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- District had Highest Big-City Murder Rate in 2002

- DC Murder Rate Soared as Other Cities Saw Decline

(Washington, DC) Washington, DC is once again the nation's 'Murder Capital," according to a new study released today.

The study, conducted by (, a public safety watchdog group, compared the annual number of murders per 100,000 residents in American cities with populations greater than 500,000. This was the same standard used to determine DC's previous rank as murder capital. In compiling the data, the group relied on homicide statistics from the FBI and police department homicide units from around the country.

According to the numbers, DC outranked all major cities, and is again the nation's "murder capital."

Immediately following DC on the list were Detroit (the winner in 2001), Baltimore, Memphis, Chicago and Philadelphia (in that order).

Other notable rankings included: Los Angeles (9), Dallas (10), Boston (18), San Francisco (24), and New York (25). Last on the list was Honolulu, ranked 32d with only 18 murders, in spite of its population of nearly 900,000.

DC, by comparison, with nearly 600,000 residents, had 262 murders last year.

DC's soaring homicide rate also defied national trends showing a slight drop in murders. In spite of the fact that the number of total murders in all 32 cities dropped 1.2% in 2002 as compared to 2001, DC saw a nearly 13% increase in its murder rate in 2002, giving it the 6th-highest increase among the cities surveyed.

"Nationally the murder rate hardly changed, yet in DC it soared last year," said John Aravosis, cofounder of and co-author of the study along with Matt Forman. "DC officials clearly can't blame the city's increasing murder rate on the worsening economy or other national trends since most other cities facing the same pressures did not see the same increase in homicides."

The largest jump in the 2002 murder rate was in Columbus, which saw a nearly 60% increase last year, immediately followed by San Jose (+27%), Tucson (+21%), Jacksonville (+20%), and Denver (+18%).

On the other end of the spectrum, El Paso had the greatest decline in its murder rate last year (-30%). The percentage change in the murder rate of other notable cities in 2002 include: Los Angeles (+12%), Detroit (+2%), Baltimore (-1%), Chicago (-3%), Philadelphia (-7%), Boston (-8%), New York (-10%), and Dallas (-20%).

The study also cast doubt on another factor often used by DC officials to explain the city's increasing crime rate: the demands of Homeland Security.

"We were surprised to find that New York had a 10% drop in homicides last year, as DC officials often blame the District's increasing crime rate on the demands of post-September 11 security," Aravosis said. "Yet New York, which surely faces as great a threat as Washington, has managed to improve its murder rate."

The study also found that in 2001 DC was the murder capital "runner up."

This year, according to the DC Metropolitan Police Department, murder in the District is up over 21% from last year, and at the current pace, Washington could see 325 murders in 2003 as compared to last year's 262. (Source: Washington Post)

"We were the murder capital runner-up in 2001, we won the title in 2002, and 2003 is already being heralded as a record year for death in the District," said Aravosis. "All of this proves that this year's 21% jump in homicides is hardly a temporary fluke. It's been building for years." is a web-based ad hoc coalition of District of Columbia citizens and police officers working to improve public safety and hometown security. founder, John Aravosis, is a nationally-known Internet activist best known for his year 2000 web campaign. The campaign brought citizen pressure to bear in convincing corporate sponsors to withdraw from Dr. Laura Schlessinger's television talk show ultimately leading to the cancellation of the show.


DC Regains Title of "Murder Capital"

A Study by

April 24, 2003

DC is Again the Murder Capital

Washington, DC had the highest number of homicides per capita in 2002 of cities with populations of 500,000 or more, making the District again the nation's "murder capital." (This was the same standard used to determine DC's "murder capital" status in the late 1980s.) In 2001, DC was the "murder capital runner-up," following Detroit which held the title that year. In 2002, however, DC's nearly 13% increase in homicides over the previous year exceeded Detroit's more modest increase of less than 2%. As a result, Detroit and DC switched places in the rankings for 2002, with DC taking the lead.

The Importance of Calculating the "Murder Rate"

A word about the "murder rate" and per-capita calculations. While Los Angeles had the most murders in 2002 of any large city, Washington, DC gets the rank of "murder capital" because the risk of being murdered in the District is higher than in Los Angeles. This is because while Los Angeles has 6.5 times the population of the District, last year LA did not have 6.5 times the number of murders in DC - rather, LA had only 2.5 times the number of murders in DC. Thus, in terms of each citizen's risk of being murdered, DC is more dangerous than LA and thus gets a higher rank.(1)

Top Ten Murder Rates in 2002

The following chart shows the ranking for the top ten cities in murders per capita for 2002:

Gallant1965: 45.8 per 100,000 people




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