WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Wednesday afternoon Mayor Muriel Bowser held a community walk in Mount Pleasant, pitching her recently proposed ACT Now legislation.
According to the mayor, the Addressing Crime Trends Now Act of 2023 aims to reduce crime in the District, while providing police with more tools to hold criminals accountable.
“The Addressing Crime Trends Now, also ACT Now Act, will create an environment that prioritizes communities and supports MPD’s ability to hirer, recruit and retain officers,” said Bowser.
If passed, the legislation will make organized retail theft a felony.
It will also allow for repeated individual thefts — like multiple smash and grabs by one person —to aggregate over a 30 day period. If the total amount of theft hits $250, it can be charged as organized retail theft.
“That will help address repeated patterns of what we would distinguish between just shoplifting, which still has penalty, and that more consistent organized going in and stealing, whether it’s larger or small businesses” said Deputy Mayor Lindsey Appiah.
Rosibel Arbaiza, owner of Golden Scissors, said she’s glad the mayor proposed the act.
“It’s different when someone focuses on the neighborhood, like the Mayor,” she said.
Abraiza has been in the neighborhood for decades and believes crime has gotten worse.
“It’s difficult for our small business to deal with what happens right now. It’s a lot of break in windows, break in doors, drugs, parking,” she said. “It’s difficult for us to survive, we are a small business. So we are concerned about it.”
Across the street at Addis Paris Café, owner Hemen Solomon also supports the legislation.
“Safety is the main thing for us,” she said.
Over the last year, she’s had multiple issues with people threatening customers or committing crimes.
“One of my customers came inside and was exposing themselves. Another broke the table. Another time, a person was swinging a knife to customers,” she said. “It’s going to help. At least we’ll have more police presence, and the law is there.”
Ralph Brabham, owner of Beau Thai, said he feels hopeful that the new proposed legislation will make a difference. He said he also supports the provision in the legislation allowing police to temporarily declare drug free zones.
“I’ve heard customers say they avoid walking on our block because of the folks that are loitering, hanging out, often open-air drug deals or passed out,” he said. “It’s just not a conducive environment, we’re a family restaurant.”