Council Adds Homicide Closure Measure to Secure DC Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The D.C. Council approved a provision in the Secure DC omnibus legislation Tuesday that will pave the way to giving police and prosecutors a tool to close more homicide and other cases by ensuring greater safety and support for witnesses to crimes.

The amendment, proposed by Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau, Ward 1, would launch a comprehensive study to evaluate the effectiveness of the District’s existing witness assistance programs and make policy recommendations.

The study is one element of a larger bill introduced last November by Nadeau –the Case Closure and Witness Support Amendment Act of 2023 – which would substantially increase rewards for witnesses who provide information leading to conviction in homicide cases and provide substantially more support to witnesses, including relocation assistance, housing expenses, childcare, and other supports.

“Giving testimony in a murder case comes with significant risks and costs – a reason that so many people decline to testify, and why we need to support witnesses who come forward,” Nadeau said. “Information provided by witnesses is highly valuable to law enforcement as they work to solve homicide cases, and we need to close more homicide cases.”

While there are already witness assistance resources and victim support programs in the District, they are scattered – some coordinated by MPD, others by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other federal and regional partners. There is no accounting of the overall budget for witness support. There is also no tracking of how many witnesses who need relocation assistance do not get matched with safe housing or return to a place where their lives are at risk. Unlike in other states, there is no existing law on the books that establishes a witness support program or its goals and responsibilities.

“We have no way of knowing whether this critical public safety need is getting adequate resources,” Nadeau said. “We must base decisions on thorough research aimed at bolstering case closure and prosecution success rates.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office collaborated with Nadeau and requested additions to the study, which were included in the final legislation. Mayor Muriel Bowser also suggested topics for research in the study.

This study will include an overview of current programs and operations in D.C., an evaluation of witness relocation success rates for safety and security, an assessment of service overlaps or gaps, the establishment of recommended performance metrics for improved coordination between local and federal agencies, a review of national best practices, and policy recommendations for funding and program enhancements.


Nadeau amendment text (download)


Councilmember Nadeau sent the following letter to the City Administrator and the Director of the Office of Unified Communications on Tuesday to express her deep concern over the 911 dispatch center's ongoing failure to dispatch assistance where it is needed. She called the failures "alarming and unacceptable."
Traffic safety is public safety. Working together with DPW, we are making it harder to be a dangerous driver in D.C.
Over the past year, my Council colleagues and I have been laser-focused on improving public safety in the District. Every Ward 1 resident deserves to feel safe in their home and their neighborhood. I’d like to provide you with this update on my work in this critical area.

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