The crack epidemic that began in the 1980s ushered in a wave of bloodletting in Washington, D.C., but after approaching nearly 500 slayings a year in the early 1990s, the annual total has gradually declined to the point that the city is now on the verge of a once-unthinkable milestone. The number of 2012 killings in the District of Columbia stands at 78 and is on pace to finish lower than 100 for the first time since 1963, the Associated Press reports. The drop reflects a downward trend in violent crime nationwide and is in line with declining homicides in other big cities.
Though killings have risen in Chicago, New York City officials say homicides dropped to 515 last year from 2,262 in 1990. Houston police reported 198 homicides last year, down from 457 in 1985, while Los Angeles ended last year with fewer than 300 after reporting 1,092 in 1992. In Washington, homicides averaged 457 between 1989 and 1994. “If you asked people what would happen first, there’ll be a thousand murders in D.C. in a year or there’ll be less than a hundred, I think virtually everybody would have said there would be 1,000,” said John Roman of the Washington-based Urban Institute.