WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Monday unveiled a series of proposed get-tough-on-crime laws that seek to disrupt open-air drug markets, criminalize organized retail theft rings and scale back on some police reforms.
With the city seeing spikes in violent crimes, the Bowser administration said it is trying to meet the community’s demand for holding criminals more accountable while keeping and attracting more police officers.
At a news conference following an on-background briefing for reporters by administration officials, Bowser said these proposed laws are the way to making District residents feel safer in a city. There have been 225 homicides so far – a 33% jump from last year – and a rise in carjackings, according to D.C. police data.
“I’m announcing new legislation that will address recent crime trends and and give law enforcement more tools to hold criminals accountable and keep our neighborhoods safe,” Bowser said during a news conference at a Northwest, D.C. police station.
Crime, particularly aimed at businesses and retailers, are “unacceptable and people in our city our sick and tired of it.”
Among Bowser’s proposals, the mayor seeks to:
- Give the police chief power to re-establish drug free zones that targets loitering around drug dealing.
- Make it illegal to wear a mask to commit crimes and intimidate others, citing the recent masked robbery of patrons at the Wharf.
- Target organized retail theft rings that seek to resell items on the street.
- Allow some vehicular police pursuits for violent crimes, amend prohibitions on neck restraints from the back but not choking a suspect and keeping secret public complaints against officers that are unfounded.
Acting Police Chief Pamela Smith said that if these changes doesn’t pass city council, they and Bowser are prepared to “go back to the table” to “come up with different alternatives.”
“[This] is really, really important to me and very critical, especially when we talk about recruitment, retention,” Smith said.
“You heard the response from the community here today,” she added. “I haven’t been in any community where people don’t want their communities to be safe.”
Not all are in favor of lessening rules for the police. Jay Brown of Community Shoulders, a nonprofit organization, said he has concerns because of conduct by Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers in year’s past.
“These laws that are in place now to protect citizens’ constitutional rights, they just didn’t happen,” he said. “They were put in place because MPD was not working within the Constitution. They were violating constitutional rights.”
Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie said that he also has concerns about constitutional rights but also wants crime to be reduced because residents are overwhelmed.
“I’m always concerned about ensuring that the policies and laws that we put forth meet the constitutional standard,” McDuffie said. “There are limits to what we can do but we need to do everything within limits to address the crime that we’re seeing right now.”Tags