D.C.’s Criminal Subculture

WaPo has a page A1 story on the topic:

Nearly three of every four adult homicide victims in the District last year had an arrest history, according to an analysis of court records that casts new light on why the city has one of the highest homicide rates in the country.

The more than 150 slayings are evidence of the cycles of violence plaguing a city hard-hit in the past two decades by drug wars and gang rivalries, law enforcement and criminal justice specialists said, and a blunt statement about the risks of becoming caught up in a lifestyle on the edges of the law.

Although the 248 killings last year were a sharp drop from the homicide tolls of the late 1980s and early 1990s, there is a resilient “criminal subculture” in the city, Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said in an interview. Ramsey said this group has grown so entrenched and well armed that it poses a risk to the District’s attempts to renew its image and create a better future for its rougher neighborhoods.

“It’s a huge problem,” Ramsey said.

He and other law enforcement officials cautioned against “blaming the victim for being a victim.” At the same time, however, Ramsey said an arrest is often at least an indication that the person participated in, or simply couldn’t get away from, risky situations.

“Whether you’ve got a record or not, no one has the right to kill you — but when you look at homicides in particular, it’s just not unusual to have people involved on both sides to have prior experience within our [criminal justice] system,” he said. “The fact is that if you are part of that criminal subculture, or just associated with it, that puts you more at risk.”

Who knew?

It was not possible to compare the D.C. statistics with those for other urban areas. Police and law enforcement agencies across the country do not report the criminal status of homicide victims as a year-end statistic, meaning there are no annual comparative data. But the few studies available show that the District’s percentage of homicide victims with arrest histories appears to be higher than those in other urban areas.

Or the few available studies are outlyers?

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.