Gov. Larry Hogan says he plans to meet with Baltimore judges, prosecutors and politicians to discuss why more violent offenders aren’t being held in jail longer.
The governor called it “outrageous” that 60 percent of gun offenders convicted in Baltimore have more than half their sentences suspended — a frequent complaint of the police department.
“I’m going to ask the judges directly, ‘What does it take to get these repeat violent offenders off the streets?” Hogan said in an interview. Doug Mayer, a spokesman for the governor, said later the meeting was “being organized” and would be held before the end of the month.
Hogan met with federal law enforcement officials Thursday to discuss the city’s crime problem. He said they discussed prosecuting more violent offenders in federal court and designating more city prosecutors to press federal charges.
“I called in the U.S. Attorney, FBI, DEA, ATF and U.S Marshals and we just discussed the work they’re all doing to alleviate crime here in the city,” Hogan said. “The crime situation, everybody is very concerned about.”
Hogan said the meeting he’s proposing with local officials is not about who is to blame for Baltimore’s record-high homicide rate. He said he wants Mayor Catherine Pugh, members of the City Council, prosecutors and judges to attend.
“Not to point fingers,” he said. “Together, what can we all do?”
Baltimore is facing its highest homicide rate on record this year. Violent crime is up 17 percent year over year.
The Baltimore Police Department says in the past year and a half, 60 percent of 605 convicted gun offenders had more than half their sentence suspended by a judge. More than 100 people were arrested at least twice on handgun charges during that time; seven people were arrested three times, according to police.
In 2016, 245 people convicted in gun cases in Baltimore were sentenced to less than a year in jail, according to data on convictions cited by police. That’s 43 percent of all cases. Defendants in 33 cases were not sentenced to jail.
Pugh this week named a new director of criminal justice and released an updated plan she said will stem Baltimore’s persistent violence. In announcing the plan, the mayor laid out steps her administration has already taken to bolster policing, including putting more officers on patrol and improving police training and technology.
Hogan and Pugh have also said they are beefing up parole and probation supervision of offenders recently released from jail.
The mayor has called for a holistic approach to fighting crime — including engaging youth, promoting community health and growing jobs. And she proposed making Baltimore City Community College free for city public school graduates beginning with the class of 2018. She said partnerships with federal law enforcement are “part of our comprehensive plan to reduce violence in the city.”