Pugh says Hogan will direct millions of dollars to fight Baltimore violence

Mayor Catherine Pugh said Thursday that Gov. Larry Hogan plans to direct millions of dollars to help control violence in Baltimore with new technology, additional Police Department positions and an intervention program for at-risk youth.

The mayor said Hogan would send $9 million to cover some Police Department salaries and $600,000 for technology upgrades and training. She also said Hogan has agreed to help fund a program that would focus on 17- to 24-year-olds.

Talks between the mayor’s office and governor’s office are continuing. Pugh, a Democrat, said she expects to meet with the Republican governor soon to finalize an agreement amid soaring violence in the city. The governor’s office confirmed that the two have had “productive” talks but declined to confirm dollar amounts described by Pugh.

“We’re every excited,” Pugh said, calling the spending “part of our holistic plan” to address violence.

Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said that the “administration is committed to working with the city on additional state support, which is a process that is still ongoing and has not yet been finalized.”

“The governor, the mayor, and Baltimore City officials have had ongoing, productive conversations — including a meeting among top state and city law enforcement officials this past Monday — that have resulted in immediate state investment in targeted programs, including $2 million in funding for technology in patrol cars and 16 state parole and probation officers to assist Baltimore City Police,” Chasse said.

Pugh, in her first term as mayor, has come under fire from some who are demanding to see her plan for reducing violence in the city.

About 200 people gathered this week in Northeast Baltimore’s Darley Park neighborhood for a demonstration organized by Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, an influential group of churches and community organizations that is pushing Pugh to release her crime strategy. The rally was near the home a 97-year-old man who was recently killed, one of 208 homicide victims this year.

Pugh has said she has a written crime plan but has not made it public. She has repeatedly said she is leaning on her relationships with state and federal officials to secure additional resources for the city. She also said the police academy has its largest class in 15 years, thanks to stepped-up recruitment efforts.

The Police Department recently deployed 150 officers to special squads assigned to the city’s most violent pockets.

Also coming out of negotiations with the governor was a $2 million grant to provide laptops in patrol cars, Pugh said. The computers will allow officers to file reports from the field, run background checks and review outstanding warrants in real time.

She said she asked for $9 million to pay for 100 jobs that officers currently hold but could be carried out by civilians, allowing her to shift more officers to the street.

Pugh did not expand on how an additional $600,000 would be spent on technology and training, nor did she give more information on the youth intervention program. She said the youth program would cost in the ballpark of $17 million, but her staff later said details of the program and how much it will cost are still being developed.

Administration officials point to programs in Boston and other cities that connect young people to jobs and educational opportunities as a deterrent to violence.

“I look forward to sharing all of that,” Pugh said. “We’ve got another meeting coming up so we can finalize all of the commitments.”

Pugh said her plan must factor in a multi-disciplinary approach, de-escalation tactics and decisions about services the city can afford. She said she is reviewing the possibility of offering “small contracts” to individuals who can connect with hard-to-reach people, but she did not provide more details.

She declined to weigh in on a violence plan put forward by City Councilman Brandon Scott and the council’s Public Safety Committee. Scott, a frequent critic of Pugh’s, chairs the committee.

“I will have to wait and see what his plan is,” Pugh said. “I haven’t seen anything from Brandon Scott. Every Monday I have meeting times with council people. … The door swings wide open for them.”

The council committee’s plan includes a call for ways to improve school attendance of students who are chronically absent, work with fathers so more can take on a larger role in their families and expand a nighttime basketball league.

Scott said the funds announced by Pugh sounded good, especially funding for additional civilians at the police department. Scott said that’s an idea he’d long pushed as a way to cut costs and get more police doing frontline work. But he cautioned that some of the money might just be restoring funding that had previously been cut.

“What we have to be wary of with the governor is he’s not funding stuff,” Scott said. “There’s a lot of things that the previous administration did in the city that he doesn’t do.”

Chasse said the Hogan administration has directed “more than $64 million in additional funding” to the city over the years to help fight crime and enhance victim services.

Hogan and Pugh, a former state senator, met last month for a wide-ranging discussion on addressing city violence. The governor has called the dialogue “fruitful and productive.”

Neither has disclosed many details about their talks, although Pugh has said she asked Hogan to lend officers from the Maryland State Police, the Maryland Transit Administration and the Maryland Transportation Authority to help the city police force.

The governor has previously shied away from dispatching state police to patrol city streets, saying they lacked training to do "inner city, urban policing." He has said troopers could help with investigations or crime lab work.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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