Concerned citizens of the District of Columbia received some good news from Mayor Vincent Gray this week.
The city plans to hire up to 300 more police officers over the next year to help patrol city streets and provide more safety to key neighborhoods. This keeps the police department more in line with its mission to be proactive, instead of reactive, about crime and its causes.
The current force Metropolitan Police Department of DC stands at roughly 3,800 officers. Due to attrition, however, they are losing almost 200 officers per year. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has been clear with city leadership that her department needed to maintain at least 3,800 or more personnel to be effective.
Gray made his announcement during a breakfast meeting with D.C. Council members on Wednesday. The plans for the additional officers have been in the works for awhile with the earliest indication in March that additional personnel would be added. The mayor reiterated his commitment in June when he submitted a revised budget to include the projected new hires.
D.C.‘s police force is already one of the largest forces in the nation. The extra officers will cost the city about $10.8 million and will be funded from the Police Department budget.
Washington needs the additional help for several reasons. The ratio of firearm deaths to the overall population is high at 16 deaths per 100,000 residents. There were 131 murders overall in the city in 2010. Ironically, the city has a strict firearm law aimed at preventing guns from getting into the wrong hands.
Compared with other major U.S. cities, Washington has a high crime rate. Though not known as the “murder capital” as it was in the early 1990’s, the city has the seventh highest murder rate per capita in the nation as of 2010. Baltimore and Detroit, more populated cities, have with higher murder rates, but Los Angeles and New York barely crack the top 40 and top 50 cities respectively for murders per capita, despite their massive populations.