‘A culture of shootings’ as armed crime rises in Washington DC

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Navy Yard is home to nearly 8,000 people

The Metropolitan Police in Washington DC is investigating a shooting at the U.S. Navy Yard on Friday evening.

At least four people were injured, although their condition is not known, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said. The shooter was also injured.

The incident sparked fears that the city, a hotbed of gun crime, was now hit by the same wave of gun violence as other American cities.

Despite a relatively small population of only 6.8 million, DC ranks as the number one US city in terms of gun-related crimes, according to data from the Washington Post.

“We are seeing the higher crime rates permeate the city,” Mayor Bowser told journalists on Friday.

DC’s rates rose 44% between 2005 and 2015 – the same period when violent crime in the nation as a whole fell 4.7%.

The investigation will determine whether the city’s higher rate of crime is just an anomaly, or the new norm.

DC police say “police officers are targets in this community”. Pictured here is the bustling “people’s” option of the bustling “governments” precinct. ©Makini Brice/ Washington Post

‘A culture of shootings’

DC shootings included 23 murders in 2016. That year, D.C. police made more than 55,000 gun arrests.

But those numbers are far lower than in other big cities. Washington, D.C. sits in the midst of America’s highest rate of gun crime, while the murder rate for the US as a whole fell by 16% between 2005 and 2015.

In parts of America, the danger is present on every corner. Bloodshed has become part of the landscape in Chicago, the nation’s third most violent city.

In contrast, crime rates in Washington, D.C. are among the lowest in the US.

Police and public officials agree it is partly due to the efforts of those in power.

Mayor Bowser, 52, took office in 2016 after backing a plan to arm some officers in armed response to repeated violent crime incidents. She also promised to tackle violent crime through more rehabilitation for those with histories of past crime.

She has said the use of violent gangs, inadequate supervision and the absence of a centralised authority have sparked the rampant crime.

President Donald Trump, 70, who won the city’s majority black vote in the 2016 election, has pledged to tackle crime in the DC in his own style.

But so far his inner circle is split on whether bringing in tougher laws and guns is the way to fight crime.

One of his top security aides, Vice President Mike Pence, said in 2016 that police could not fight crime unless they had the cooperation of the public.

Mr Pence added: “When we work together, it doesn’t matter where we are in America, the national division and our differences won’t work in Washington, DC.”

Image copyright EPA Image caption Police (file picture) could not fight crime without the cooperation of the public

But at his rally in President Trump’s hometown on Saturday, Mr Trump railed against the ruling party’s DC establishment.

“Don’t believe the Mayors and Senators,” he told a rally. “They failed, and they failed,” he said.

That may not quite be true: the recent attack at the Navy Yard, which takes place in an area heavily-populated by conservative members of Congress, is yet to be linked to political opposition.

Even Mr Trump’s vice president (at Friday’s briefing), Mike Pence (pictured), conceded the problem had been more “overlapping” between urban and rural areas than between Republicans and Democrats.

“We can do better. We will do better,” he said.

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