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Facing Questions In Congress, D.C. Mayor Offers Tough-On-Crime Bill

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled a legislative proposal that would make it easier for judges to jail defendants awaiting trial and increase prison sentences for gun crimes and other offenses, an effort to address “gaps” in D.C. laws. The plan was announced a day before officials are scheduled to be questioned in Congress on crime and public safety, reports the Washington Post. The proposal would increase penalties for illegal gun possession and crimes that target bus, train and ride-share workers. The plan would encourage pretrial detention by giving judges more discretion in cases involving adults with past violent convictions or youths charged with certain violent and gun offenses. “We know we need to make some changes and that making the right changes requires us to be introspective, to evaluate, pivot and quickly redirect our resources where necessary,” Bowser said, standing in a neighborhood that has experienced a spate of break-ins.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson signaled wariness around certain provisions — generally disagreeing with the idea that longer sentences correlate directly with reduced crime and suggesting instead that the city should focus on increasing the closure rate for crimes such as homicides. He did indicate a willingness to look at changes to pretrial release. “It’s an important aspect of public safety — when the police have probable cause to arrest somebody, we need to take seriously whether that person is a threat to the community or risk of flight that they need to be held,” he said. The mayor announced her legislation after a 10-year-old girl riding in a vehicle with her parents was shot and critically wounded amid a barrage of gunfire. In a separate incident, a 12-year-old girl sleeping in her bed was grazed by a stray bullet. The city’s police chief called the incidents “unacceptable” and praised Bowser’s legislation as a step toward more accountability for offenders. As of Monday, most categories of crime in the District were up compared with the same time last year. Homicides had increased by 7 percent, robberies by 18 percent and overall crime by 27 percent.

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