D.C. Council Prepares to Take First Vote on Sweeping Anti-Crime Legislation

WASHINGTON POST: The D.C. Council is expected to take up Council member Brooke Pinto’s (D-Ward 2) sweeping omnibus bill aimed at public safety on Tuesday.

After the deadliest year in the nation’s capital in a quarter century, the D.C. Council will take an initial vote Tuesday on a mammoth public safety bill that includes dozens of changes to crime and punishment and policing laws, representing the council’s most definitive answer to date in the face of soaring violent crime.

The sweeping legislation would create new crimes such as “organized retail theft,” enhance punishment for illegal gun possession, revive a ’90s-era “anti-loitering drug free zone” tactic, greatly expand the collection of DNA in a law enforcement database and, after months of complaints from the D.C. police union, seek to undo or adjust a number of law enforcement accountability or transparency measures.

“This is an omnibus piece of legislation with comprehensive solutions,” said Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), who wrote the Secure DC Omnibus Amendment Act. “And that’s why, taken as a whole, it’s going to improve safety and security for D.C. residents.”

Lawmakers have largely shown a united front in pushing the legislation, despite concerns a number of them have raised. Many oppose certain changes to the city’s police accountability laws, which passed after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. And some remain skeptical that certain provisions, such as drug-free zones, will actually reduce or deter crime, criticism that has boiled over among criminal justice advocates opposed to ratcheting up criminal punishment.

Still, the bill is virtually guaranteed to advance Tuesday, showing the extent of public pressure council members are feeling to respond to crime fears; it would probably get a final vote several weeks later. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) is working behind the scenes with Pinto, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, to address lawmakers’ opposition to certain police transparency measures. Amendments are expected by Monday.

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