Vast Majority of DC Homicide Suspects Were Known to Law Enforcement, Report Finds

Police tape in front of the Capitol / Getty Images
February 28, 2022

An overwhelming majority of all homicide suspects and victims in Washington, D.C., had previous encounters with law enforcement, according to a new report.

The report from the left-leaning National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR) found that in 2019 and 2020, "approximately 86 percent of homicide victims and suspects were known to the criminal justice system prior to the incident." Nearly half, roughly 46 percent, of victims and suspects were previously incarcerated.

NICJR's report, which was released earlier this month in consultation with the D.C. government, provides new evidence to critics of big-city Democratic prosecutors who have implemented dramatic reforms, such as eliminating cash bail and not charging offenders for minor offenses.

"In Washington, D.C., most gun violence is tightly concentrated on a small number of very high risk young Black male adults that share a common set of risk factors, including: involvement in street crews/groups; significant criminal justice history including prior or active community supervision; often prior victimization; and a connection to a recent shooting (within the past 12 months)," the report reads.

The report also found that "at least 23.3 percent of all homicide victims and suspects were under active supervision," meaning some form of probation or other monitoring program. At least 76 percent of all homicide suspects had "active or prior supervision."

In total, Washington, D.C., saw 341 murders from Jan. 2019 to December 2020. Eighty-five percent of those homicides were with a firearm.

Nearly all of the victims and perpetrators of homicide in the city, about 96 percent according to the report, were black. Black people make up less than half, 46 percent, of Washington, D.C., residents.

"While the majority of people involved in shootings, as victim or suspect, are members or associates of street groups/gangs, the motive for the shooting may not be a traditional gang war," the report reads. "Often shootings are precipitated by a petty conflict over a young woman, a simple argument, or the now ubiquitous social media slight."