Tough Penalties In D.C. Antigang Law Rarely Invoked


Washington, D.C., Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the city’s anti-gang law is rarely used to its full extent by prosecutors and has had “little impact” on preventing gang crime. The law, enacted in 2006, was supposed to generate tougher penalties in cases involving gang activity. Defendants can face up to five more years in prison if their crimes are found to be gang-related. The U.S. attorney’s office, which prosecutes adult defendants, has used the law twice. The D.C. attorney general’s office, which handles cases involving juveniles, has brought charges under the law 12 times but has not fully enforced it, Lanier said.

“These charges were later dropped through plea agreements or because prosecuting attorneys were satisfied with other felony or violent misdemeanor convictions,” Lanier said of the juvenile cases. Her assessment came in a statement to the D.C. Council and was first reported by the Washington Examiner. Gangs and crews have been a persistent problem in Washington. Officials point to fighting among neighborhood groups as one of the reasons homicides and other gun violence increased last year.


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