Skyrocketing violent crime led one woman to flee the nation's capital as she no longer felt safe walking alone after dark, the former Washington D.C. resident told FOX News Digital.
"I would get up before work to go grocery shopping because I didn't feel safe going to the grocery store at night," Lindsay Reusser, who lived in the nation's capital for over a decade, said. "Why am I paying $1,800 plus a month to live like this? This isn't worth it."
The nation's capital has grappled with a crime surge in recent years, hitting nearly a two-decade high of 226 homicides in 2021, according to Metropolitan Police Department data. Homicides dropped in 2022 but still surpassed 200 murders, and acting D.C. police chief Pamela Smith announced the city had reached their 200th murder this year after a teenager was shot and killed on Tuesday, putting the city on pace to have among the worst annual body count since the 1990s.
Meanwhile, major cities faced large exodus' during the COVID-19 pandemic, including Washington, D.C., which saw 26,210 residents leave between April 2020 and July 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Some have credited the mass city exodus' to companies going remote, but Reusser made her decision after being fed up with the skyrocketing crime, high cost of living and strict COVID-19 restrictions. She packed her bags and moved from D.C. to Charlotte, N.C., in May 2022.
"Since COVID, D.C. has just become a very dark place," Reusser said. "It just felt like there weren't any redeeming qualities of the city for me."
Overall D.C. crime decreased between 2021 and 2022, but certain offenses remained higher than pre-pandemic levels. In 2023, total violent crime is on the rise again, up nearly 40% year-over-year, according to police data. Property crime is also surging, with motor vehicle thefts increasing 106% and robberies up 65%.
"I think it's the lenient laws," Reusser said. "These criminals are arrested and then put on the streets. There are no repercussions. They are not fearful of the law."
Amid the crime surge, federal prosecutors in the nation’s capital declined to prosecute 67% of people arrested last fiscal year in cases that typically would have been tried in the D.C. Superior Court, the Washington Post reported in March. That number nearly doubled since 2015, but new data is expected soon as fiscal year 2023 comes to a close.
"We have substantially increased the number of individuals we have charged in federal court because we believe they are driving gun violence or trafficking-in firearms," a spokesperson for the D.C. U.S. Attorney's office told FOX News Digital on Wednesday. "In Superior Court, at the time of arrest, we charge roughly 90 percent of our most serious violent felonies and routinely continue to investigate the limited number of arrests we cannot immediately charge at the time of arrest."
But Reusser wished the city tackled crime more aggressively.
"Working on Capitol Hill made me open to bipartisan politics. Living in D.C. made me way more Republican," Reusser, who used to work in a Republican lawmaker's office, said. "To actually have to live the liberal policies really made me affirm what I believe."
In March, Congress stepped in for the first time in nearly three decades to overturn a D.C. criminal code that was criticized for being soft on crime and aimed to reduce penalties for crimes like carjackings and burglaries. The city council later passed an emergency public safety bill in July, which increased penalties for certain offenses, including firing guns in public and carjackings, in response to the surging violence. The bill also helps judges to keep violent crime suspects in custody while awaiting trial.
"I'm not able to build the life that I would want," Reusser said on living in the district. "I knew in D.C., I would never be a property owner."
Currently, the overall median rent in Washington, D.C., stands at $1,899 for October 2023, which is over $400 higher than Charlotte's median rent at $1,494, according to Apartment List. The median rent cost in D.C. is nearly 40% higher than the national average.
"It honestly felt really depressing," she said. "I felt like I was becoming my worst self because I found something to complain about every single day. Moving was the ultimate decision."
Reusser told FOX News Digital she's been way happier since she left the nation's capital for the Queen City. She said she feels much safer and can get more bang for her buck in her North Carolina apartment.
"As I enter into my 30s, I want something more," Reusser said. "I want land. I want something more stable, more safe. D.C. just wasn't cutting it."
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