Page images
PDF
EPUB

There are 33 fees in all and there is attached the Commissioner's statement a list of those fees. Since some of these statutes date back to the 1870's, it is not surprising that, in certain instances, the fee originally fixed no longer reflects the cost of the municipal service involved. Rather than periodically requiring Congress to amend sep, arately each act which sets a fee, S. 1338 provides that the city council would be authorized to set the fees. I would note that the council already has authority to establish a large number of similar fees. Under S. 1338, the city council would review the fees specified and revise them whenever necessary. The bill requires that the council determine the appropriate fee in each case after public hearing and after consideration of both the administrative costs of the program to the District and the public interest.

I believe that S. 1338 will provide an efficient and fair means of setting the fees specified in the bill. At the same time, the bill returns to the city government responsibility and authority for functions which are clearly of a local nature.

Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement on S. 1338.

Senator STEVENSON. In the attachment relating to fees a column is headed “Amount”.

What are the present fees?

Mr. WATT. Those are the present fees established by statute and amended by Congress.

Senator STEVENSON. Those am nts are established in the statute. Under the new law the amounts would be determined by the City Council ?

Mr. WATT. That is correct.

As my statement indicates, the Council is already authorized and empowered to set a number of similar fees. The distinction between those which the Council has already been authorized to set, and those which remained on this list, is not at all clear.

It is really a hodgepodge of divisions of responsibility.

Senator STEVENSON. I would not anticipate any objections to that proposal either, Mr. Watt.

It is my suggestion that we move on to the next bill.

S. 2209

Mr. Wart. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear today to testify on S. 2209, the proposed District of Columbia Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Act.

This bill is identical to legislation submitted to the Congress by the Commissioner on June 7, 1971, and I would ask that a copy of the Commissioner's transmittal letter and related material be included in the record.

Senator STEVENSON. To be so included. Mr. Watt. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. (The documents follow :)

THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA,

Washington, D.C., June 7, 1971. The PRESIDENT, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C.

DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: The Commissioner of the District of Columbia has the honor to submit herewith for consideration by the Congress a draft bill “Relating to crime and law enforcement in the District of Columbia", to be cited as the “District of Columbia Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Act."

The purposes of this proposed legislation, which are more fully set out in the attached summary and justification, can be briefly stated as follows:

Title I would prohibit the unauthorized use and possession of credit cards in the District.

Title II would regulate certain dealers in second-hand personal property in order to restrict the sale or trade of stolen merchandise.

Title III would amend existing law relating to assaults on policemen to prohibit acts not otherwise considered an assault.

Title IV would prohibit the possession of "flash paper" and "water soluble paper", so as to limit the ability of those involved in gambling enterprises to destroy certain evidence.

Title V would authorize members of the Metropolitan Police force or U.S. Park Police, and the U.S. Marshal and his deputies, to seize motor vehicles used in narcotics violations.

Title VI would authorize the District to more fully utilize police reserve corps volunteers for active police duties.

Title VII would allow the issuance of motor vehicle operators' permits, without cost, to police officers driving police vehicles in the District.

Title VIII would authorize such appropriations as necessary for inmate pay and incentive pay for prisoners employed under the auspices of the District Government.

Title IX would authorize the District to become a signatory member of the Interstate Parole and Probation Compact, thereby enabling it to participate in a nation-wide program in which the various jurisdictions serve as each other's agent in the supervision of persons on probation or parole.

Title X would authorize the Parole Board to credit "street time" for a prisoner whose parole is revoked.

Titles XI and XII make certain perfecting amendments to existing law. For the reasons stated in the attached summary and justification, the Commissioner of the District of Columbia urges the enactment of this proposed legislation in the belief it will aid in law enforcement and the administration of criminal justice in the District.

The Office of Management and Budget has advised that, from the standpoint of the Administration's program, there is no objection to the submission of this proposed legislation to the Congress. Sincerely yours,

GRAHAM W. WATT,

Assistant to the Commissioner. For WALTER E. WASHINGTON,

Commissioner. Attachments.

