Thursday, August 6, 2009

Now that the omnibus crime bill is signed, what can we expect?

As he signed the Omnibus Public Safety and Justice Emergency Amendment Act of 2009 into law on August 6, Mayor Adrian Fenty said,
Today marks an important step forward in fighting crime in the District of Columbia.   The Omnibus Public Safety and Justice Emergency Amendment Act of 2009 provides the District with tougher laws that increase penalties for violent crimes, allowing us to effectively send a message to criminals in an effort to deter potential crimes from even taking place.   The emergency bill I’ve signed today, will allow law enforcement officials to begin using these tools to combat crime in the District, especially in the summer months.   I greatly appreciate the Council's support on this crucial legislation, and look forward to continuing to work together to keep our neighborhoods safe.

The legislation was first introduced by the mayor in October 2008 and underwent significant review and public scrutiny.   Some of the more important child- and youth-related provisions:

  • Prohibition of unlawful firearms in vehicles:   The significance of this provision relates to drive-by shootings
  • Gang and Crew Intervention Joint Working Group:   This group is charged with developing a coordinated response to high-profile youth violence
  • Compulsion to testify against spouse or domestic partners in civil or criminal cases involving an offense against a child or minor (among other vulnerable populations)

Passed as an emergency, this law will expire on November 4, 2009 and there is not a permanent version of the bill under consideration by the City Council.   The law will expire before the deadline for the gang working group provision deadlines.   The temporary status begs the question about how the city will continue putting pressure on the criminal element in the long-term.   It does not seem possible that members of the council have the energy and stamina to withstand another public safety debate, particularly following on the heels of the protracted debate of the emergency, the revised budget, and the various issues plaguing the legislative and executive branches.

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