Huge anti-crime bill clears DC Council

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The Washington, D.C., City Council voted for the second time Tuesday to approve a massive anti-crime bill.

The legislation, Secure D.C. Omnibus Amendment Act, was passed nearly unanimously and represents the council’s most significant action on the city’s historic crime surge in 2023.

The council passed the first vote of the bill in early February, first reported by WUSA9, where advocates applauded the passage, but others said the bill was too focused on policing instead of building services that people need.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the council have been criticized and urged to take action as violent crime in the city rises.

While violent crime declined nationally and in other major cities, violent crime in the nation’s capital jumped 39 percent from 2022 to 2023, according to Metropolitan Police Department data.

Mike Gill, a former Trump administration official, was shot during an attempted carjacking and later died. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) was carjacked last fall, and other members have expressed concern about the city’s dangerous nature.

The Department of Justice is ramping up its fight, too. Attorney General Merrick Garland said law enforcement resources will be expanded so individuals and organizations “driving violent crime” can be targeted.

Congress overturned a D.C. crime bill considered too soft on crime last year. It included provisions to reduce the maximum penalties for certain crimes. Local officials debated whether the provisions to expand felony theft or create “drug-free zones” will prevent crime, but many argue that the bill sends the message that the city is taking the surge seriously.

The bill will make it easier for judges to order adults and some juveniles to be detained while they await trial for violent offenses, expand the definition of carjacking so cases are easier to prosecute, create a category for organized retail theft for stores that experience repeated burglaries, and more attention to drug-related loitering. It also will loosen some restrictions on police officers in the city, The Washington Post reported.

The legislation cleared by City Council on Tuesday aims to close certain gaps in that system. Various business groups urged the council to address the issues in the city and said they would be more inclined to have employees return to in-person work and contribute to the local economy if crime were addressed.

An emergency version of the bill was also passed and is in effect for 90 days while Bowser signs the permanent legislation followed by a 60-day Congressional review, WUSA9 noted.

Bowser said she plans to sign the crime bill and called the passing a “critical step” toward building a safer D.C.

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