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'Neighbors shouldn't have to live in fear' | Councilmember Pinto introduces legislation to address public safety

Councilmember Brooke Pinto introduced a package of bills to improve DC's prevention of and response to violent crime, which has increased 38% compared to last year.

WASHINGTON — The chairwoman of D.C.'s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety announced Monday morning that she would be introducing a comprehensive package of legislation aimed at improving the way the District prevents and responds to violent crime. 

Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto introduced a package of bills and initiatives that she called the "Secure DC Plan" Monday ahead of a public hearing with the committee. The councilmember said her new plan builds on previous emergency legislation that she championed with Mayor Muriel Bowser to address crime; the Council passed that bill in July with a 12-1 vote. 

According to Pinto, her "Secure DC Plan" will: 

  • Hold perpetrators of dangerous/violent crime accountable
  • Prevent crime by investing in our community spaces and people
  • End cycles of violence and protect victims
  • Improve government hiring/retention to improve response
  • Strengthen government programming and oversight

As of Monday, overall violent crime is up 38% compared to this time last year, with homicides having increased 29%, robbery up 67%, car theft up 108% and arson up 200%. The only stat that decreased from last year was burglary (down 1%), while theft from cars remains the same as last year. 

"I hear from residents every day about the need for accountability when harm occurs and how desperately residents want to feel and be secure in their communities," Pinto wrote in a press release. "I hear from government partners about the challenge to meet resident needs without adequate staffing. I hear from justice-involved individuals about the lack of access to job training and career development opportunities. My Secure DC Plan fills these gaps and addresses the need for interventions targeting all angles of public safety – from prevention, to accountability, to ending cycles of violence.”

The announcement came ahead of a public hearing on four proposed bills, relating to crime. 

  • The Accountability and Victim Protection Amendment Act of 2023: This bill includes numerous provisions, relating to a hodge-podge of public safety issues. 
    • It would eliminate or extend the length of statutes of limitations for certain serious crimes including attempted murder and sexual abuse. 
    • It would make misdemeanor arrest warrants extraditable outside the District where a court finds good cause. 
    • Clarify that GPS records in possession of Pretrial Services Agency (PSA) can be admissible to prove a defendant's guilt in a criminal case or other judicial proceeding. 
    • Add 'assault with significant bodily injury' to a list of offenses that qualify for sentencing enhancements when committed against senior citizens.
    • Prohibit individuals who have been convicted of stalking from possessing a firearm. 
    • Create a stand-alone felony offense of strangulation.
    • Allow for testing of defendants charged with sexual assault for HIV in order to provide victims with information about their attacker's HIV status more quickly. 
    • Create new evidentiary rules to give courts discretion to admit evidence of previous similar crimes in sexual abuse and child sexual abuse cases. 
    • Establish progressive sentencing for serial misdemeanor sex offenders. (Currently people who engage in misdemeanor sexual abuse are generally only subject to  maximum of 180 days' imprisonment). This bill would increase maximum sentence to three years for those with one or more prior conviction within past ten years. 
    • Close 'loophole' in the prohibition on non-consensual dissemination of sexual images.
    • Direct courts to expedite cases involving a child victim. 
    • Create enhanced penalties for domestic violence crimes committed in the presence of a child
    • Create additional protections for 12-year-old victims of sexual abuse. Currently, increased penalties only apply to victims under 12 years old. 
    • Extend liability for certain sexual offenses to contractors of organizations.
  • Wheel-Lock Help Incentive Program Act of 2023: This bill would establish a Wheel-Lock Help Incentive Program (WHIP), which would be administered by the mayor, encouraging the purchase and installation of steering wheel locks or lug nut locks. 
    • The program would create a voucher and rebate program, in which DC residents would be eligible for a rebate of up to $100 for purchases of any combination of a lug nut lock, lug nut lock set, steering wheel lock, or wheel lock. 
  • Private Security Camera System Incentive Program Small Business Expansion Amendment Act of 2023: This bill would expand the current incentive program to reimburse small businesses for security camera systems and glass break sensors installed on the interiors of their businesses. 
  • Ensuring Safe Forensic Evidence Handling for Sexual Assault Survivors Amendment Act of 2023: This bill would make changes to the way 'rape kits', also known as Physical Evidence Recovery Kits (PERKs) are collected and maintained by the Department of Forensic Sciences. 
    • This bill would require DFS to store the results of 'rape kits', even if the victim decides not to press charges. Current law does not require DFS to 'retrieve, receive, or store' PERKs administered to victims who have not reported the offense to law enforcement. 

Read all four of the bills, which were discussed during the public hearing.

Read the full "Secure DC Plan" here. 

RELATED: City leaders address crime concerns in DC's Chinatown

RELATED: National Night Out held by DC Police while violent crime rates increase

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