The D.C. Council on Tuesday passed an emergency crime bill aimed at giving judges more leeway as the city grapples with a sharp rise in violent crimes.
Ahead of the vote, Council of the District of Columbia Chair Phil Mendelson lamented, “You can get away with murder in this city.”
The statement was a notable pivot from comments he made in March, suggesting that the “perception” of high crime was overshadowing the reality on the ground.
“I know this belies the common belief — and when it comes to crime, how people feel is important — but there is not a crime crisis in Washington, D.C.,” Mendelson said.
DC Police data reveals a staggering increase in crime across the board between 2022 and 2023: homicides are up 17%, sex abuse is up 35%, and robberies are up by more 50%.
The emergency public safety bill includes elements of a controversial crime bill that Congress voted to overturn earlier this year. Critics of the earlier version argued that it was too soft on certain crimes.
The new bill increases penalties for various offenses like firing a gun in public, strangulation and carjacking. The bill also makes it easier for judges to keep violent crime suspects in custody while awaiting trial.
Councilwoman Brooke Pinto, who sponsored the bill, told reporters Monday that D.C. is “in a state of emergency.”
“And like in any emergency, we have to act like it, and we have to act urgently as a government to address the problem that we’re seeing.”
The bill passed 12-1 in a Tuesday emergency session.