District of Columbia Crime Policy Institute

DCPI Briefs

The Crime Policy Institute will issue timely briefs to highlight criminal and juvenile justice policy issues in the District. These short policy snapshots will identify pressing, relevant crime and safety topics in the District; place those matters in historical and policy context; distinguish trends; and discuss implications. The goal of these briefs is to provide real-time evidence to inform policy discussions that are engaging public safety stakeholders and District residents.

Reference Map of Washington, D.C. - Police Districts
Reference Map of Washington, D.C. - Wards

Crime Counts and Rates in the District of Columbia: 1960 - 2009

Foreclosures and Crime in the District of Columbia, 2003-2010
Meagan Cahill and Akiva Liberman

With the recent economic collapse, housing foreclosures have spiked throughout the District of Columbia. Foreclosures are not merely a sign of an unhealthy economy, but they could cause crime in and of themselves by emptying houses, providing space where criminal activity could occur.

To test this connection, DCPI researchers delve into the foreclosure and crime data for the District, finding that the foreclosure rate in the District was relatively low compared to similarly sized cities. They also find that though crime rates fell while foreclosures rose, violent crime did have a moderate association with foreclosures.

Posted to Web: January 18, 2012

Publication Date: January 18, 2012

Labor Market Trends in the District of Columbia
Benjamin Orr

It has long been understood that employment and crime are related in various ways. Occupation in conventional employment limits the time available for committing crime. When employed, people also have more to lose from criminal justice involvement. When unemployed, people sometimes substitute illegitimate earnings for legitimate earnings. In addition, a criminal record can bar participation in important segments of the labor market.

In view of the links between employment and crime, this brief examines the local labor market in the District of Columbia.

Posted to Web: September 14, 2011

Publication Date: September 14, 2011

The Volatility of Monthly Crime
Akiva Liberman and Meagan Cahill

In recent years, the overall trends in crime in the District have been down. Yet, news accounts often report surges in crime. Monthly burglary, robbery, and homicide are volatile and can go up even during a long-term downward trend. Does an increase in crime in a given month—compared with last month or last year—suggest that crime is on the increase?

The key to reconciling short-term changes in crime with longer-term trends is to understand the volatility of crime. In this brief, we explore this issue by examining monthly changes in crime during the past decade against the background of longer trends.

Posted to Web: March 21, 2011

Publication Date: March 21, 2011

Demographic Trends in the District of Columbia, 2000-2009
Benjamin Orr

This brief examines the demographics of the District of Columbia and how they have changed over the period 2000­­­-2009. The demography of a city describes the context in which crime occurs, as well as the population of possible offenders and victims. The demographics of the District of Columbia have undergone significant change over the past decade, and understanding demographic trends can help put changes in crime into context. Because there are many reasons why crime rates change, we do not attempt to link these demographic changes to changes in crime (which are described in a series of other DCPI Briefs).

Posted to Web: February 18, 2011

Publication Date: February 18, 2011

Theft in the District of Columbia Patterns and Trends, 2000-2009
Meagan Cahill and John K. Roman

After the mid-1960s, theft rates in Washington, D.C., were higher and more volatile than rates for the nation as a whole. Since then, rates in Washington, D.C., have dropped but remained higher than the national level in 2009. Weekly theft counts increased significantly from 2005 to 2009 by approximately 25 percent. Thefts clustered in the central city areas, near business and retail activity. A hot spot was found in the Dupont Circle neighborhood in 2000, but by 2009, thefts clustered strongly in Columbia Heights. A drop in thefts in two central-city neighborhoods also raised questions about what caused those drops.

Posted to Web: December 20, 2010

Publication Date: December 20, 2010

Small Number of Blocks Account for Lots of Crime in D.C.
Meagan Cahill and John K. Roman

This brief looks at crime at the Census block level. Most crime is concentrated in a relatively small number of blocks in the District—in any given year, more than one-quarter of the crimes occur in just five percent of the blocks. The largest clusters of high crime blocks are found in the center of the city and on the eastern edge of the city, in the Third, Sixth, and Seventh Police Districts.

Posted to Web: November 11, 2010

Publication Date: November 11, 2010

VIOLENT CRIME: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom (Commentary - MetroTrends.org)
Meagan Cahill

DCPI researcher Meagan Cahill provides a look at the changing violent crime rates of metropolitan areas in the United States since 2000.

