DC Council Passes Emergency Measure Following Crime Spike

The District of Columbia City Council passed an emergency measure this week following a significant increase in crime in the nation’s capital. The effort increased penalties for certain crimes and allowed judges to retain suspects ahead of trial.

The emergency measure increases penalties for firing a weapon in public, for strangulation and carjacking. 

The bill passed the city council by a significant majority Tuesday, by a margin of 12-1.

D.C. Councilwoman Brooke Pinto (D) said that the city is “in a state of emergency.”

Metropolitan Police Department statistics show that crime in D.C. has risen considerably over last year’s figures.

According to law enforcement, homicide, robbery and sex abuse are all up more than 10% compared to last year. Some crimes, such as motor vehicle theft and arson are up more than 100%. Property crime increased 29% compared to last year, while all crime is up 30%.

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D) said before the vote, “You can get away with murder in this city.” 

Ironically, this statement is a sharp contrast compared to comments he made in March. He said at the time that there was “not a crime crisis in Washington D.C.”

The measures taken in D.C. are not unique. After passing a landmark bail reform bill under former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), New York has been revising the measure. Many Republicans blame the bail reform law as one of the factors leading to a wave of crime in the state.

Included in the reforms is the increased ability for judges to hold suspects prior to trial, similar to the step recently taken in D.C. Current New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) called the latest changes to the law “common sense.” 

The effort came after a 2023 Siena poll found that nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers supported granting judges such authority while more than 90% called crime a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” issue in the Empire State.