Judiciary Committee Update - Hearing Takeaways and Secure DC Progress

Posted by
V. Casarrubias
December 6, 2023

Dear Neighbor,

The crime that residents are experiencing in our city is unacceptable. Violent crime is up 40 percent and carjackings are up over 100 percent compared to the same time last year. Across the city, I hear residents’ frustrations and fear about the decline in their sense of safety, and the need to act urgently to strengthen our tools to curb the tide of violent and often trauma-inducing crime in the District. I agree.

As Chairwoman of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, I am working fervently to move forward proposals in my Secure DC plan and am closely evaluating strong proposals put forth by my colleagues and the Mayor that I believe will help improve safety, as well. I will continue to stay focused on what we can do on this Committee to move forward changes that will help improve public safety across the District – a top priority for leaders across DC Government.

I strongly believe that transparency, accountability, and public engagement are each essential tenets of responsible legislating, which is why on the first day of the Council’s fall legislative session, I shared my Secure DC plan with the public -- the plan broken down into each of its components to ensure residents, stakeholders, and colleagues had the opportunity to wrap their arms around each initiative and collectively engage in thoughtful, productive conversations about the strengths and opportunities for improvement.

DC’s facilitation of robust public engagement during the hearing process is unique and invaluable; I am grateful to the thousands of residents and stakeholders who have made their voices heard this fall to strengthen the safety and vitality of our communities. Your input and experiences drive me every day, and I hold these stories with me to inform the work we do on the Council. To this end, let me share some reflections on the hearings the Committee held the last month and brief you on what’s up next.  

Roundtable on the District’s Violence Intervention Efforts

On October 30th, I convened a joint public roundtable on the District’s violence interruption efforts with Chairman Phil Mendelson (Committee of the Whole) and At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds (Committee on the Executive Administration and Labor). We heard from several dozen public witnesses and convened a panel discussion with violence interruption workers, experts, and advocates, including Peace for DC, Community Shoulders, Parent Watch, and the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform. City Administrator Kevin Donahue and Gabrielle Breven, Chief of the Violence Reduction Unit at the Office of the Attorney General, also testified on behalf of the government.  

Here are a few of my takeaways:

Public Hearing on my ACTIVE Amendment Act

On November 8th, I held a hearing on my Addressing Crime through Targeted Interventions and Violence Enforcement (ACTIVE) bill. The ACTIVE bill primarily seeks to address incidents of gun violence and carjacking by introducing new charges and aligning the definitions of these incidents with what we’re seeing in our communities. We heard from dozens of public witnesses and heard testimony from the US Attorney’s Office (USAO), Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Public Defender Service (PDS), and the Criminal Code Reform Commission (CCRC) on the potential strengths and impacts of the legislation.  

Here are a few of my takeaways:

Public Hearing on Mayor Bowser’s ACT Now Bill

On November 29th, I held a hearing on Mayor Bowser’s Addressing Crime Trends (ACT) Now bill. The bill seeks to primarily address retail theft, crime hotspots, and effective policing. In a hearing that lasted just shy of 12 hours, we heard from 80 public witnesses, MPD Chief Pamela Smith, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Justice Lindsey Appiah, and representatives from PDS, CCRC, and the Office of Police Complaints.

Here are a few of my takeaways:

Next Steps

I will be reviewing the testimony shared during all of these hearings, and after a thorough and thoughtful review of all of the proposals put forth to and by the Committee, I am committed to moving forward the most effective proposals through the Committee process. I always want to hear from you if you have feedback or ideas – email my team and me at judiciary@dccouncil.gov.

Yours in service,


On December 11th, I will hold a hearing on three bills, two of which are included in my Secure DC plan that aim to increase safety and resources in our commercial and transit corridors. You may find more details and sign up to testify here and watch the hearing in-person at the Wilson Building or on YouTube.

Witnesses who anticipate needing language interpretation, or requiring sign language interpretation, are asked to inform the Committee of the need as soon as possible but no later than five business days before a hearing during registration or by contacting Ms. Aukima Benjamin, Committee Manager to the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, at (202) 724-8058 or via e-mail at judiciary@dccouncil.gov.

Make sure to check out the Council website to stay up to date on upcoming hearings.

Chairwoman Pinto has been on the ground, working directly with our public safety partners to address crime and violence in the city.

Chairwoman Pinto met with Ward 8 residents to discuss concerns around public safety and effective solutions to ensure peace and safety for all residents.

Chairwoman Pinto asked US Attorney Graves to join the Council's breakfast meeting to discuss the US Attorney's Office's work to hold offenders of crime accountable and how various factors play a role in prosecution rates.

Chairwoman Pinto spoke at the Ribbon Cutting for the new Verstandig Pavilion at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, which will increase capacity for lifesaving care during emergencies.