SUMMARY AND JUSTIFICATION OF THE PROPOSED DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA LAW

ENFORCEMENT AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE ACT

TITLE I-PROHIBIT THE UNAUTHORIZED USE AND POSSESSION OF CREDIT CARDS

Title I of the proposed bill would define credit card abuse and establish penalties for that offense. Such conduct in the District of Columbia must now be prosecuted under statutes relating to forgery, false pretenses, larcency, robbery, or receiving stolen goods. A statute specifically proscribing the most flagrant abuses of credit cards is needed.

The fraudulent use of credit cards is one of the fastest growing criminal activities throughout the nation. In a report compiled by United Press International in the latter part of 1967, total losses were estimated at $150 million annually, with organized crime deriving $100 million a year from credit card rackets. In the past two years, the amount of credit outstanding under bank credit cards alone has more than doubled. Increases of credit outstanding under department store and oil company credit cards have also been recorded. The continued growth of the use of credit cards is inevitable; a corresponding growth in the number of frauds will not be avoided unless strong measures are taken to combat this crime.

In the past year, criminal indictments in Chicago and New York City, to mention only two metropolitan areas, have charged organized credit card swindles involving more than 12 million dollars. Investigations of such frauds by postal inspectors have increased over 700 per cent in the past four years. Recently, an official of the First National City Bank of New York testified before a State legis lative committee that "demands for stolen credit cards by the organized underworld far surpassed the supply.” Prices paid for cards, he said, go as high as $200 each.

Credit cards are unique in that many relatively small transactions can be fraudulently effected in a short period of time in scattered locations. High total credit charges may be accumulated before a card holder even realizes the loss of his card. Moreover, the time required to simply communicate a card loss to all business organizations honoring the card gives ample time for multiple criminal acts to be committed.

Although all major metropolitan areas have experienced an expanding pattern of criminal credit card activities, a survey of a nationwide department store chain showed that the Washington area leads the country in credit frauds. Offenses in greater Washington have more than doubled annually for the last three years, causing losses in the millions which must be absorbed by local consumers and businessmen. Credit cards are being sold and rented daily on the streets of the District of Columbia. Prices charged range from $25 to $100 each.

The local traffic in stolen credit cards is either the objective or the profitable by-product of robberies, purse-snatchings and muggings. Merchants report that perpetrators of credit card thefts and frauds often are drug users who use this form of crime to support their habits. There is little doubt that the proceeds of credit frauds are funneled to suppliers of illicit drugs as well as to "fences" and other receivers of sto goods.

Forty-nine States have laws on their statute books specifically relating to credit card abuses. Only the State of Louisiana and the District of Columbia are lacking in this regard. Some States have very comprehensive laws relating to credit card crimes ; a law enacted in the neighboring Commonwealth of Virginia is an example. The State of Maryland in 1967 amended its bad check law to include credit card frauds. A broad comprehensive credit card crime act was introduced in the Maryland legislature in January of this year, but was not enacted before adjournment.

As stated, the District of Columbia has no law on the books designed specifically to deal with credit card crimes. Prosecutions must now be based on generalized statutes of forgery, larceny and false pretenses. The lack of specific law unduly complicates the investigation and handling of credit card crimes.

The Commissioner recommends strong, specific credit card crime legislation for a number of reasons. For one, the lack of such specific laws probably leads criminal elements to believe that there is a loophole in existing law, and thus encourages them to think they can take advantage, with impunity, of this gap in the local criminal code. If clear prohibitions are provided in the law, this will in itself be a deterrent to attemts to commit credit card frauds. Further, the law of larceny in the District requires a taking plus a criminal intent. This is a difficult burden to sustain when it is so easily alleged that a credit card was merely found or given to the person possessing a credit card belonging to another. Under this title the willful withholding of a card without the issuer's or cardholder's consent, or the unjustified possession of a credit card belonging to another, would be sufficient to establish a violation. Further, under District of Columbia law there is no clear-cut provision to deal with a person who sells or rents a credit card to another person who uses it fraudulently.

