Since Memorial Day weekend two months ago, the number of killings in D.C. has dropped by 44 percent compared to the previous year. Before the holiday, which traditionally kicks off the summer season, homicides in D.C. were up 16 percent. The pace of killings in the city have slowed so that homicides for the year are down 12 percent and violent crime is down 7 percent, according to police records.
During the record-breaking heat wave last weekend, there were no homicides in D.C. or Prince George's County, the two jurisdictions that drive the capital region's homicide rate. The last murder in the District was July 20. Prince George's hasn't had a homicide since July 13, a police department spokesman said.
|Violence in D.C. down this summer|
|Sex Abuse||67||61||Down 9|
|Total violent crime||1,362||1,249||Down 8|
"People say,'it's too hot to kill, or I don't have the energy to kill," said Ellen G. Cohn, a professor at Florida International University who has examined connections between weather and crime for nearly 30 years. "It becomes more important to find a drink than exact revenge."
Law enforcement experts and criminologists have long noted that crime can rise in the summer months. People become more aggressive and lash out. Rapes, riots and 9-1-1 calls go up. Part of that is that teenaged males are out of school and unsupervised, the days are longer, and outdoor activities increase.
But searing heat may drive people indoors, and even dull the ardor to keep cycles of revenge killings going.
"Violent crime rises with temperature -- but only up to a certain point," Cohn said. Once it gets too hot, the violence can drop off, she said. "It's like the fight-or-flight theory, when it becomes too hot, criminals flee to places cooler." Noting that Washington area weather has reached extreme levels, she added, "It may have reached the point that it's so blasted hot outside that violent offenders, like everybody else, are staying inside."
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier doesn't buy that theory. She said the credit belongs to the Metropolitan Police Department's focus on preventing violent crime. "This is a sign of our success," she said.
Police quickly made arrests in several slayings in the early part of summer, including the killing of an innocent bystander who got caught in the crossfire between warring gangs at the Carribean Festival. Swift aprehensions prevented possible retaliatory strikes against the alleged shooter, law enforcement officials said.
Ron Moten, of Peaceoholics, credited the decline in killings to D.C. police, citizens and advanced medicine. But he said the dip "gives a false sense of what's going on out here. What I see on the ground is more shootings, more stabbings. We cannot become desensitized to what's going on."