Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee gave a simple solution for what Washington, D.C., can do differently to get homicides down Monday: “Keep violent people in jail.”
Contee was speaking along with Mayor Muriel Bowser at Mayoral Public Safety Media Availability to discuss crime in the District. He responded to a reporter’s question about how to address increased homicides rates in the city.
“What we got to do, if we really want to see homicides go down, is keep bad guys with guns in jail. Because when they’re in jail, they can’t be in communities shooting people. So when people talk about what we gonna do different, or what we should do different, what we need to do different, that’s the thing that we need to do different,” Contee said.
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“We need to keep violent people in jail. Right now, the average homicide suspect has been arrested eleven times prior to them committing a homicide,” the chief continued. “That is a problem. That is a problem.”
Repeat offenders are a problem in the nation’s capital. Last month, Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., called out the city’s elected officials over their soft on crime policies after she was assaulted by a homeless man. She was his thirteenth victim.
“I got attacked by someone who the District of Columbia has not prosecuted fully over the course of almost a decade, over the course of 12 assaults before mine that morning,” Craig said at the time. “I mean, it wasn’t even in every instance that he got 10 days or 30 days. Many times, the charges were completely dropped before any justice was achieved at all.”
Last year, D.C. hit 200 murders in consecutive years for the first time since 2003.
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Among the topics covered during Monday’s press conference included the apparent defeat of the D.C. City Council’s attempt to soften penalties on violent crimes through revisions to the criminal code.
The crime bill would have reduced maximum penalties for violent crimes such as burglaries, robberies and carjackings, along with abolishing minimum sentences for most crimes. It faced backlash even from some liberals with Bowser vetoing it in January, though the city council overrode her veto.
Monday, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson pulled the controversial crime bill after the U.S. House voted to block it and President Biden said he would not veto Congress’ decision.
The U.S. Senate may still vote on the legislation with the potential for up to 20 Democrats to side with Republicans in voting against the bill. However, it is unclear if the Senate still can vote on the bill as a symbolic gesture given that it was pulled by the chairman.