a hospital; law enforcement searches for perpetrators, attorneys appear in court, suspects are jailed pretrial and then sentenced to time in prison; a coroner investigates the cause of death; and bereaved families receive social-services benefits as compensation. Each step costs taxpayers thousands and thousands of dollars. Last year, the process repeated 226 times, as D.C. struggled with a murder total not seen in over a decade. A similar process, for each person who sustained a shooting injury but survived, unfolded 904 additional times last year. The report found that gun violence in D.C. directly cost taxpayers almost $1 billion in 2021 alone.
“By quantifying these costs, we hope it becomes clear to the Mayor and Council that now is the time to invest in both traditional and community-powered public safety,” said Peace for D.C. Founder Roger Marmet, who lost his 22-year-old son Tom to gun violence in 2018. The report, written by the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform and the Urban Institute, examined the direct and indirect costs of gun violence. A Washington Post poll in February found that three in 10 D.C. residents do not feel safe from crime, the highest percentage in more than two decades of polling. Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement interim director Delano Hunter said the city’s new People of Promise Initiative is meant to provide help to those most vulnerable. Marmet worries it still relies far too much on government officials and not on members of the community. The program assigns multidisciplinary teams to 200 residents identified as being at the highest risk of involvement in gun violence.