Pinto releases plans to tackle crime as violent summer ends

Package of plans released Monday drew criticism from D.C. judges concerned about the legality of proposed searches

D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) released a set of proposals Monday intended to shape the council’s response to a surge in crime across the city — including provisions to allow police to randomly search people charged with violent offenses who are on pretrial release, which drew immediate pushback from judges.

While the council passed a stopgap emergency measure amid spiking crime in July, Pinto’s combination of preexisting plans and new ideas seeks to provide a more robust response by, for example, increasing crime prevention and surveillance in highly trafficked areas and forcing people convicted of gun crimes to submit to more onerous restrictions or penalties. Pinto, who chairs the council’s public safety committee, also plans to move a permanent version of the emergency legislation that passed in July, which expanded pretrial detention for adults and juveniles charged with violent crimes.

“This package certainly does not solve all of the inequities and challenges that we’re experiencing in our city, many of which play a major role in leading to more crime,” Pinto said. “What I will say is that this bill and package has a number of initiatives that will prevent crime,” such as setting up a hospitality industry program at the D.C. jail and increasing emergency communications and surveillance along public transit.

But some provisions Pinto put forth Monday are likely to provoke significant debate this fall, underscoring the complexities of reform in the District as homicides remain on track to surpass a quarter-century high.

In a letter sent to Pinto just hours after she released the legislation, chief judges on the D.C. Superior Court and Court of Appeals warned that the measure allowing police to conduct warrantless searches without probable cause — at any time, anywhere in public — could be illegal. The searches also could apply to people on post-conviction probation, parole or supervision.

Without understanding the legal basis, “the proposed legislation appears to violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on warrantless searches of individuals without probable cause,” D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Anita Josey-Herring and Court of Appeals Chief Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby wrote in a letter to Pinto on Monday.

D.C.’s leaders have faced increased scrutiny as they have struggled to strike a balance between holding violent offenders accountable and not over-incarcerating or over-policing neighborhoods — especially in a liberal city that has sought to come to terms with the racially disproportionate impacts of its criminal justice system.