- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 6, 2005

A major new bill would increase penalties for those who commit crimes against children or the elderly, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said yesterday. The 50-page bill tries to close legal loopholes while giving prosecutors more tools to crack down on crime.

Prostitution also would be outlawed, and police could declare prostitution-free areas, enabling them to stop people from gathering if prostitution is suspected. Currently, it is just illegal to solicit prostitution.

“The deal is the crime — not the act,” D.C. Attorney General Robert J. Spagnoletti said. “It would also increase the penalty for those soliciting young ones to 20 years.”

Other changes would make gang recruitment a crime. Those who steal cars could have their driver’s licenses taken away or face a delay in getting one if they are underage.

But young people also would receive additional protection under the bill Mr. Williams is sending to the D.C. Council. One proposal would increase the penalties up to 1.5 times for crimes against youngsters and senior citizens.

Any employee of D.C. Public Schools or the Parks and Recreation Department who fails to report possible child abuse, neglect or victimization — even if they don’t think it’s true — could face criminal prosecution.

The mayor’s plan also seeks to crack down on gun violence. Of the 198 homicides in 2004, all but 40 were committed with guns, according to police statistics. Mr. Spagnoletti said almost half of the juvenile crimes committed involved a handgun.

“The juveniles murdered last year were overwhelmingly murdered by adults with guns, not [by] other juveniles,” Mr. Spagnoletti said. “We wanted to send a message loud and clear if a handgun is involved, you’re going to do time.”

The proposal would increase the maximum penalty for a first-time handgun offense to 10 years and require a minimum of one year in jail for felony possession.

Public housing would be designated as gun-free areas, with signs much like those in the drug-free school zones.

Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Ed Reisken said crime in the city is down 17.9 percent from last year, but these changes are an attempt to do better.

Mr. Williams said he will be pleased if his proposals pass the council relatively intact.

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