WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) -- A dramatic drop in DC's homicide rate indicates that while much has been accomplished, a lot of work remains, according to Mayor Vincent Gray and Police Chief Cathy Lanier. Together they announced a 19% decline in homicides last year, from 108 in 2011 to 88 in 2012, the fewest number of homicides since 1961, and 391 murders less than 1991, when there were 479 murder victims in the city.
"In most places, homicide numbers are about 87 to 95 percent firearm-related, and we've kind of been able to drive that down by targeting illegal firearms here," said Chief Lanier.
In addition to the focus on seizing illegal guns and breaking up gangs, Chief Lanier said the steady decline in homicides since 2008 could largely be attributed to the police department's increasing use of technology.
Having said all that, Chief Lanier and the Mayor both pointed out that not all the crime numbers are heading in the right direction. After several years of steep declines, overall violent crime was up 3 percent last year and assaults with a deadly weapon were up six percent.
Nancy La Vigne, the director of the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute, said even though the police department should be applauded for its role in significantly reducing violent crime, it's pretty clear that the city's changing demographics have played an important role as well.
"Absolutely, and I think gentrification does come into play in the homicide drop in DC," La Vigne said.