Oct 22, 2023 - News

Scoop: D.C. mayor to unveil new tough-on-crime package

Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks at a podium

Mayor Bowser addresses crime last July. Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser plans to propose anti-crime measures on Monday that would loosen some reforms enacted after the police killing of George Floyd.

Why it matters: In the heat of a crime wave, it would mark a U-turn for the Democratic city on policing reform, likely pitting Bowser against progressive council members.

Driving the news: Bowser's forthcoming bill would empower police to declare "drug-free zones" across the city for five-day spans, according to a preview of the legislation obtained by Axios. The measure is an effort to outlaw congregating in public spaces for the "purchase, sale, or use of illegal drugs."

  • Retail theft would carry stiffer penalties, via a new crime for "directing organized retail theft."
  • Wearing a mask while committing a crime would be outlawed again.
  • The legislation also revises the definition of a police chokehold. It would clarify the "distinction between a serious use of force and incidental contact with the neck," according to the preview text.

Bowser's office declined to comment on the new legislation ahead of the announcement.

Context: D.C. repealed its anti-mask law — which bans wearing a mask to commit a crime, intimidate, or threaten people, or cause fear — in the post-George Floyd reforms.

  • Meanwhile, President Biden earlier this year vetoed an attempt by congressional Republicans to ease the city's chokehold ban. (Police chokeholds were made illegal in D.C. in 1985, but the D.C. Council in recent years broadened the definition to make it more strict.)

The big picture: The tough-on-crime proposal comes while crime is up in D.C. — unlike other big cities where violence has declined.

  • Homicides are up 34% compared to last year, as of data on Friday. All crime is up 27%.

Details: Under the proposal, officers would also be allowed in some cases to view body camera footage before writing their initial police reports. That practice was outlawed entirely under policing reforms in recent years.

What's next: Bowser plans to officially announce the proposal at the Fourth District police station on Georgia Avenue NW at 11am. The D.C. Council would decide on it in the months ahead.


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