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D.C. Leaders Create New Crimes, Ease Pretrial Detention

The Washington, D.C., Council on Tuesday passed emergency public safety legislation as the city deals with a violent summer, establishing a new crime for firing a gun in public and making it easier for judges to detain people charged with violent offenses before trial — a provision that drew extended debate, reports the Washington Post,.The legislation, proposed by council member Brooke Pinto passed 12-1. Pinto’s bill is similar to a proposal by Mayor Muriel Bowser that lawmakers will debate in the fall,. Pinto said some provisions could not wait amid rising homicides and carjackings. “This legislation today is a major step forward in our effort to create a safer D.C. for all residents, and it cannot wait,” Pinto said. “I want to say to families, businesses, partners of the District: We hear you, and we know we need to do more to keep you safe.”

Pinto’s proposal got broad support despite escalating tension between the Bowser administration and members of the D.C. Council — particularly Chairman Phil Mendelson — about who is to blame for rising crime in D.C., and what should be done to reduce it. Mendelson believes police improving their closure rates and prosecutors acting more aggressively would have a more significant impact on crime than any legislation. He said he was tired of a public perception — which he said was perpetuated by the mayor — that the D.C. Council wasn’t taking crime seriously. Mendelson said, "Today’s legislation is useful — and let me be clear: I am not criticizing the police. But what angers me is I think our citizenry is being misled. Crime fighting is primarily a function of the executive branch, the police and other law enforcement agencies.” Pinto’s bill, the Prioritizing Public Safety Emergency Amendment Act, expands access to private security cameras through an incentive program and allows pretrial GPS monitoring data to be used as evidence against defendants. It creates new crimes, including endangerment with a firearm and a strangulation offense.


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