One particularly vexing problem is with respect to the multiple use of a stolen credit card. Here, losses may run up into many hundreds or thousands of dollars, but each transaction may consist of less than one hundred dollars. In such instances, the charge under present law is only one or more misdemeanors. Title I would permit the accumulation of all offenses during a six-month period for purposes of determining whether the charge should be a felony or misdemeanor.

The proposed legislation is not intended to replace existing remedies now provided in the District law to counter credit card frauds. Its purpose is to complement existing laws, including that relating to larceny, false pretenses and forgery. For example, the District of Columbia forgery law (D.C. Code, sec. 22–1401) would continue to apply with respect to credit cards which are stolen.

The wrongful possession and the fraudulent use and sale or other transfer of credit cards, specifically prohibited in this title, have proven to be extremely costly to law abiding citizens, merchants, and those who issue credit cards. It is apparent that existing laws are not adequate to deal with this serious and growing problem.

TITLE II-LICENSING SECOND-HAND DEALERS

Pursuant to the Act approved July 3, 1956 (D.C. Code, sec 47–2339), the District of Columbia is authorized to license and regulate certain dealers in second-hand personal property. Any business in the District which buys or sells second-hand personal property is presently regulated by provisions contained in the Police Regulations. Such businesses as pawn shops, second-hand furniture stores, and certain large department stores are required to obtain a license as second-hand personal property dealers from the Metropolitan Police Department. These businesses are required to submit daily reports to the Metropolitan Police Department of all items of second-hand, personal property which come into their possession. The regulations also require such dealers to hold these items of property for 15 days before disposing of the property in any way.

This regulatory procedure is an extremely important law enforcement tool. Large quantities of stolen property are recovered each year because of the reporting requirements. If a citizen's apartment is burglarized and certain items of property are stolen, the Police Department is immediately notified if the thief sells that property to any dealer in second-hand personal property. Not only will the stolen property be recovered and returned to the true owner, but important investigative leads will thereby be provided which may lead to the ascertainment of the identity of the felon.

At present, approximately 275 dealers in second-hand personal property are licensed and regulated pursuant to statute. In recent years, it has come to the attention of the Metropolitan Police Department that approximately 25 or 30 businesses in the District of Columbia which, in effect, deal in second-hand personal property, are expressly excluded by statute from regulation. These businesses, which include certain jewelry stores, camera shops, household appliance stores, and stores selling office equipment, obtain possession of second-hand personal property as partial payment for the sale of new or rebuilt personal property. As these stores are not required to report to the police any item of second-hand personal property which they obtain, persons who have stolen property such as jewelry, typewriters, or cameras, will take such items to one of these stores and “trade it in" for new or rebuilt typewriters, jewelry, or cameras.

Since a great deal of stolen property is disposed of in this manner, an amendment to existing law which would permit the District to regulate these 25 or 30 businesses would be an important additional law enforcement tool. The additional burden which would be placed thereby on these businesses would be relatively minor—a burden already carried by some 275 other second-hand dealers in the District of Columbia. The benefit to law enforcement and the public in recovering substantial quantities of stolen property and identifying felons would, however, be substantial.

TITLE III-ASSAULTS AGAINST POLICE OFFICERS AND FIREMEN

The District of Columbia, as the seat of the Federal Government, has been the site of many peaceful demonstrations in recent years. Occasionally, however, some groups of citizens have gone beyond peaceful demonstration and have resorted to violence.