Chairwoman Pinto met with Professors Daniel Webster (Johns Hopkins) and Joseph Richardson (University of Maryland) to discuss community violence interruption strategies.

Chairwoman Pinto joined the DC Bar and its President Charles Lowery to discuss the important work of the legal community in the District to bring Access to Justice initiatives to DC residents.

Chairwoman Pinto toured the DASH Cornerstone Building that provides housing, wrap-around services, and crisis relief for survivors of domestic violence and their families.

Chairwoman Pinto joined Monday Night Politics with the Washington DC Alumni Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority to discuss her Secure DC plan and the District’s efforts to improve public safety.

Chairwoman Pinto spoke at the Woman’s National Democratic Club Speaker Series about the importance of community and collaboration to address our most pressing public safety needs.

Chairwoman Pinto met with the Federal City Council to discuss her Secure DC plan and the importance of improving public safety to ensuring the vitality and resiliency of our Downtown.

Chairwoman Pinto met with the Missionary Baptist Ministers of DC to discuss the importance of public engagement to inform her Secure DC plan and all her work at the Council.

Chairwoman Pinto met with emergency response researcher and expert Dave Statter to discuss 911 operations and needed improvements at the Office of Unified Communications.

Chairwoman Pinto met with Safer Country to discuss strategies to address gun violence through decreased access to guns for at-risk folks.

Chairwoman Pinto spoke with the DC Chamber of Commerce about how working to improve public safety strengthens DC’s downtown economic recovery.

FOX5: $1M safety grant to aid businesses in Adams Morgan, Shaw and Downtown DC. “‘Maintaining safe commercial corridors is imperative for residents, visitors, and the economic vitality of the District,’ said Pinto. ‘I am thrilled that today, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice announced that the requests for applications are open for the Safe Commercial Corridors Grants Program that I established in this year’s budget. These grants will allow organizations in our communities to implement the immediate and innovative public safety solutions that are sorely needed in commercial corridors in the District.’”

WUSA9: US Attorney for DC: Gun prosecution laws fall short, put gun offenders back on the street.“'What we’ve proposed in secure, will help us,' Pinto said. 'Will help us prove carjacking cases, will help us track GPS monitoring, will help us ensure that endangerment with a firearm and shooting into the public will be treated with the severity it deserves.'”

Washington Post: Restaurants are still struggling, and crime isn’t helping. “Pinto has introduced a sweeping set of proposals to tackle and prevent crime as well as to create a task force to review diversionary programs that could keep nonviolent misdemeanor offenders out of jail. The goal, Pinto said in a statement to The Post, is to keep visitors, residents and business owners safe. ‘The status quo is not acceptable,’ Pinto said.”

DC News Now: DC Council members hear public reaction to mayor’s crime bill. “‘We are experiencing a crime crisis in the District compared to last year,’ said Brooke Pinto, the chairwoman of the committee. ‘This crime has affected residents, visitors and businesses they support. Many are fearful and their day-to-day lives have changed in a myriad of ways as a result.’”

WJLA: DC Council approves emergency declarations addressing rising youth violence, drug crisis.“Councilmember Brooke Pinto, who heads public safety, pushed to let Mayor Bowser act as she sees fit. ‘We have to move forward, I believe in a way that allows the executive to move quickly,’ Pinto said.”

Washington Post: Facing contempt threat, D.C. finds more housing for youth detainees. “Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), chairwoman of the judiciary committee, said in a statement that she hoped Bowser’s emergency declaration would help ensure that youth detention facilities have sufficient resources. She also called for lawmakers to explore ways to ‘strengthen interventions and supports for District families and young people in crisis.’”

WUSA9: Pamela Smith officially approved as DC Police chief. “‘In her time already leading the department, [Smith] has launched efforts that are already showing progress including a crime suppression unit, robbery task force and a traffic safety compliance check point program,’ Councilmember Brooke Pinto said of why she voted to confirm Smith.”

DCist: D.C. Council Officially Confirms Pamela Smith As Metropolitan Police Department Chief. “‘None of these issues will be easy,’ Pinto said. ‘But after working with acting chief Smith for the last several months … I believe that she has the ability, the experience, and the commitment to do this job well.’”

Washington Post: District triage line continues to trim non-emergency calls from 911. “‘This is a vital investment to support residents’ needs immediately and ease the strain on our ambulance and hospital system,’ Pinto said in a statement.”

Washington Post: D.C. mayor resurrects old policy to target open-air drug markets. “Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), who chairs the public safety committee, welcomed Bowser’s proposal, noting that she has heard concerns across the city about hot spots for drug dealing or criminal activity, fearing police don’t have adequate tools to disrupt them. 'This trend cannot continue without intervention,' she said.”  

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