After decades of declining population, the District of Columbia added nearly 15 percent more residents since 2010, according to 2020 Census figures. This is despite the fact that D.C. is one of the most expensive places in the U.S. to live, as well as the fact that because of its population density, it has some of the nation’s highest crime rates.
While violent crime understandably gets most of the news headlines, D.C. is also one of the epicenters of property crime in the U.S. How common is property crime in our nation’s capital and how has it changed over time?
At A Glance:
- With #1 being the best, Washington, D.C. is ranked #51 for property crime including D.C. and the states
- You have a 4.37% chance of being a property crime victim in D.C. in the next 12 months.
- D.C.’s property crime rate is 107% higher than the average crime rate in the United States.
The property crime rate in Washington, D.C. is more than double the overall national rate. Louisiana has the next-highest rate, about 32 per 1,000, which is also much lower than D.C.’s rate.
D.C.’s Most Current Property Crime Rates (2019)
- Rate of Property Crime
- D.C. average:: 43.67 crimes per 1,000 people
- National average: 21.1 crimes per 1,000 people
All but two states (Alaska and North Dakota) have seen declines in their property crime rate, and while D.C.’s rate also fell, the decline (eight percent) was one of the slowest. Only South Dakota (five percent) and Colorado (three percent) had lower rate declines than the district. Among all states where the property crime rate fell, the average drop was 27 percent. Still, the district’s property crime rate in 2019 was much lower than the high-water mark of the past decade, 2014, when the property crime rate in Washington was 51.75.
D.C.’s Overall Property Crime Trends (2010 – 2019)
- Average Rate of Property Crime:
- D.C. 10-year average: 46.73 crimes per 1,000 people
- National 10-year average: 25.61 crimes per 1,000 people
- -8% Has property crime increased or decreased during this time?
- There was an 8% decrease in property crime in D.C. from 2010 as compared to 2019.
- 2014 Which year had the highest rate of property crime in D.C.?:
- The highest rate of property crime in the district was 2014 (51.75 crimes per 1,000 people)
- 2017 Which year had the lowest rate of property crime in D.C.?:
- The lowest rate of property crime in the district was 2017 (42.74 crimes per 1,000 people)
What incidents fall under the umbrella of property crime? Burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson are the four major property crime categories reported by the FBI. In every case, if the incident involves violence or threats of violence, it no longer is a property crime and is classified as a violent crime.
D.C.’s Property Crime Category Trends (2010 – 2019)
- Which type of property crime occurred the most in D.C. over the past decade?
- Larceny occurred more than any other property crime at a rate of 37.21 crimes per 1,000 people.
- Average property crime rate by category
- Average burglary rate: 4.4 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average larceny rate: 37.21 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average vehicle crime rate: 5.12 crimes per 1,000 people
- Average arson rate: 0.02 crimes per 1,000 people
- +17% Which types of property crime have increased during this time period?
- Larceny has climbed in the district by 17% over the past decade, making it the only type of property crime to increase in D.C. since 2010.
- -60% Which types of property crime have decreased during this time period?
- The arson rate in 2019 was statistically so small as to appear that arson has ceased entirely in D.C., but burglary and vehicle theft have both declined by more than 60%.
The root causes of crime are the source of constant study, but many researchers trace high property crime rates to three major factors — unemployment, poverty, and urbanization.
In all three cases, the district has higher-than-average rates, with urbanization, of course, being highest in Washington, D.C. than any other place in the U.S. That is because the district is one big city, meaning 100 percent of people who live there reside in an urban area. For comparison’s sake, about 81 percent of all Americans reside in urban areas.
As for economic factors, the district’s unemployment rate in April 2021 was nearly eight percent, which is higher than the national rate of six percent, while nearly 14 percent of residents live below the poverty line. Nationally, about 12 percent of people live in poverty.
While final data has not yet been released, in the early stages of the pandemic, property crime declined in D.C., with officials crediting social distancing restrictions for the decline. Mayor Muriel Bowser reported that property crime had dropped by nearly 40 percent during the first few months of 2020.