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Want to reduce crime in DC? Ramp up enforcement and sentences

By Joshua Crawford,  Director of Criminal Justice Initiatives


What a difference a year makes.

Around this time last year, the Council of the District of Columbia overrode Mayor Muriel Bowser’s veto of a criminal code reform bill that, among other things, lowered penalties for carjacking, robbery, and burglary.

At the time of the bill’s passage, Washington was already in the midst of a dramatic increase in carjackings that began in June 2020. From January 2018 until May 2020, the city averaged 12.3 carjackings a month. That number increased to 39.7 carjackings a month between June 2020 and January 2023, when the council overrode the mayor’s veto.

And, for the record, carjackings in the district have not been restricted to “that” part of town. In August 2022, Washington Commanders running back Brian Robinson Jr. was shot in the leg during an attempted carjacking in broad daylight.

When she vetoed the criminal code reform bill, Bowser, a Democrat, said, “This bill does not make us safer. … Any time there’s a policy that reduces penalties, I think it sends the wrong message.” No one would doubt the mayor’s progressive credentials, but the D.C. Council had her sounding like former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese, who served during the Reagan administration.


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