Violent crime has long been a part of Washington, D.C., life, the worst of it in the early 1990s when drug trafficking propelled the annual homicide toll to nearly 500 and D.C. earned a reputation as the nation's “Murder Capital.” The volume of carnage these days is not nearly so high, and most residents are unlikely to be a victim of violence. Yet a sharp rise in crime over the past year — punctuated by reports of homicides, brazen shootings, and carjackings by armed teenagers — is rattling a city struggling to recover from a pandemic that ravaged its once-thriving downtown. D.C.’s stature as the focus of global attention and tourism remains secure. Yet, months of persistent gun violence is causing many Washingtonians to question their safety and commitment to the city with an intensity unseen since the drug wars, reports the Washington Post.
“It’s worse in some ways, like a wicked spirit is out there,” said Ronald Moten, 53, who was arrested for selling crack in the 1990s before working with young people to keep them from committing or becoming victims of crime. “You used to not have to worry about crime unless you were associated with the streets, with drug dealing. Now you could just be going down the street, going to the car and you can be killed.” The randomness is reflected in statistics showing sharp increases in crime in areas where it is less expected, as well as the jarring details of incidents: a military interpreter from Afghanistan killed while driving a Lyft on Capitol Hill; a construction worker slain as he arrived for work at 6 a.m. at Howard University; a spectator shot to death as he watched a neighborhood soccer match. Mayor Muriel Bowser and police have pushed a variety of initiatives to respond to the violence, including a curfew for teenagers in select neighborhoods, prosecuting juveniles as adults, and permitting judges to detain more defendants before trials. Yet, the bloodshed persists: In the first six days of September, eight people were shot and killed, including four teenagers.