- The Washington Times - Friday, May 29, 2009

D.C. Attorney General Peter J. Nickles has backed off plans to push sweeping crime legislation through the D.C. Council next week, but said he is still confident the measure will be passed in time to combat the District’s traditional spike in summer violence.

“I think I can get it done on an emergency basis at the appropriate time before the onset of summer,” Mr. Nickles said. “Maybe not June 2 - but in June - on an emergency basis so we can have it take effect before the summer.”

The timetable for passing the omnibus crime bill backed by Mr. Nickles and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty has set up a showdown between the administration and the council member whose committee is in charge of considering the measure.

Phil Mendelson, chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, has said he plans to move the bill out of his committee next month and is open to passing it as an emergency measure - just not at Tuesday’s legislative session.

“I’m working toward getting the print ready for the middle of the month,” said Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat, who also has proposed his own crime legislation. “What I would love to see is the entire bill ready and the council could pass it on first reading and then pass it on emergency.”

Mr. Nickles previously said he would personally work to pass an emergency measure Tuesday. Backing away from that plan indicates the attorney general does not have the necessary support of nine out of 13 council members to move the bill over Mr. Mendelson’s objections, although Mr. Nickles’ goal of having the legislation enacted in June remains intact.

“I have talked to council members,” he said. “I think I can get it done.”

The crime bill encompasses what Mr. Mendelson called “complicated issues” that include being able to take civil enforcement action against gangs, amending the definition of a gang and determining the public disclosure of information related to a crime.

Approving it as an emergency measure would allow the council to bypass a normal period of congressional review for the law and ensure its swift enactment.

Mr. Nickles said he plans to move immediately once the measure is passed to issue civil injunctions against gang members, which he said would give officials a better tool to combat gang-related crime involving fighting, harassment and other activities.

The attorney general said he has a task force working to identify gangs and gang members, and that there are nearly 90 of the groups with more than 1,700 members in the city.

“This gives the city and prosecutors the ability in a very expeditious fashion to go after these guys,” Mr. Nickles said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide