WASHINGTON - On the heels of a 10-year-old being shot by a stray bullet while in a car with her family in Northeast D.C. Sunday – and a 12-year-old being shot by a stray bullet while still in bed in Southeast Monday morning – D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a 17-page package of different legislative proposals, seeking to fill what she says are "gaps" in the system when it comes to addressing D.C. crime.
The mayor’s staff called the "Safer, Stronger D.C. Legislation" a "tweaking" of certain measures. A critic called the bill a "hodgepodge" of laws.
One example addresses presumption. According to the legal justice system, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty and the juvenile system focuses on rehabilitation on top of this. A proposal by Mayor Bowser would create a "rebuttable presumption that detention is required" if the child committed a dangerous crime or had a pistol without a license at the time.
The bill also seeks to increase the penalty for a crime against a vulnerable adult or transportation providers, such as rideshare drivers or Metro rail station employees on duty.
"Most people … Some, some of them I’m sure, as people read through some of the changes that will be made, these are things people would’ve thought would’ve been in place, but they’re not," said D.C. Chief Robert Contee III, who was asked about a proposal that would require different entities, such as D.C. Superior Court or the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) to share GPS monitoring tracking information with police if it’s needed for an investigation.
The mayor’s office noted how it may be the policy for some to share this information, however, it’s not legally required.
Another measure would expand the city’s camera rebate program and propose giving more judges discretion on the Second Look Amendment Act. That’s the act that allows someone who committed a serious crime before 18 years old an opportunity to petition for their resentencing after serving so many years.
When FOX 5 asked how the bill addresses the need to fight crime in the city right now, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said, "It’s addressing it because those are the gaps in the law that we identified. Now, there’s something that the mayor can do for emergency power. Changes to the law like this require the council."
"We are working every day with every part of our ecosystem and police department," Bowser responded when asked if she was considering any emergency-related actions.
Chief Contee III argued the bill would help hold people accountable.
"The prevention side of things, the enforcement side of things, the accountability side of things, if any of those pieces are uncoupled, we have gaps in our system, and we have to do all that we can," he said.
Executive Director of the D.C. Justice Lab Patrice Sulton says a number of recommendations to address crime were already made to city leaders by the body assembled by the council to study the District’s crimes and possible solutions.
"People care about those really serious harms, gun violence in particular. And this set of recommendations (and the mayor’s bill) really does nothing to really get at those things," said Sulton, referring to the fact that the bill doesn't address the root causes of violence, which she says begins at home.
In addition to the mayor’s legislative proposals, Bowser also introduced a Mayor’s Order that would require certain deputy mayors to submit recommendations within 45 days to address certain areas, including submitting a plan to create a hotline for parents who believe their children are in imminent danger of gun violence.
D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson told reporters he had not seen the legislation yet and had not been briefed on it earlier Monday. Mendelson noted how he knows how the issue of pretrial release is very important to the mayor, which he agrees should be seriously looked at.
However, Mendelson did not believe the council chair would be able to take up the mayor’s proposed legislation before the summer recess.
"There really ought to be a hearing and an opportunity for testimony. These are complication issues," Mendelson said. "On the one hand, if somebody commits a crime, we want them held, we want them locked up. On the other hand, there’s presumption under our constitution, and the person is innocent until proven guilty. So, you have to balance the perceived public safety interest with the constitutional right of liberty. Finding that right balance is complicated…"
Council Judiciary and Public Safety Chair Brooke Pinto told FOX 5 in a statement: "I welcome the mayor’s proposed legislation and am glad that the mayor and the council continue to prioritize public safety as the most pressing concern facing D.C. We must identify and address gaps in our public safety ecosystem and I look forward to reviewing the bill in its entirety and expeditiously holding public hearings once the bill is introduced."
The mayor announced her legislation proposals along H Street Northeast, not far from where a congressional staffer was violently stabbed a few months ago. The mayor and police chief are also expected to go before a U.S. House committee to discuss how the two leaders are addressing the city’s crime on Tuesday.
"While we’re going to be talking about D.C., we could just as easily be talking about any state in the United States of America," Mayor Bowser said when asked about Tuesday's hearing. "Post-COVID, the level of gun violence that we’ve seen around the country is pretty remarkable."
"It’s sad, it’s sad that this Congress and the Congress’ before them haven’t taken real action to make the country safer," she added.
Read the full public safety bill below: