Governor Hogan announces plan to fight violent crime in Baltimore

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced a package of initiatives Tuesday aimed at curbing violent crime in Baltimore — ordering increased state patrols in high-crime areas and promising an “aggressive sweep” arresting criminals wanted on outstanding warrants.

Flanked by top law enforcement officials from around the state — but not from Baltimore — Hogan argued that courts have grown too soft on violent crime and need to get tougher.

“Today’s press conference is about immediate actions,” Hogan said. “Obviously, things like community centers, summer jobs and free college tuition are things we can address. Maybe they have an impact longer-term on crime, but they have nothing to do whatsoever with immediately taking these criminals off the streets.”

He reiterated his criticism that Mayor Catherine Pugh’s anti-violence plan focuses too much on providing services to young people to prevent crime in the future instead of fighting crime today.

“I didn’t consider that to be an immediate violent crime plan or strategy, and I still don’t,” he said.

Pugh said she hadn’t heard the governor’s full comments and would wait until Wednesday to respond. She added that her crime plan includes putting more officers on patrol and improving police training and technology.

Hogan’s plan includes beefed-up patrols in the city by state police agencies, including the state police and transportation agencies, as well as increased monitoring of people on parole and probation, more outside assistance for serving warrants, the creation of a cross-jurisdictional crime-fighting council and legislation that calls for longer sentences for violent criminals.

It comes as the city is on pace to end 2017 with more than 1,000 shootings.

“Let me be crystal clear: I have absolutely no tolerance whatsoever for these repeat violent offenders and these criminal gangs causing lawlessness in our streets,” Hogan said.

The governor said there were more than 300 drug-trafficking organizations in Maryland last year; 10,000 people associated with gangs; and more than 5,000 guns involved in crimes.

Hogan’s measures include:

  • A new Governor’s Council on Gangs and Violent Criminal Networks made up of prosecutors and police to fight gang crime. The council will be chaired by Carroll County State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo.
  • A new intelligence network to help police and prosecutors better share data across the state and with federal law enforcement.
  • Expanded patrols by Maryland State Police and other state law enforcement agencies in high-crime areas.
  • Assistance from Maryland State Police in serving high-priority warrants.
  • More than 200 parole and probation officers to track down offenders.
  • An “aggressive sweep” across the city with 80 U.S. marshals and federal officers on high-priority warrants.
  • New legislation to increase minimum sentences for repeat violent offenders.
  • New “truth-in-sentencing” legislation that would require second-time violent criminals to serve their full sentence and make them ineligible for parole.
  • Expedited demolition of vacant homes in high-crime areas.

“There are far too many violent gang members terrorizing the streets of Baltimore,” Hogan said.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said he welcomed the additional resources.

“I know the Mayor and Governor are working collaboratively with the Baltimore Police Department to reduce violence in Baltimore. Designating additional State resources and enhancing ongoing initiatives are appreciated by me and the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department,” Davis said in a statement. “I appreciate the opportunity to serve on the Governor’s Council on Gangs and Violent Criminal Networks.”

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said she looked “forward to learning more about the Governor’s legislative package and intelligence efforts to help combat the havoc that violence is inflicting on our city.”

State Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said he didn’t see many new ideas in the governor’s announcement.

“I am pleased the governor is adopting a majority of the coordinating strategies we put forth six months ago,” he said of the crime plan issued by the state lawmakers of southeast Baltimore. “I’m glad the governor is turning his attention to the crisis we face. There was a lot of emphasis on the hammer. But effective crime-fighting requires more tools than just the hammer.”

City Councilman Eric T. Costello thanked Hogan for the support.

“We need all of the State resources available to us in support of our public safety efforts in Baltimore City,” Costello wrote on Twitter. “The Governor's announcement today is a great step in the right direction to immediately address some of our current challenges. Thank you Governor.”

Last week, Hogan expressed concern about Pugh's crime-fighting strategy and said he would release some of his own proposals this week.

Hogan said he believes the rise in violent crime in Baltimore is due to soft enforcement of laws by city judges at the same time gang activity and drug trafficking is on the rise.

“People are getting slapped on the wrist in Baltimore City,” Hogan said. “Gang activity is up. Heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil are out of control. … It’s been a very difficult situation for the mayor and a very difficult situation for the police commissioner. I believe both them are working very hard. We’re not trying to criticize those efforts. We’re just trying to provide whatever help we can.”

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

twitter.com/lukebroadwater

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