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90-Page ‘Secure DC’ Crime Bill Moves Forward in the Nation’s Capital

In response to the alarming surge in crime rates in Washington, D.C., Council member Brooke Pinto introduces a comprehensive crime bill addressing the concerns of business owners and community members.

Three pillars of the ‘Secure DC’ crime bill. Photo courtesy of Washington D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto’s website.

Washington, D.C. council members have introduced a 90-page omnibus crime bill covering a range of offenses, including establishing ‘drug-free zones’, carjacking, mask banning, armed robbery and other offenses.

Proposed by Ward 2 D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto, the bill addresses the rising crime rates in the District.

On Wednesday, Jan. 10, D.C. Pinto issued a press release stating, “Secure DC brings together the strongest legislative proposals I considered this fall to better equip D.C. agencies and communities with needed tools to prevent crime, increase accountability, and strengthen government coordination.”

“Secure DC is a critical and necessary step in the right direction,” Pinto finished. 

The ‘Secure DC’ bill includes several initiatives that draw upon ideas from Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and other council members. The bill also has several measures addressing accountability for crimes including gun penalties, victim protection, pretrial detention, carjacking and retail theft

Fatima Nayir, owner of Mama’s Pizza Kitchen in Southeast D.C., expressed the loss of hope in the community and attributed the crime to structural problems within the system.

“I’ve had many robberies at my [establishment], but nothing will change unless people have some kind of hope. They have no direction,” Nayir told The Hilltop. “The whole system is making this happen, so I’m not blaming anybody. The council members think they know, but they don’t.”

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Bowser declared that she fully supports the legislation. On Jan. 11, she released a statement announcing, “We know that driving down crime requires us to send a clear message that if you make our city less safe if you bring violence to our community, you will be held accountable.” 

“I appreciate Council member Pinto’s leadership and partnership on this legislation, which includes most of our Safer, Stronger 2.0 legislation and our ACT Now legislation. Passing it will support a system that prioritizes safety and accountability,” Bowser said. 

Alarming statistics reported by Washington 7 News revealed that 247 lives in Washington D.C. were lost to violence to violence last year. Additionally, 90 young people aged 18 and under were shot, marking 2023 as the deadliest year in the District since 1997.

“I’m scared that one day somebody’s going to get angry and kill me too, but how am I going to blame anybody? It is a big vicious circle and council members cannot change it,” Nayir said. 

Sylvester Bert, a barber based in the Anacostia community of Washington, D.C., believes that more disciplinary measures should be implemented for young people contributing to the recent increase in crime in the nation’s capital. 

“If their behavior continues to be contrary to what freedom is for, then they don’t need to be out of jail until they are an adult and they get it in their head that they can’t bully people,” Bert said. 

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Bert also emphasized the need for stronger parental guidance and a lack of respect for the people in the community.

“In all my days, I’ve never seen anyone attack a senior citizen. They act as if they aren’t going to become senior citizens themselves,” Bert said. “The respect is totally gone [and] I can’t give them a pass anymore. I’m not against the youth, I just want them to be safe.”

Other concerned members of the District, such as John Kelce, the owner of Cardozo-Shaw Laundromat & Dry Cleaners, highlighted that decriminalizing more minor crimes within the city can have a cascading effect and potentially create larger issues.

“The problem is more socio-economic. You can pass a crime bill, but what are you going to do with the people you lock up?” Kelce said.

“Are you going to release them back into society and wait for trial dates?” Kelce asked.

“I don’t do anything with cash [and] I leave the cash register in front of the door. Everything is sealed with the change machines. People in the community protect this place and don’t want it to go anywhere,” Kelce said.

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Photo of cash register in front of the door at Cardozo Shaw Cleaners. (Skyler Winston/The Hilltop)

The perspectives from local establishment owners and community members underscore D.C.’s complex crime issue and the significance of finding an approach that will create a safer environment for all residents of the nation’s capital.

“I look forward to signing this bill into law and [I] urge the Council to move with urgency to unanimously pass this legislation,” Bowser declared.  

The Judiciary and Public Safety Committee unanimously passed the bill on Jan. 17. The ‘Secure DC’ bill is scheduled to be voted on by the full council on Jan. 23.

Copy edited by D’ara Campbell


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