Feb 7, 2024 - News

D.C.'s omnibus crime bill moves forward

Illustration of a checkmark made out of crime scene tape.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The D.C. Council voted on Tuesday to advance a huge crime bill that would introduce new felonies, extend pretrial detentions, and establish "drug-free zones."

Why it matters: The bill would change how policing and punishment are carried out in D.C., which last year saw a 39% increase in violent crime, a 26% increase in overall crime, and the most homicides in over 25 years.

Zoom in: The massive omnibus package contains a swath of proposals — many from previous plans, some controversial — that would:

  • Allow police to designate temporary "drug-free zones," where people gathering to sell, buy, or use drugs could be arrested.
  • Introduce new gun laws, such as upping punishment for illegally possessing a firearm and making firing a gun in public a felony.
  • Make stealing from stores to later resell the items or return them for a refund a felony.
  • Expand pretrial detention for individuals charged with violent crimes, and lengthen the amount of time a minor can be held until their trial.

The intrigue: The bill was amended before the vote to remove language allowing authorities to collect DNA from someone while arresting them. Other changes include:

  • Winding down the bill's pretrial detention changes after 225 days.
  • Scaling back provisions limiting public access to police records.

The other side: Some opponents protested at Tuesday's hearing, calling the proposed changes draconian and raising concerns they could disproportionately affect Black residents.

What we're watching: The council will cast its second and last vote on the bill in the next few weeks; if it passes, it will go to Mayor Bowser for her signature.

  • Additional amendments — like whether the minimum for felony theft should be lowered — will be considered then.

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