News & Politics

Fox 5 Blames Weekend Crime on Mythical “Ferguson Effect”

But statistics suggest otherwise.

Photograph via Shutterstock.

After District police recorded 64 violent crimes and 256 property crimes last weekend, WTTG reporter Emily Miller filed a report Monday night trying to figure out what prompted so much mayhem across the city.

Miller tracked three days’ worth of crimes, from a shooting in Southeast on Friday evening to a domestic violence incident Sunday on T Street, Northwest, that ended in the death of a 64-year-old woman.

What caused the supposed crime spree? DC Police Sgt. Delroy Burton, who leads the Fraternal Order of Police, told Miller the Metropolitan Police Department’s ranks have thinned by ten percent since last year due to a wave of retirements, but Miller also cited another factor that should have viewers shivering.

The public,” Miller said, “is worried that this is a result of the anti-police sentiment by many around the country that is now being referred to as the ‘Ferguson effect.'”


The so-called “Ferguson effect”—the notion that crime is up in urban centers as a response to the police killing last August of an unarmed black teenager in Missouri—has been kicked around in recent weeks by conservative media organizations. The phrase got a bigger platform in a May 29 Wall Street Journal op-ed alleging a “nationwide crime wave” by Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Mac Donald cites a seemingly random bunch of year-over-year increases in robberies, homicides, and shootings in various cities—a 32 percent rise in homicides in Atlanta, 24 percent more robberies in Chicago, a 7 percent increase in shootings in New York. Individually, the statistics are worrying.

But is there a “Ferguson effect” at play in Washington? A glance at crime statistics from the same weekend in 2014 says not. According to police statistics from last weekend, the District recorded ten robberies at gunpoint, 13 assaults with a deadly weapon excluding guns, 15 burglaries, 110 thefts, and 18 stolen vehicles. Between June 6 and 8, 2014, DC experienced 16 robberies at gunpoint, 21 assaults with a deadly weapon excluding guns, 24 burglaries, and 26 stolen vehicles. There were also two fewer incidents of sexual abuse reported last weekend compared to a year earlier.

The District did record increases in reports of robberies committed without a gun (26, up from 15), assaults using a gun (11, up from seven), and thefts from vehicles (113, up from 95), in addition to the Sunday-night slaying of Santos Ventura. (Authorities have charged 70-year-old Manuel Antonio Ramos with first-degree murder in Ventura’s death.)

Overall, though, the number of violent crimes recorded last weekend was the same as a year ago—64—and the number of property crimes actually dropped to 256 incidents.

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Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.