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Crime Crisis: D.C. in 'State of Emergency', Crime Rates Soaring Nationwide


WASHINGTON - Nationwide, crime is dominating the headlines in America. The Council on Criminal Justice says violent crimes have become more common over the past four years.

In the first half of this year, the U.S. had 24 percent more murders than the same time frame in 2019. Car thefts are skyrocketing, up 104 percent over four years. 

Leaders in the nation's capital say the District is in a state of emergency due to the high crime this year. Compared to 2022, Washington has seen a 37 percent increase in violent crime this year.

The D.C. Council recently passed emergency legislation aimed at addressing the surge in crime by making it easier to detain criminals ahead of trial. The bill also imposes more serious penalties for certain crimes and expedites court cases involving child victims.

"When we have members of our community being shot and killed at rates we haven't seen for 20 years, that's an emergency, period," said Brooke Pinto, the council member who introduced the legislation. 

Since this time last year, homicide rates are up 20 percent, there's been a 60 percent spike in robberies and a 30 percent increase in sex abuse. 

The surging crime numbers over the last year have resulted in warnings from foreign governments to their citizens planning travel to D.C. 

Pinto says the new crime bill will address gaps in the legal system and hold offenders accountable.

"Things like ensuring that people can be held pre-trial for committing crimes of violence in the adult system...making sure it's a stand-alone offense to discharge a firearm in the public, ensuring that our police officers are empowered to engage in a vehicular pursuit if public safety dictates they must," Pinto explained during a recent press conference.

The bill will only be in effect for 90 days, but D.C. mayor, Muriel Bowser, has signaled she plans to propose similar legislation later this year that could make the changes permanent. 

As many other cities across the U.S. experience rising crime, security experts say situational awareness is key.

"So often we get distracted by so many different things, whether it's a cell phone, or phone calls, different types of things like that, people, we have to maintain awareness," said Chris Mitchell, CBN and Regent University Chief of Police. 

Mitchell says this kind of security mindset could also require modifying behavior.

"I don't go for a run at three in the morning, I go for a run at eight in the morning, when it's light outside, or even at dawn when it's light. But even then, I have to look at where am I going...I just have to maybe modify my normal behaviors where I felt safe before, it doesn't mean I'm not safe, it just means I need to be more aware of the fact that there is a lot of crime," Mitchell explained.

Congress has full oversight over D.C. and they used that authority to overturn an attempt to rewrite the District's criminal code earlier this year, saying it was too soft on crime.

They've had several oversight hearings looking into what's behind the soaring crime numbers but did not weigh in on the recent crime bill because of its emergency status. However, any permanent legislation will need their approval. 

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