D.C. City Council Approves Bill to Pay Residents not to Commit Crimes

A similiar program in California pays participants up to $9,000 a year.

The Washington D.C. City Council unanimously approved a program to pay residents not to commit crimes. The program is modeled after a similar California program that supporters say has helped lower the crime rate there.

Under the bill, city officials would identify up to 200 people a year who are considered at risk of either committing or becoming victims of violent crime. Those people would be directed to participate in behavioral therapy and other programs. If they fulfill those obligations and stay out of trouble, they would be paid.

The bill doesn't specify the value of the stipends, but participants in the California program receive up to $9,000 per year.

D.C. has experienced a surge in crime rates, with a 54% increase in homicides last year. According to Councilman Kenyan McDuffie (D) who introduced the bill, spending $9k on stipends "pales in comparison" to someone being victimized or the cost of incarceration.

"I want to prevent violent crime — particularly gun violence — by addressing the root causes and creating opportunities for people, particularly those individuals who are at the highest risks of offending," McDuffie, a former prosecutor, said in a letter.

The Mayor, Murian Bowser, (D) has not yet agreed to fund the program, the cost of which is estimated to be around $4.9m over 4 years. 

In Richmond, 79 percent of "fellows" participating in the program have not been suspected of involvement in any gun crimes since joining the program, and 84 percent have not been injured by gunfire, the program's executive director, DeVone Boggan, said in a report to the Council.

Richmond experienced a 77 percent drop in homicides between 2007, when the program was launched, and 2014, although how much can be specifically attributed to the stipends is unclear.

One councilwoman testified against the program. Dorothy Brizill, a civic activist said it wastes taxpayer dollars.

"These incentive programs don't work," Brizill said.