Over the last decade, violent crime rates (homicide, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery) have been falling both nationally and in nearly two-thirds of the 100 largest metropolitan areas. Yet a recent Gallup poll found that more Americans than ever believe the crime problem is worsening. Lots of Americans also think that population growth brings higher crime and that the nation’s biggest metros face worsening violent crime problems. But the facts don’t support these conclusions either. 

Posted to Web: November 10, 2010

Publication Date: October 25, 2010

Motor Vehicle Theft in the District of Columbia Patterns and Trends, 2000-2009
Meagan Cahill and John K. Roman

Over the past 50 years, nationwide rates of motor vehicle thefts rose slowly and steadily to a peak in 1990 and then declined to a low in 2009. Rates in Washington, D.C. were higher and more volatile, averaging three to four times the national rate for two decades. Recently, however, rates in the District dropped to their lowest level in 25 years. While the Sixth Police District (6D) had the highest rates and counts of motor vehicle theft over the study period, the Seventh Police District (7D) had the largest percentage increase. Hot spots in 6D were located along major thoroughfares.

Posted to Web: October 20, 2010

Publication Date: October 20, 2010

Burglary in the District of Columbia Patterns and Trends, 2000-2009
Meagan Cahill and John K. Roman

This brief describes the steady decline in burglary in Washington, DC, to levels below the national average. Washington, D.C.’s burglary rates were more volatile than the nationwide pattern, declining in the mid-1990s and stabilizing in the mid-2000s. Analyses by police district found that while most mirrored the citywide pattern of a decline across the period, burglaries in 7D increased significantly. Hot spots maps reveal the dissipation of one anomalous hot spot in the Second Police District as well as the increasing burglary rates in the Seventh Police District, highlighting the need for micro-level responses to local crime trends.

Posted to Web: October 11, 2010

Publication Date: October 11, 2010

Sex Abuse in the District of Columbia, 2000 - 2009
Meagan Cahill and John K. Roman 

While the use official statistics to understand sexual offenses presents a number of challenges, an analysis of data from the last decade (2000—2009) in Washington, D.C. reveals some interesting patterns. A long-term downward trend in reports of forcible rape since 1960 stabilized in recent years. More recently (2000—2009), the number of sex abuse reports was volatile with no clear pattern of increase or decline. Police districts 6D and 7D accounted for a disproportionate share of the city’s sex abuse reports, a pattern that may have begun to change at the very end of the series, at least in 7D.

Posted to Web: September 17, 2010

Publication Date: September 17, 2010

Aggravated Assault in the District of Columbia, 2000 - 2009
Meagan Cahill and John K. Roman 

Over the past decade, aggravated assaults in the District of Columbia have steadily declined to levels last reached in the late 1960s. That decline mirrors that of serious violent crime—such as homicide—with a small peak in the early 1970s and a larger peak in the early 1990s. The analysis found that the Seventh Police District (7D) had the most assaults of all districts but also one of the largest declines between 2000 and 2009. In 7D, hot spots of crime were located in both commercial and residential areas, but dissipated over the course of the decade studied.

Posted to Web: September 13, 2010

Publication Date: September 13, 2010

Robbery in the District of Columbia, 2000 - 2009 
Meagan Cahill and John K. Roman 

This brief examines robbery in the District of Columbia over the period 2000-2009, both citywide and by police district. Over the 2000-2009 period, robbery levels were historically low and remained relatively stable throughout the period. A comparison of robbery rates and counts revealed that the two different types of measures followed similar trends over the study period. Following seasonal crime trends, robberies rose in the summer months and dropped in the winter months. Geographic patterns of robbery across the study period remained stable over time with a persistent hotspot in the Third Police District.

Posted to Web: September 2, 2010

Publication Date: August 31, 2010

Homicides in the District of Columbia by Police District, 2001 - 2009 
Joshua A. Markman and John K. Roman 

This DCPI brief examines trends in homicides across District of Columbia police districts since 2001. Overall, most police districts follow the general citywide decline in homicides. There is, however, interesting variation within each district, which is explored further in this brief.

Posted to Web: July 1, 2010

Publication Date: July 1, 2010