Accuracy in Media

The Federalist, a conservative Internet news service, claims that the streets of Baghdad, Iraq, are safer than those of Washington, D.C. On a recent weekend, there were three more murders in Washington, D.C. It says, “The District’s strict gun-control laws did nothing to prevent these murders. Two of them were committed with knives.”

Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld came in for criticism weeks ago for saying something similar?that Baghdad has less violent crime than the U.S. capital. “You’ve got to remember that if Washington, D.C. were the size of Baghdad, it would be having something like 215 murders a month,” Rumsfeld said. “There’s going to be violence in a big city.”

Critics of the administration noted that the Baghdad city morgue counted 470 bodies with gunshot wounds in July. But it’s not clear if those deaths occurred in just one month. A few months before the war, Saddam Hussein freed some 100,000 prisoners, most of them hardened criminals. The Associated Press quoted a Baghdad police officer as saying Saddam “probably hoped the armed gangs would confront the Americans.” But Rumsfeld’s point about the relative danger of Baghdad and D.C. is worth examining. Last year D.C. was once again the nation’s “Murder Capital,” according to a study released by This group compared the annual number of murders per 100,000 residents in American cities with populations greater than 500,000. This was the same standard used to determine D.C.’s previous rank as murder capital. In compiling the data, the group relied on homicide statistics from the FBI and police department homicide units.

This year, according to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, murder in the District is up over 21% from last year, and at the current pace, Washington could see 325 murders this year compared to last year’s 262. The situation in Washington is making headlines as far away as Chicago, where the Sun-Times ran an August 22 story noting that, “Since mid-July, [D.C.] police have averaged 851 arrests per week. That is about 120 more per week than in March. Spread over an entire year, that would be more than 44,000 arrests, an astonishing figure for a city of 572,000 people.” The paper noted that police Chief Charles Ramsey has declared a crime emergency.

The crime problem has been making more big news in the Washington Post ever since several of the District’s transgender prostitutes were killed. One individual told an on-line discussion sponsored by the Post, “?what do these transgender people expect when they take cash under false pretenses, which is what they do when they act as prostitutes, convincing unsuspecting johns that they are getting sexual acts from women, when they are really men? Is it not understandable that violence ensues from such a situation?”

In an editorial on August 23rd, the Post declared that, “athough police have made more than 32,000 arrests and seized 1,250 firearms so far this year, the criminals keep coming.” It sounds as bad as and more bizarre than Baghdad.

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