The Lab @ DC
Stronger Evidence for a Stronger DC

What does crime look like in DC?

What does crime look like in DC?

Project Summary
To address violent crime, the DC Council passed the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results (NEAR) Act in 2016. The NEAR Act requires the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice (DMPSJ) to deliver an annual report to the Mayor and Council on felony crimes in the District. For the past two years, The Lab partnered with DMPSJ to analyze felony crime data and report details about crimes, arrests, court cases, suspects, and victims.
(Source: Correspondence from the Mayor - Report on Felony Crime in the District of Columbia for 2017)

(Source: Correspondence from the Mayor - Report on Felony Crime in the District of Columbia for 2017)

Why is this issue important in DC?
Reducing violent crime is one of the top priorities for the Bowser Administration and for District residents. It is important to study crime trends to understand when and where crime is occurring and how it impacts our community, so that the District can best direct resources.

What did we do?
In addition to public data sources, we obtained data on felony arrests, charges, sentencing decisions, and arrest diversions data from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), the DC Superior Court, and the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) to produce the reports for 2016 and 2017. We reported what felony crimes happened in DC, how often they happened, and where they happened. We also analyzed arrests for felonies, felony cases in DC Superior Court, and the sentences imposed for those crimes. Finally, we looked at the characteristics of the victims of those crimes and the people who were charged with them.

What have we learned?
2017 was one of the safest years in DC history, the result of an 11% decrease in overall felony crime.1 This was supported by a 22% decrease in violent crimes (which include homicide, robberies, assault with a dangerous weapon, and sex offenses) and a decrease in other felony crimes such as theft and burglary. We also learned that many felony arrestees have also been treated for mental and behavioral health disorders. In 2016, one in four felony arrestees received services from DBH; in 2017, that number dropped to less than one in five felony arrestees. This finding highlights the importance of diversion programs dedicated to helping individuals with mental illness, such as DC’s Crisis Intervention Officer (CIO) program.

What comes next?
This year, the felony crime report will detail felony crime statistics in 2018. We know there was an increase in homicides in 2018, but we will need to look at the data before we know if this was part of a wider increase in violent and other felony crimes in DC.2

What happened behind the scenes?
The analysis of the number of felony arrestees receiving services from DBH is an important part of the felony crime report, but we need to be careful about individuals’ private data being shared between MPD and DBH. The Lab developed a way for MPD and DBH to using a technique called “data hashing,” so they could link their data without revealing private information about people involved with each department.