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Police: More DC murders linked to drug deals during pandemic

"They just don't have any regard for human life and COVID-19 really hasn't changed their behavior," Police Chief Peter Newsham says.

WASHINGTON — Even with a stay-at-home order in place, deadly, violent crime hasn’t slowed in the District.

The number of people killed in D.C. so far in 2020 is at 53, on par with this time in 2019 when there were 54 homicides.

"They just don't have any regard for human life and COVID-19 really hasn't changed their behavior," D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said.

Chief Newsham says what has changed is the motive for most murders during this public health emergency.

Recent killings are not tied to the usual neighborhood disputes, but instead to drugs. 

"I don't know why COVID-19 would cause the violence around the drug trade," Newsham said.

RELATED: Deadly violence continues in DC despite coronavirus

With many D.C. neighborhoods focused on COVID-19, there are some areas where deadly crime is still the biggest fear.

Newsham said his department is moving forward with its annual Summer Crime Initiative. Additional officers are being deployed to six hotspots in the city, where homicides and gun violence are high.

  • Columbia Heights (PSAs 302/304)
  • Benning Road/Rosedale/Langston-Carver (PSA 507)
  • Fort Dupont/Minnesota Avenue (PSA 603)
  • Benning Ridge/Marshall Heights (PSA 604)
  • East Congress (PSA 704/705)
  • Washington Highlands (PSA 706/708)

"Go in there, make some changes, provide some resources to some folks, and then hopefully, we can have it be an area where we don't have any violent crime," Newsham said. 

RELATED: MAP: 2020 District of Columbia Homicides

While police are still struggling to stop the increase in murders, Newsham said this annual initiative has been one of their most effective strategies.

He points to data showing that murders dropped by 44% in neighborhoods they targeted last year.

The Summer Crime Initiative runs through Aug. 31. 

RELATED: This woman survived coronavirus and domestic violence. Here's her story.

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