Last week the Mayor held a press conference to address an increase in violence in the city. While the total number of crimes committed so far this year is about the same as by this time last year, some violent crimes have increased. By our count, the number of crimes committed with a gun this year is 20 percent higher than last year.
So what’s behind this surge in gun violence? The crime data we looked at, which is available to the public through the D.C. Data Catalog, revealed some interesting patterns.
First, as many people have speculated, the increase in gun violence this year has been driven by crime this summer. Nearly half of the increase in crimes committed with guns this year is from an increase in gun crimes this June and July. The number of gun crimes this summer is also higher than in the summers of 2012 and 2013, even though in those years the total number of gun crimes was about the same as this year.
We also found that gun violence has not increased uniformly across the city. Out of the 39 neighborhood clusters for which the police department reports crime data, 22 saw an increase in the number of crimes committed with guns this year. The biggest increases were in a few neighborhood clusters: north-central clusters like Petworth/Brightwood Park/Crestwood and Takoma/Brightwood/Manor Park; eastern neighborhood clusters west of the Anacostia River like NOMA/H Street/Capitol Hill and Capitol Hill/Lincoln Park; clusters near the southern tip of the city, like Congress Heights/Bellevue/Washington Highlands; and other southeast neighborhood clusters east of the Anacostia, like Woodland/Fort Stanton/Garfield Heights/Knox Hill.
Seventeen of the neighborhood clusters saw a decrease or no change in crimes committed with guns this year compared to last year. The biggest decrease in gun crimes occurred in neighborhoods in the eastern corner of the city. Several of these neighborhoods, though, still had gun crime numbers that were among the highest in the city.
It’s still unclear why this surge in violence is happening. Some people believe it’s from synthetic drugs or part of a nationwide trend. We’re curious to see if anyone can find more answers using data.
What exactly is this data?
We downloaded the crime data from the D.C. Data Catalog on August 4, 2015. Because the data is updated periodically, numbers pulled later might differ slightly from the numbers we have in our post.
We looked at all crimes in D.C. reported between January 1, 2012 and July 31, 2015 where the method listed for the crime was “gun”.