Living in DC

Living in DC | Crime

So you’re moving to DC and want to live in a safe area? We all do. But your agent may not be able to tell you what’s safe and what’s not because it can be subjective. Let’s ditch the subjective and talk real crime facts today.

Washington DC was coined Murder Capital in 1991, with a high of 482 homicides.

In 2021 there were 226 Homicides. We have another month to go but right now 2022 has logged 182 Homicides. Not great, but less than half of what the peak was when the city was a crack den.

You can pull any number you want and even drill down to different areas on the DC Metro Police Department website. I’ll link it below in the description, but just know that DC changes their URL’s all the time. It’s super annoying and whoever manages their IT structure is clearly a moron. You’ll end up in a cycle of hell trying to get from webpage to webpage and landing on dead links. I hope they keep this URL indefinitely but we’ll see.

Let’s take a trip back to 2019. Remember those days, before covid? In 2019 there were 164 Homicides, 1569 assault with deadly weapons, 2232 Robbery, and 2181 Motor Vehicle Thefts. Most of these numbers haven’t changed rapidly except for one. In 2020, motor vehicle theft went to 3258. In 2021, 3474 vehicles were stolen in DC. So far through the end of Nov 2022, we’re at 3222 motor vehicle theft.

What’s happening? The same thing that’s happening in a lot of areas. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. How can you do your own research?

DC offers something on their website called a “Crime Map.” The crime map is a very useful resource. The color bar at the bottom shows you where areas of the city rank on the continuum. Of particular note, from 11th to 16th Streets in Northwest, S to W Streets shows the brightest purple color indicating the highest crime when you’re on “all crimes.” These purple squares also happen to be busy commercial areas with lots of stores which may report merchandise theft.

If you shift the map to “violent crimes” only, the purples highlight in a much different pattern.

The city is divided into 7 districts and within each district are multiple service areas. The service areas are generally small in the areas where population is dense and crime is higher.

Page 22-23 on MPD 2021 report – citywide violent crime up 3%, but if you look at the different districts, there are different stories being told in each.

In early 2021, MPD created a special task force composed of detectives who are experienced in violent crimes and robberies to address the rise in carjackings and auto thefts. That information was included in their year-end report on their progress and accomplishments.

Firearms are the issue – 186 were used in crimes in 2021. That number has been steadily rising since 2017 when it was 89. Ghost guns, which are untraceable, are the biggest issue facing DC Metro Police right now.

But Melissa, you live in the city. I do.

This rise in crime has been on my radar – especially when I hear of carjackings where there were children in the car. This does not make a happy mama. I’ve been on a multi-year personal research project about crime and how to ensure that my family doesn’t become the victim of one. This is a topic I could discuss for days, but it boils down to this:

Crimes happen when three things are in place: Means, motive, opportunity. If a criminal has the means and the motive, you can’t do anything about it. But what you can do is eliminate the opportunity and you can absolutely do something about that. Am I afraid? No. I’m hypervigilant of my surroundings at all times. The goal is to make sure you don’t provide the opportunity. There’s a saying, “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.” I don’t even want to be AT the fight. I want to stay out of the path entirely.

I have parked on the streets for all of my 20 years here. Someone gave me great advice which has served me well – never leave anything in view in your car no matter how unworthy of theft it seems. Thieves want what they can see, so don’t give them the opportunity.

School Safety

There are School Safety Reports on DC’s website I’ve linked. The last one completed and posted is 2019-2020. DC Police manage 325 security guards to 116 different facilities. There is supposed to be a coordinated effort between MPD and the school to identify what’s needed, but this doesn’t always work well. Some schools have guards who are great, some schools do not. I’ve been chased across school grounds by the former security guard at my kid’s elementary school who was demanding to know my name. She was mad because I dropped my daughter off at the door to her class, in the trailer, which sits in the yard of the school.

The general sense of the relationship with the former guards at our school wasn’t a good one. The guards had their favorites and treated anyone they didn’t know like they had no business being at the school. It didn’t go over well, but getting them replaced with guards who prioritized safety first instead of playing favorites wasn’t easy either.

When it comes to crime in the city, I have prepared myself mentally as much as I can. But what I can’t control are my kids. You have to watch DCPS, DC Public Schools if you didn’t know the acronym. They do things that are questionable at best. For instance, all parent volunteers have to be background checked and fingerprinted. Good, right? But then bus drivers and substitute teachers can somehow show up drunk or be verbally abusive to the kids and you aren’t there to defend the kids.

A couple weeks ago, there was a field trip with the elementary school up the street. The bus crashed on the way home because the bus driver was drunk. He was arrested, and the other buses were removed from the road for license violations: Bus driver charged with DWI after accident returning DCPS elementary kids from field trip 

Having ridden on buses for various field trips already and seeing how broken down they are, I already had one foot out of this field trip nonsense. Recently I got a notice that they are taking the kids on a field trip to a part of the city I don’t feel safe, a part that registers as purple. The event they are attending can be done at several other places in the area so I’m not sure why this one was chosen. But my child will be staying home that day. I hate to be that person, but a drunk bus driver who crashed a few weeks ago and drive-by shootings in the neighborhood where they want to take my child and that’s a giant no.


The streets are safe if you pay attention to the crime map, stay alert and don’t keep your head buried in your phone when walking the streets. But when it comes to schools and safety, I think DC Public Schools and MPD could do better here. Low marks from this mama, as you have to advocate for your kid.