The White House, Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial are seen in Washington, Wednesday, April 22, 2009. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
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.
Dead bodies, sometimes several in a night, had homicide detectives hustling between crime scenes and earned Washington unwelcome monikers such as the nation's "murder capital." At the time, some feared the murder rate might ascend to more frightening heights.
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. Police records show 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.