The crack epidemic that began in the 1980s ushered in a wave of bloodletting in the nation’s capital and a death toll that ticked upward daily.
Bodies, sometimes several a night, had homicide detectives hustling between crime scenes and earned Washington unwelcome monikers such as the nation’s “murder capital.”
But after approaching nearly 500 slayings a year in the early 1990s, the annual rate has gradually declined to the point that the city is now on the verge of a once-unthinkable milestone.
The number of 2012 killings in the District of Columbia stands at 78 and is on pace to finish lower than 100 for the first time since 1963, police records show.
The drop reflects a downward trend in violent crime nationwide and is in line with declining homicides in other big cities.
Though killings have risen in Chicago, New York City officials say homicides dropped to 515 last year from more than 2,200 in 1990.
Houston reported 198 homicides last year, down from 457 in 1985, while Los Angeles police reported fewer than 300 last year after ending 1992 with about 1,100.
Across the country, violent crime reported by police to the FBI fell by 3.8 percent last year from 2010.