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Press Release Published: May 16, 2023

Hearing Wrap Up: D.C.’s Crime Crisis Created by Soft-on-Crime Policies, Lack of Prosecutions

Congress and D.C. leaders can work together to advance meaningful solutions.   

WASHINGTON – Today, the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability held a hearing titled “Overdue Oversight of the Capital City: Part II.”At the hearing, members highlighted that the Committee remains committed to fulfilling its constitutional duty to conduct oversight of Washington, D.C. and will work with local officials to ensure a capital that is safe and prosperous for residents and visitors. Members emphasized that soft-on-crime policies pushed by the D.C. Council have left the District of Columbia suffering from unchecked, rising crime and a Metropolitan Police Department in desperate need of resources and funding. In addition, members slammed U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves for failing to prosecute 67% of arrests in the District in Fiscal Year 2022. Members also noted that maximum federal telework has created huge financial strains on the nation’s capital and stressed the importance of the federal workforce returning to the office. Members concluded that Congress and District leaders can continue to work together to achieve meaningful progress on the critical issues facing our capital city.

Key Takeaways:

The Oversight Committee has a constitutional responsibility to conduct robust oversight of D.C. and its policies to ensure that Americans’ capital city is well-managed and safe for all residents and visitors.

The nation’s capital has deteriorated and become one of the least safe cities in America due to soft-on-crime policies and law enforcement budget cuts pushed by radical D.C. Council members. The U.S. Attorney for District of Columbia, Matthew Graves, and his office have exacerbated the crime crisis by declining to prosecute 67% of criminal cases in Fiscal Year 2022.

The Oversight Committee and District of Columbia leaders can work together to advance solutions and achieve meaningful progress for the nation’s capital.   

Member Highlights:

Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) emphasized that the Committee’s objective is to work with District leaders to ensure a capital that is safe for all Americans. He stressed that at the Committee’s first hearing on March 29, members of the D.C. Council refused to acknowledge their soft-on-crime policies that emboldened criminals.

Chairman Comer: “Under Article I of the Constitution, Congress has jurisdiction over the nation’s capital. We want our nation’s capital to be a safe and prosperous city for its residents and visitors alike. But our nation’s capital is declining by several metrics. Crime has gone through the roof… Fifty-seven percent of these carjackings are committed by juveniles. Total property crime is up thirty percent. Homicides are on track for the highest rate since 2003. D.C. clearly has a crime crisis. At this Committee’s March 29 hearing, members of the D.C. Council refused to acknowledge this reality. But the numbers speak for themselves. The residents of D.C. and Americans who come to visit their nation’s capital deserve to be safe.”

Chairman Comer also noted that he recently had a productive meeting with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and stated that she has committed to tackling rising crime in D.C. In addition, he highlighted the importance of the SHOW UP Act and the need for the federal workforce to return to the office to adequately serve the American people.          

Chairman Comer: “Do you agree, especially in the case of violent criminals, it’s important that there be consequences after an arrest for there to be prosecution and jail time where appropriate?”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser: “I do… It’s our job to make sure we are all working together to make the District safer.”

Chairman Comer: “This January, I introduced the SHOW UP Act which passed the House in February. The SHOW Up Act will require agencies to return to pre-pandemic levels with respect to telework. Do you support the idea that federal workers should once again return to work?”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser: “I absolutely support that.”   

Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) stressed that the D.C. Council is largely responsible for the crime crisis in the nation’s capital because of soft-on-crime policies pushed by its members. He also described how D.C. public schools are underperforming, and that local children are severely behind academically.   

Rep. Grothman: “I appreciate that you have taken on your city council on issues related to crime. At least on the face of it, it doesn’t seem preventing crime is their top priority… I also want to talk a little bit about your schools. You are spending 22,000 per pupil which is one of the highest in the country. If you go down the test scores, only 31% of your students read at or above grade level. 19% pass grade-level math. This is concerning.”       

Rep. Jake LaTurner (R-Kansas) pointed out that D.C. is suffering from rising crime and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Matthew Graves, and his office have declined to prosecute a high amount of District criminal cases.

