The Mayor of Washington D.C., who belongs to the Democratic Party, has expressed concerns about the presence of illegal immigrants, homelessness, and crime in the city. Recently, the Republican-led House Oversight and Government Accountability Committee invited Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has served three terms, to address the issue of public safety.
During her testimony to the Committee, Bowser acknowledged that D.C. has experienced “disturbing increases in crime.”
According to government reports, the number of reported murders in the city has nearly doubled since 2017, and homicides have increased by 11% compared to the previous year.
“No one can be satisfied with increasing crime trends in any category. I certainly am not,” Bowser testified. “In D.C., like what is happening around the country, we have faced some concerning increases in crime.”
Bowser added: “We see more illegal guns on our streets and more repeat violent offenders using them. Those guns are being used in violent crimes like homicides and carjackings.”
Under pressure from fellow Democrats, Mayor Bowser vetoed legislation in 2022 that aimed to reduce criminal penalties. Despite the City Council overriding her veto, the legislation was later repealed by Congress and President Joe Biden in March.
Prior to her appearance before the Committee, Mayor Bowser received strong backing from the D.C. Police Union, which defended her and criticized the City Council. In an open letter, Gregg Pemberton, Chairman of the Police Union, referred to Bowser as a “strong ally” who opposes defunding the police and supports increased funding. Pemberton placed blame on D.C. City Council President Phil Mendelson for the rise in crime.
During her testimony before the Committee, Bowser stated:
“These trends are unacceptable, and we do not accept this as a new normal. To understand our response, you also have to understand our criminal justice system, which is unique.”
“MPD makes arrests; most adults are prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for D.C., who is, of course, a part of U.S. DOJ [Department of Justice]. Our youth offenders are prosecuted by our locally-elected attorney general and committed to our local youth and rehabilitation services.”
“But our youth and adult offenders are supervised by the court and federal agencies. D.C. jail is local, but a majority of our residents serving time are at federal facilities across the country. Our judges are also appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.”
As DC @MayorBowser heads to Capitol Hill to testify before House oversight committee, @DCPoliceUnion sends letter to @RepJamesComer praising @MurielBowser as “a great ally” and blaming @charlesallen & @ChmnMendelson for rise in crime. @nbcwashington pic.twitter.com/cfpG0kCEny— Mark Segraves (@SegravesNBC4) May 16, 2023
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Following her mention of Judges, the Senate, multiple federal agencies, the Department of Justice, a locally elected attorney general, the U.S. attorney for D.C., and local youth rehabilitation services, Bowser proceeded to state:
“I won’t be making any excuses here. I’m the Mayor, and I’m responsible for making this very complicated, unique system work for my residents, businesses, and all Americans.”
Bowser added that she had “authorized the chief to use any overtime he deems necessary for MPD.”
“We’ve launched regional and federal partnerships,” Bowser said, “I’ve created an office of neighborhood safety and engagement. Just yesterday, I announced a package of legislation that will enhance penalties for violent crime and provide greater discretion for the courts.”
Bowser ended her testimony by noting her new measures would help officials “determine who should be held pretrial and to modify early release laws to ensure that the wayside does not throw the voices of victims and the judgments of the courts.”