The D.C. Council recently jumped on the opportunity to tackle the city’s crime epidemic by passing the Secure DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2024. This crime-fighting crusade is a product of hard work and determination, aimed at curbing the surge in criminal activity that has plagued the district for far too long. With 12 enthusiastic “aye” votes, and just one member voting present (looking at you, Councilman Trayon White), this bill has already made waves. But hold your horses, folks, because there’s still a second vote to come, and who knows what kind of wild ride that will be.
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) February 7, 2024
In this action-packed council session, discussions ran wild about increasing penalties for some crimes, redefining others, establishing drug-free zones (no, not the fun kind), beefing up juvenile detention criteria, and putting the kibosh on some of the soft-on-crime provisions that had inexplicably snuck into previous legislation. Of course, this is only the first step, and the language of the law could change faster than a chameleon at a disco before it’s all said and done.
The brains behind this operation, Ward 2 Councilwoman Brooke Pinto, is basking in the glow of support from the Fraternal Order of Police and Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser. She’s touting the 100+ interventions in the omnibus as the answer to every DC resident’s safety prayers. But not everyone is sold on this crime-fighting spectacle. Some councilmembers are airing concerns about bringing back police provisions, resurrecting those pesky drug-free zones, and banning mask-wearing while committing crimes (because apparently, that was a thing).
Councilman Phil Mendelson is a real dreamer, suggesting that long-term crime improvement requires a focus on education and poverty reduction. Bless his heart. But in the meantime, he’s on board with the good ol’ “scare ’em straight” tactic. Other members are patting Pinto on the back for her efforts, but warning that there’s more work to be done. Councilman Kenyan McDuffie, for one, is all about accountability and opportunity, because why settle for one when you can have both?
Now, not everyone in the audience is applauding this crime-fighting extravaganza. There are some folks sporting “Don’t Throw DC Under The Crimnibus” shirts. And if that wasn’t enough, there was even some playful giggling and coughing directed at Pinto, which prompted Mendelson to call for some good ol’ fashioned respect in the chamber. A real nail-biter, this council meeting.
If this bill becomes law after the second vote, brace yourselves for the return of the 90s favorite, “drug-free zones.” Because apparently, the district sees these zones as the key to unlocking the door to a crime-free paradise. The legislation also packs punches like increased maximum sentences for gun-related crimes, an expanded definition of carjacking, and making it a felony to pocket $500 worth of merchandise (goodbye, five-finger discounts).
Why all this commotion, you ask? Well, crime in the district has been on the rise, with total crime up 26%, violent crime soaring 39%, and property crime climbing 24%. Carjackings are all the rage, with motor vehicle thefts up a whopping 82% in 2023. So, it’s about time someone put on their crime-fighting cape and went to work.
In a last-minute twist, several amendments swooped in and shook things up. Some of the more controversial aspects of the bill were kicked to the curb, like the anti-mask provision that wasn’t fooling anyone. It’s still a no-go on wearing a mask while committing crimes or trying to scare the socks off someone, but at least we dodged the bullet on that other proposal. And let’s not forget the tussle over DNA evidence collection and the proposed record sealing law. Drama, drama, drama.
So, buckle up, folks, because there’s more crime-fighting action to come. And who knows, with a few more rounds of debate and a couple of votes, maybe the district will finally get that happy ending it’s been waiting for.