Rep. LaTurner: “Maintaining public order and safety is a fundamental responsibility of government. I was mortified to learn that Mr. Graves declined to prosecute 67% of arrests in Washington, D.C. last year. That is an astronomically high number. Just seven years ago that number was 35%. And for context, Chicago, which is grappling with its own crime wave, declined only 14% of cases last year. We simply can’t combat criminals with prosecutorial pacifism… Can you please describe the state of police morale? Would you say the D.C. Council’s emergency police reform is contributing to the growing violence in D.C.?”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser: “Policing is a tough profession. Making sure we have the right policy environment to support our police is also one of my big jobs… when police make arrests, they can have some certainty that their work is going to be respected throughout our public safety ecosystem.” 

Rep. LaTurner: “I take it from your statement that you were very critical of Mr. Graves for declining the prosecution of 67% of arrests. Is that correct?”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser: “I want to make sure that all of the work of our Metropolitan Police is carefully considered as it moves through the justice system.”

 Rep. LaTurner: “That’s sounds like carefully worded criticism but criticism, nonetheless. Mr. Graves your policies are directly endangering the public.”

Rep. LaTurner asked U.S. Attorney Graves for clarification on how many individuals his office declined to prosecute who were eventually charged with homicide.

Rep. LaTurner: “In how many instances have you declined to prosecute someone who was eventually charged with homicide?”

U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves: “I am not aware. I would like to check…”

Rep. LaTurner: “You don’t know for a fact? I would assume you would keep some sort of record…” 

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) emphasized that the D.C. Council’s radical policies have jeopardized the safety of Americans who visit and live in the District. She also noted that D.C. sexual abuse cases have risen dramatically and stressed that U.S. Attorney Graves needs to prosecute criminal cases. 

Rep. Luna: “The D.C. Council’s decision rewrite the criminal code was thankfully overturned… I have constituents that come that don’t feel safe walking around. I don’t feel safe walking around. And when you had a fellow member of congress attacked by someone who had a criminal record and then had a failure of prosecution, that doesn’t signal a safe city. In fact, sexual abuse offenses have increased over 48% from 2022 to 2023. Mr. Graves, you have actively chosen to ignore certain cases. It’s impacted people who are relying on you to do your job.”    

Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) highlighted that total crime, motor vehicle theft, homicides, sexual abuse, and property crime are all rising in the nation’s capital in 2023. She stressed that U.S. Attorney Graves needs to hold criminals accountable, especially repeat offenders.    

Rep. McClain: “As of May 2023, total crime is up 27% in the District. Motor vehicle theft up 110%. Homicides up 12%. Sexual abuse up 53%. And property crime is up 30%. That is not a good position for law abiding citizens to be in. What is the consequence to your actions? According to Police Chief Robert Contee, the average homicide suspect had been arrested 11 times prior to them committing the homicide… Actions need to have consequences.”

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) also pointed out that crime in D.C. is up significantly this year compared to any year in the past decade. She hopes that visitors who travel from around the world can eventually experience a safe and prosperous city.   

Rep. Mace: “We want to project strength, peace and safety for folks who are out here. We have a high rate of tourism here. D.C.’s out of control crime must be taken seriously and addressed swiftly… I want to recognize the mayor for her efforts with the police force and adding more police. More needs to be done and I am sure you recognize that as well.”   

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) blasted U.S. Attorney Graves for failing to fulfill his job responsibilities and commended the Metropolitan Police Department for upholding the rule of law.

Rep. Donalds: “Mr. Graves, you need to do your job. You have a responsibility to the residents of the District. If you’re not going to do the job of standing behind Chief Contee and the work he and his team at the Metropolitan Police Department do then you are selling them down the river… I have seen MPD do their job. You are not doing your job. I have found it to be disgusting frankly. Uphold the law. That will make it easier for Chief Contee and the Mayor to do theirs.”

Comer: This Committee and DC Leaders Must Come Together to Address Rising Crime in Our Nation’s Capital

CLICK HERE to watch the hearing.