To much of the city and even my colleagues on the Council, I think Ward 2 appears to be an idyllic place free of any major public safety problems. While it is true that Ward 2 contains the commercial center of the city and also benefits from the economic activity of our many wonderful shops, restaurants, and taverns, the presence of bustling evening and late night foot traffic necessarily results in unfortunate periodic acts of violence. Two issues of particular concern to me are the incidences of hate crimes in our neighborhoods and acts of violence associated with “promoters,” at various ABC establishments.
I have had a close working relationship with At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson in my long-time role on the Council’s Judiciary Committee. Phil and I share a commitment to reducing hate crimes and I appreciate him taking the time to schedule a number of regular hearings on this important topic. This is an issue which is quite familiar to me, as I worked very hard in the mid-90s to change District law to add sentencing enhancements to crimes which contain a hate component, and took a leadership role in helping to create the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit at MPD, among other efforts. I also want to highlight the progress of the “Bullying and Intimidation Prevention Act of 2011,” which I believe will have the impact of creating higher awareness and thus fewer incidents of hate crimes both now and in the future by educating our youth on the issue.
With regard to promoters, I introduced at our last legislative meeting a bill called the “Reimbursable Detail Expansion and Promoter Regulation Act of 2011.” This bill is designed to bring to the forefront of the Council’s legislative agenda the issue of violence associated with certain late night entertainment venues, particularly when so-called promoters are involved.
The bill I introduced would direct the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) to create regulations governing promoters, which has been the subject of discussion even prior to recent events. Promoters don’t have accountability to the government or the community the way an ABRA license-holder does, and creating a licensing process for them will help with this problem. My bill creates a framework for defining promoters, looking at items such as fee-sharing arrangements based on admission head counts, for example, while creating reasonable exemptions for performers and off-premises ticket sellers like Ticketmaster.
The other substantive section of the bill would impact participation in the reimbursable detail program, which provides for additional Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers on the streets, with costs being shared by bars and the city. The intent of my bill is to shift the presumption to require certain establishments to pay for adequate security unless they apply for and are granted an exemption. If, for example, an establishment is a restaurant by day but then has a second life as a kind of club a couple of nights a month, then that establishment would have to participate in the reimbursable detail program on entertainment nights unless ABRA grants them an exemption. On nights where promoters are involved, the extra security would always be required.
The introduction of this bill starts a conversation on the issue, and there will be an opportunity for residents and stakeholders to share views for how to refine the proposal going forward. I have heard a number of good ideas already, such as increasing the role of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions in the process or involving the Commander of the relevant police District in these decisions. There may also be a way to incorporate “special police” officers, who are not members of, but are licensed by MPD, into the security requirements. In contrast with MPD reimbursable detail officers who patrol the streets outside identified establishments, “special police” officers work inside an establishment and have arrest authority on the premises.
In short, while we still have substantial room for improvement, our work over the past two decades has resulted in increased public safety in the city and a dramatic decrease in crime in Ward 2. I appreciate the support of residents, business owners, and civic groups as we continue to enhance the city’s efforts to improve on this progress in the future.
Links added by Homicide Watch D.C.