During a number of recent demonstrations there have been incidents in which persons have thrown rocks, bottles, broken glass, and even Molotov cocktails at police lines and at firemen, causing, in some cases, injury to officers and members of the Departments. Ostensibly, whenever any police officer is injured by an object thrown by a demonstrator, the latter can be charged with assault on a police officer or assoult with a dangerous weapon, As a practical matter, however, such a prosecution is not feasible. In order to successfully prosecute a charge of assault on a police officer or assault with a deadly weapon the Government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant assaulted the particular officer who was injured. In demonstrations a police line may be established in front of which may be a crowd of hundreds of persons. Those who are intent upon throwing missiles at the police line may remain deep in the crowd and hurl their missiles in the general vicinity of the police line. Even should an officer see a particular demonstrator throwing a missile, the Government would be unable to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, at which police officer the missile was being thrown. In fact, when the individual throws the missile, his intention often is not to assault a particular police officer; but rather that by chance the missile will hit and injure any police officer who happens to be within range. As a consequence officers are injured by these randomly-hurled missiles, and the individals throwing such missiles cannot be readily prosecuted for assault on a police officer or assault with a dangerous weapon. Under present law, the only criminal violation which can be charged is that provided under section 22–1109 of the D.C. Code relating to the throwing of stones or missiles. This law, enacted in 1892, provides as a maximum penalty a fine of $5.00.

In order to fill this serious gap in the criminal law of the District, it is proposed that the penalty for throwing missiles be substantially increased, and that the offense be extended to include members of any fire department operating in the District of Columbia.

TITLE IV—PROHIBIT POSSESSION OF FLASH PAPER OR WATER SOLUBLE PAPER

Flash paper is specially treated with chemicals such as nitric acid and when heat or flame is applied to it, is almost instantaneously consumed leaving little or no ash. Water soluble paper, when dropped into a bucket of water, almost completely dissolves when the water is agitated. These two kinds of paper have in recent years been consistently used by organized gambling operations to keep records of illicit bets. Gamblers use this paper so that in the event of a raid, they can quickly drop a match into the pile of paper or drop the paper into a container of water as the officers are coming in and thereby destroy the evidence of their illicit gambling activities. The officers see only a yellow burst of flame if the gamblers use flash paper. If the gambler is using water soluble paper, the officers merely find a container of milky white water with colored ink suspended in it.

At the present time two companies within the United States manufacture flash paper. Water soluble paper is manufactured only in Europe and Japan. The sole legitimate use for flash paper is as a novelty item. Amateur magicians sometimes use it because of its surprisingly quick combustion. From a public policy point of view, the value of this very limited legitimate use of flash paper is far outweighed by the harmful illicit use of flash paper by illegal gambling operations. At present, organized gamblers can buy flash paper in large quantities on the open market at novelty shops. By making possession of flash paper and water soluble paper illegal, organized gamblers will not be able to buy so easily this relatively expensive type of paper on the open market. Consequently, it will be less likely that gambers will continue to use this paper to readily destroy the evidence of their illicit activities.

TITLE V-AUTHORITY TO SEIZE MOTOR VEHICLES USED IN NARCOTIC VIOLATIONS

Title V would authorize the seizure by any member of the Metropolitan Police force or the United States Park Police, or by the United States Marshal for the District of Columbia or any of his deputies, of conveyances used in narcotics violations, in like manner as they are presently authorized to be seized in connection with gambling violations (D.C. Code, sec. 22–1505). Such authority will constitute a useful enforcement tool and obviate the present unsatisfactory procedures whereby the Metropolitan Police Department relies on the Federal Bureau of Narcotics to seize vehicles used in narcotics violations under a provision of the Federal statute.

TITLE VI–AUTHORIZE THE DISTRICT TO MORE FULLY UTILIZE POLICE RESERVE CORPS

VOLUNTEERS FOR ACTIVE POLICE DUTY The purpose of title VI is to authorize the District Government to select, organize, train, and equip reserve police officers for duty in connection with the policing of the District of Columbia. The Commissioner would, in addition, be

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »