WASHINGTON -- The mayor of the District of Columbia has declared that the days of the nation's capital being the nation's murder capital are long since over.
In a press conference on Friday afternoon, Mayor Vincent Gray, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Paul Quander and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier unveiled a plan to improve police service in the city and announced the lowest number of reported homicides in nearly half a century.
"While a single murder is one too many, this figure shows our city is on the right track," Gray said in a statement released by his office. "The days when the District was known as the nation's 'Murder Capital' are long behind us, and the plans we are announcing today will enable our police to continue this progress."
As of Friday, there have been 108 murders in the city in 2011, the lowest number since 1963 when the city recorded fewer than 100 homicides. That's also an 18 percent decrease from 2010, according to the city.MPD is set to realign the boundaries of its seven police districts, which are divided into individual police service areas. According to an announcement from the mayor's office:
The realignment plan, which will go into effect on January 1, is based on evaluation of crime, calls for service, development and road-construction plans, community concerns and other factors. The new boundaries will distribute crime and calls for service almost equally among the districts. While some police districts are changing more than others, all are undergoing some change. In addition, under the new boundaries, the largest PSAs will be reduced in size, with the total number of PSAs increasing from 46 to 56.
While the low homicide rate is good news for the city, not everyone is pleased with the state of crime fighting in the nation's capital.
As WAMU-FM reports, Fraternal Order of Police chief Kris Baumann contends that violent crime has increased in the city since the Occupy Wall Street-inspired protesters set up their downtown encampments this fall.
"Regardless of whether Occupy DC is here, the fact that the Mayor hasn't come forward to warn residents about the increase in violent crime, and the mounting problems, is inexcusable," Baumann said according to WAMU, noting that police patrols in neighborhoods have been shifted to Occupy-related operations downtown.
While the Occupy encampments are on land under federal jurisdiction, as of Nov. 29, the Metropolitan Police Department has spent more than $1.3 million on Occupy-related police coverage, which includes traffic control when protesters take to city streets.
Meanwhile, across the Potomac River, Arlington County is on track to record its first homicide-free year since at least the 1950s, according to ARLNow.