D.C. crackdown on gun crime targeted Black wards, was not enforced citywide as announced

An initiative cracking down on gun crimes in the District targeted three predominantly Black wards and was not enforced citywide as announced, U.S. prosecutors acknowledged in court records, drawing attacks that the policy disproportionately subjected African American defendants to lengthier prison terms.

The geographic targeting of the program launched in February 2019 — under which felons caught illegally possessing guns are charged under federal statutes — was recently disclosed after a defendant challenged the program backed by D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D).

Though U.S. prosecutors said in court records that the program focused on the highest crime areas of the District as it struggled to stem spiking homicides, critics of the “felon-in-possession” program say the revelation confirms earlier fears that the anti-crime initiative would exacerbate problems of mass incarceration and overpolicing in Black communities.