City Desk

Lanier, Nickles Testify on Crime Bill

Yesterday at the Wilson Building, D.C. Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier and Attorney General Peter Nickles gave joint testimony before Councilmember Phil Mendelson's Judiciary Committee. The two testified on two big crime initiatives: the "Omnibus Anti-Crime Amendment Act of 2009" and the "Public Safety and Justice Amendments Act of 2009."

The two highlighted several aspects of the proposed legislation [which is not without its political controversy as reported a few weeks back by our own Loose Lips] including beefing up the penalties associated with gun charges, beefing up witness security and frankly stretching a bit on toughening sanctions on gangs. Some interesting facts did seep out of their testimony.

Guess how many gang members we have in the District?

I am not sure if this is an overwhelming number. But here's what Lanier and Nickles stated:

"At the present time, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) estimates that there are approximately 1,730 active gang members in 87 gangs in the District.  Each gang has established turf in a city neighborhood.   There are 8 gangs who have made a neighborhood in the First Police District (1D) their turf; 18 gangs who are at home in 3D; 13 gangs who have established themselves in 4D; 12 gangs who operate in communities served by 5D; 16 gangs who base themselves out of 6D neighborhoods; and 20 gangs that make a neighborhood in 7D their home."

Looks like only 2D (of course) is gang-free turf. Hey kids: Georgetown is yours for the taking! The proposed legislation would bring gangs into civil court seeking various injunctions on their activities. It would essentially—and this my quick reading of the testimony—adopt nuisance property laws for fighting gangs. Civil Court is going to get a lot more complicated or maybe not. Don't nuisance property laws already attack gangs? Aren't the nuisance property laws used against things like crack houses and gang hideouts? Here's what the law, the new law must do:

"Section 102(e)(2) requires that the complaint 'must identify the criminal street gang and allege that there is an adverse impact of the gang’s activities within a defined geographic area such that there exists a public nuisance' and requires OAG to 'list at least three criminal street gang members whom the Attorney General  alleges should be designated to receive service on behalf of the entity.'  Significantly, section 102(e)(3) allows 'any person who associates with others to engage in gang activity as a member of a criminal street gang may be made a defendant in the suit,' and 'any person who owns or is responsible for maintaining a place that is used for engaging in gang activity also may be made a defendant in the suit.'"

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