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After car with 4-month-old girl inside was stolen, 7News On Your Side examines how DC Council is addressing car thefts

A large police presence in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington D.C. after a white Jeep was stolen with a baby inside (Andrew Wafford/7News)
A large police presence in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington D.C. after a white Jeep was stolen with a baby inside (Andrew Wafford/7News)
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D.C. Council is currently considering a handful of public safety bills with measures specifically targeting carjackings, but 7News On Your Side is digging deeper into these pieces of proposed legislation to see if they would include provisions to combat car thefts like the Friday night case during which a car with a 4-month-old baby girl in the back seat was stolen before the thieves abandoned the infant outside a total stranger's Southeast D.C. home.

In that Friday incident, MPD officials said the SUV with the baby still inside was stolen on the 3000 block of M Street NW in Georgetown, but the baby was found less than an hour later on the porch of a home on the 2700 block of Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

"When I opened the door, the baby was here simply, didn’t see anybody. It was suspicious that a car was leaving very quickly," said the woman who lives in the home where the baby was abandoned.

MPD officials are still investigating what exactly led up to this car theft, but said these cases typically happen when the person who owns the car is away from the vehicle while it is still running.

"In the District of Columbia, we often see it from cars that are idling and individuals hop in and steal the vehicles while they're idling. It's unfortunate that a 4-month-old child was in the back seat," said Darnel Robinson, the MPD Assistant Chief of Patrol Services North.

7News is On Your Side, taking a closer look at how city lawmakers are tackling the issue of car thefts.

After Friday's incident, 8C04 ANC Commissioner Erica Green said she wants to see action from city leaders on this crime.

"It's pretty awful to have a child - a baby, an infant - in the back of a car and left abandoned in the freezing cold," Green said.

D.C. Council has made the often-more-violent crime of carjacking a priority when drafting public safety bills in response to soaring crime in the city.

That's because the District saw 959 carjackings in 2023, almost double the cases from the year before.

Car thefts in 2023 also nearly doubled compared to the year before. However, there were 6,785 car thefts for the year, more than seven times the number of carjackings. The city is keeping pace this year so far, with 86 car thefts already in 2024 - matching the number of these crimes at the same time last year.

Whether it's through a theft or a forceful carjacking, MPD officials have said stolen cars have been used in the commission of other crimes - something Green told 7News was the case for one of her coworkers who had a car stolen.

"A teacher that I've taught with in the District of Columbia Public Schools showed me a video of her car being stolen, and then shared that vehicle was used to commit several robberies," Green said. "You don't have the right to take my property and carry out heinous acts against other human beings. You're committing an act of violence against me and others. You don't have the right to do that. That's not non-violent."

Over the summer, 7News On Your Side also exclusively reported on stolen vehicles being sold to buyers from as far away as West Africa being intercepted at the Port of Baltimore.

7News has extensively reported on the public safety bills D.C. Council is considering in response to the spike in crime in 2023.

Councilmembers approved an emergency public safety bill in July, which included a provision that made carjacking a crime for which a judge could hold a suspect in jail until their trial begins. Since it was an emergency bill, it only stayed in effect for 90 days and expired in October.

The D.C. Council extended that emergency bill, which included the same measures, but that bill will expire on January 14, which is just a week away.

In the meantime, councilmembers have introduced bills that include some of the provisions seen in the emergency bill, in an attempt to make them permanent.

Councilmember Brooke Pinto, who is the chair of D.C. Council's Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, introduced a bill that would include the measure of carjacking as a crime that could prevent you from being released from jail until your trial begins, making that a permanent part of the city's code, while also expanding the definition of carjacking.

"A person commits the offense of carjacking if, by any means, that person knowingly or recklessly by force or violence, whether against resistance or by sudden or stealthy seizure or snatching, or by putting in fear, or attempts to do so, shall take a motor vehicle from the person or presence of another, or that person knowingly or recklessly by force or violence, or by putting in fear, shall take a key to a motor vehicle from the immediate actual possession of another, with the purpose and effect of taking the motor vehicle of another,” that measure states.

It's not clear if Friday night's car theft would fall under this new definition.

7News On Your Side asked Pinto's office the following questions:

  1. I know a lot of attention has been paid to carjackings with the public safety bills currently up for debate. Are any bills specifically targeting auto thefts?
  2. Will Councilmember Pinto consider adding auto thefts as crimes for which a suspect can be held in jail until trial?
  3. How exactly does the council plan to address auto thefts, since there were so many more of these crimes than carjackings?

Her office has not responded as of time of publication.

While Friday's incident ended with the baby being found unharmed, residents like Green said they're worried that may not necessarily be the case in future similar crimes.

"We certainly need strict laws in place to keep people who break the law accountable for their actions," Green said. "We need to re-define violence. Violence is anything that threatens peace... If someone stealing a vehicle, that's violence. That's my property. That's a violent, aggressive, horrible thing."

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