Statement on Passage of Prioritizing Public Safety Amendment Act of 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau issued the following statement after today’s passage of the Prioritizing Public Safety Amendment Act of 2023.
“Today the Council took decisive action in addressing public safety concerns by advancing a bill by Councilmember Brooke Pinto, giving judges additional tools to keep some of the most violent offenders off our streets and expanding the Council’s popular camera rebate program.
“The bill included an amendment I co-introduced with Councilmember Charles Allen which will require more community-focused policing, and provide additional tools to deter crime, get guns off our streets, close cases and prosecute crimes effectively.
“The amendment will also require the reporting of MPD case closure rates as well as require the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (“CJCC”) to publish monthly on its website, (1) arrests for violent crimes committed by juveniles and adults, broken down by offense, and (2) gun violence and homicide counts and rates citywide and by ward, neighborhood, and police service area. This data will inform the public and policy-makers.
“Councilmember Pinto’s bill did not advance elements of the Mayor’s original crime bill that were especially problematic, including provisions that would allow pre-trial detention of youth. Research shows that putting a juvenile in jail – even for one night – increases their likelihood of committing another crime. Those provisions would make the city less safe.
“What we passed today is a better bill. I thank Councilmember Pinto for removing those ineffective, destructive, and performative measures and delivering legislation that can contribute to a comprehensive approach to public safety.
“The reality is that we have a large toolbox that includes prevention, intervention, youth programs, education, mental health services, substance use disorder services, housing, policing and the courts.
“I will continue to support all of that. In the budget we just passed for next year, in addition to citywide programs, I allocated more than $4.5 million for public safety initiatives in Ward 1 for more violence interrupters, safety ambassadors, domestic violence training, housing vouchers for returning citizens, and more. I supported requested funding for police officer positions in the budget, as I have every year.
“But we are not using every tool in our toolbox effectively. The major difference between D.C. and other cities, is that most of our crimes are prosecuted by a federally appointed U.S. Attorney. He doesn’t answer to residents, the Council, or the Mayor. And unbelievably, recent reports indicate he is only prosecuting about one third of the crime under his purview. On the other hand, our locally elected Attorney General, who is accountable to all of us, prosecutes three quarters of the cases that come to him.
“Even when the U.S. Attorney’s Office presses charges they frequently drop cases. When less than 40 percent of MPD’s arrests for illegal guns result in a conviction it’s no surprise that we’re failing to combat gun crime.
“Meanwhile, D.C.’s crime lab, which lost its accreditation, is not making it easier for the U.S. Attorney. There are 770 DNA samples from violent crime scenes that haven’t been tested. In addition to regaining accreditation later, we need more capacity now.
“Council’s action today was an important step. But let’s remember that the best way to deter crime is swift arrest and prosecution and that we have to use all of the tools in our toolbox in order to reverse the threat we are under.”