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Mayor Bowser’s new crime legislation would allow increased police presence and surveillance by both police and business owners. (Twitter Photo)

Mayor Muriel Bowser opened the calendar year touting the benefits of Council and resident support for her reduced crime legislation, “Safer, Stronger D.C.” despite a tenuous relationship between law enforcement and residents in many metropolitan areas.  In a package initially introduced in August to settle community disruption, Bowser’s proposal has yet to be voted on by Council members.

Included in Bowser’s proposal are an increased police presence in designated communities, getting tough on repeat violent offenders, offering grants to small businesses to secure video surveillance, reduced time in prison for inmates with good behavior, and providing law enforcement with additional tools.

On Jan. 4, Bowser criticized the D.C. Council for not acting quickly to enact her crime bill. “I think the Council just hasn’t acted, and we’re calling on them to act on the public safety legislation,” Bowser said.  “So far as I know, there hasn’t been any robust discussion among the council following the September hearing, and we’re in January.”

Critics of the proposal, like Ward 8 resident Gerald Stanton, cite an emotionalism and disconnect in the document that provides scarce data and poor insight into how best to combat crime.

“All I’m reading is police presence, manpower, crime lab, and equipping local businesses to identify potential and definite criminals.  Are we supposed to have our entire neighborhood under surveillance and profile?” Stanton asked.  “Bowser wants to add revolving 12-hour shifts and bring in retired police to weed out criminals, something the rest of the nation is trying to move away from.”

D.C. Council Judiciary Chairman Kenyan McDuffie said he would not engage in finger pointing regarding the status of the legislation, though he was troubled by certain aspects of the bill, including the ability of law enforcement to conduct warrantless searches of violent offenders on probation or parole.  There was also concern about allowing police to hold some released offenders for 72 hours.

“We do plan to take the elements of her proposal that make sense,” McDuffie told the Washington City Paper. “But unfortunately, many elements of the mayor’s plan are not evidence-based or data-driven.”

During the last year, the city has witnessed a return to violent crimes, many documented on public transportation.  The 162 homicides in the city, an uptick of 54 percent from December 2014 has left residents and city officials grappling with how best to address crime amid growing concerns over police misconduct.

“The continuing problem with the Bowser administration is the belief that they can run the city from the top-down without asking and actually utilizing the residents to address issues.  There are other ways of addressing crime that does not entail the police,” Stanton said.  “When you talk law enforcement in a Black city, you need to ensure you aren’t asking parents to give you license to shoot down their kids.”

ssherman@afro.com