A Possible Cause For D.C.’s Increasing Homicides?

Whatever could it be? A while ago, I noted that D.C. has seen a spike in gun-related crimes (assaults and robberies) even though the total amount of violent crimes has only increased slightly:

Here’s the key point: homicides are up 33 percent (74 vs. 96), but violent crimes overall are only up 2.5 percent (3718 vs. 3812). In other words, in 2014, 1.9% of all violent crimes resulted in a homicide, while in 2015, 2.5% of all violent crimes resulted in a homicide…

In all seriousness, there’s a very obvious problem here: gun-related crimes have risen. This has an obvious effect on the number of homicides. Instead of preaching about values ([cough] Courtland Milloy [cough]), figure out how more guns relative to last year are getting into D.C. and stop that flow of guns.

While these numbers can be fudged (and I wouldn’t view them as highly accurate point estimates), we would have to believe not only have police underreported non-gun related violent crimes in eight months in 2015 relative to the same eight months in 2014, but also that the one district that saw a significant drop in homicides along with a significant drop in gun-related crime (using data separated by a year) happened to be fudged in the right direction as well. Doesn’t seem likely.

In addition, there’s this bit of data (boldface mine):

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said more than half of the suspects arrested in this year’s homicides had prior gun arrests in the District, up from 27 percent last year. She also said that 21 homicide suspects and 26 homicide victims were under court supervision, such as probation, at the time of the killings, and that six homicide victims and 10 homicide suspects had faced prior charges in killings.

Noting that 14 of 24 people arrested in 34 gun seizures last week had prior weapons-related arrests, Lanier said, “To take guns off the same person over and over and over again is just unacceptable.”

It might be the guns–there are a lot of them and they are mostly handguns (an assault weapon ban won’t do much).

While I’ve argued that cracking down on quality of life crimes will do more harm than good, violent crimes need to be dealt with, and the D.C. justice system isn’t:

Bowser called attention to Bijon Lamont Brown, 20, who is being sought by Metro Transit Police in the Aug. 21 shooting on a Metrobus in the 2400 block of Elvans Road SE. A passenger, described by police as a bystander, was wounded. Brown is charged in a warrant with unlawful possession of a firearm.

Brown had been charged in March with assault with a dangerous weapon in the shooting of two youths in their legs on a basketball court in Southeast. He accepted a deal, according to court records, and pleaded guilty to attempted assault with a dangerous weapon. He was sentenced to six months in prison, a term that was suspended in July after he had served four months. He was then put on one-year probation.

A D.C. police arrest affidavit says Brown said that he shot at the two youths but that he didn’t mean to hit them. His attorney did not return calls seeking comment…

Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said Brown’s case underwent a “comprehensive review,” but moving forward “presented significant legal challenges, including police investigative work, that made this plea the best possible outcome.” He also said that Brown had no prior convictions and had accepted responsibility and that the victims did not cooperate.

By the time this winds up in the justice system–that is, we don’t get these young men jobs–it might be too late for any optimal solution. We will either ‘overcriminalize’ or ‘undercriminalize’, and I don’t see how one could fine-tune this to get the ‘best’ outcome in all cases.

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