Amid crime surge, DC lawmakers weigh harsher punishments

There are startling stats for people who live or work in the District: violent crime is up 40% and property crimes have also skyrocketed. The D.C. Council will hear from the public and review a new bill aimed at fighting crime on Wednesday.

The Addressing Crime Trend Now Act, introduced last month by Mayor Muriel Bowser, proposes allowing D.C.’s police chief to temporarily declare “drug-free zones” around the city for up to five days with hopes of disrupting trends that lead to violent and property crimes.

The bill creates criminal penalties for what the bill deems “organized retail theft.” It also would allow police to aggregate crimes to become organized retail theft. Lastly, the proposal will reinstate a law that prohibits wearing a mask to commit a crime or threaten others.

Council members Kenyan McDuffie, Anita Bonds and Janeese Lewis George were on hand for the announcement of the bill.

“I’m here, and I think my colleagues are here, because the violence that we’re seeing right now, the crime is rampant, and it’s unacceptable,” McDuffie said during the October announcement. “I do not accept the levels of crime that we’re seeing.”

Bonds said they could probably get seven yes votes at the time of the announcement.

While some on the council have voiced support, Chairman Phil Mendelson criticized the bill to NBC Washington.

“I am disappointed in the mayor’s proposal and the hype she’s created around it,” he said in the statement. “Residents are concerned about gun violence, robberies, and carjackings. This proposal does not address gun violence, robberies, and carjackings.”

Another crime bill introduced by Council member Brooke Pinto that would allow D.C. police to randomly search people charged with violent crime split the council earlier this month.

Council member Zachary Parker said he was very skeptical and they “cannot implement remnants of stop-and-frisk here in the District.”

According to the latest figures from D.C. police, there have been 249 homicides in the city a 35% increase over a record setting 2022. Also, there are over 900 reported carjackings this year.

Violent crime overall is up 40% and property crime is up 25%.

The hearing on the ACT Now Act begins 9 a.m. Wednesday. Those wishing to testify must register by 5 p.m. Monday.

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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