DC Council passes emergency crime bill amid sharp rise in violent crimes

The D.C. Council passed a crime emergency bill on Tuesday, aiming to give judges more latitude as the city struggles with an increase in violent crimes.

Phil Mendelson, the Council of the District of Columbia’s Chair, said ahead of the vote: “You can get by with murder in this town.”

This statement marked a significant shift from his comments in March when he said that “perceptions” of high crimes were overshadowing reality.

Mendelson stated at the time that “I understand this belies the popular belief – and how people feel about crime is important when it comes crime – but Washington, D.C. does not have a crime problem.”

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D.C. Police Data reveals an alarming increase in crime between 2022-2023. Homicides have increased by 17%, sexual abuse has increased by 35%, and robberies have increased more than 50%.

The Emergency Public Safety Bill includes elements from a controversial Crime Bill that Congress voted this year to overturn. Critics of the previous version claimed that it was too lenient on certain crimes.

The new bill increases the penalties for offenses such as firing a firearm in public, strangulation, and carjacking. The bill makes it easier for the judges to hold violent crime suspects while they await trial.

The bill’s sponsor, Councilwoman Brooke Pinto told reporters on Monday that D.C. was “in an emergency state.”

“Like in an emergency, we must act as such, and we need to act urgently, as a Government, to solve the problem we are seeing.”

The bill was passed with a 12-to-1 vote in an emergency session on Tuesday.