Gov. Hogan, Mayor Pugh announce results of joint effort to battle Baltimore crime

Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Catherine E. Pugh say a joint operation with U.S. Marshals over the last month resulted in hundreds of arrests of violent offenders — an effort officials say contributed to the recent declines in crime in Baltimore to start 2018.

Hogan said Wednesday that 259 of the more than 500 arrests in “Operation Seven Sentries” involved some of Baltimore’s “most violent criminals.”

He called the operation by city and state police, U.S. Marshals and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives an “aggressive surge,” and warned criminals that more would be coming.

“We will find you. We will arrest you. We will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” the governor said.

The operation from Jan. 16 to Feb. 15 targeted violent offenders wanted on warrants. Marshals narrowed a Baltimore police list of 7,200 open warrants down to 400 offenders with violent histories.

The effort led to the arrests of 10 people for murder charges, 10 for attempted-murder charges, 21 for gun charges, 21 for robbery charges, 76 for assault charges, two for witness intimidation and one for human trafficking.

Federal officials said 21 gang members were arrested, including 16 members of the Black Guerrilla Family. The operation also resulted in the seizures of five guns, eight pounds of marijuana, 12 grams of heroin, 10 grams of cocaine and $102,000 in cash.

During the sweeps, law enforcement officers visited and checked more than 44,000 premises, officials said.

“Operation Seven Sentries is our best team effort to date,” said Johnny Hughes, the U.S. Marshal for Maryland since 2002. “This has been the most successful violent crime fugitive initiative to date.”

Hughes praised both Pugh, a Democrat, and Hogan, a Republican, in an election year for Hogan. The mayor and governor have clashed in recent months over their rival crime-fighting plans.

“In my 51 years in law enforcement, I’ve not seen a governor with the tenacity, true grit and determination to step up and tackle violent crime issues like Governor Hogan,” Hughes said.

Pugh, Hughes added, is “real strong on crime and crime issues.”

Daniel L. Board Jr., special agent in charge of the Baltimore office of the ATF, said the goal was to drive crime down in a city that has suffered more than 300 homicides in each of the last three years.

“Make no mistake about it: This was a mission to make Baltimore better, to make Baltimore safer,” Board said. “This is the template by which all other fugitive roundups should be measured.”

The tone of the news conference was far different from the one Hogan held in December to announce several crime-fighting initiatives in Baltimore. Flanked by top law enforcement officials from around the state — but not Pugh, then-Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis or any other city officials — Hogan was critical of the mayor’s strategies for fighting crime, which include initiatives like free community college.

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

Hogan ordered state law enforcement agencies to increase patrols in the city and step up 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.

On Wednesday, city and state officials spoke of positive collaboration. Hogan said he wanted to do more joint operations with Baltimore officials earlier in his term, but said then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Commissioner Anthony W. Batts would not work with him.

“The previous mayor and Commissioner Batts basically kicked the parole and probation officers out of the precincts,” Hogan said. Pugh “asked us to bring them back, and we did.”

“Operation Seven Sentries” comes as crime is declining in Baltimore after one of the city’s most violent years in 2017.

Violent crime is down by 29 percent so far this year compared with the same period last year. Homicides have declined by 33 percent and shootings by 45 percent.

Pugh in November said crime was “out of control.” She ordered the heads of 30 city agencies to meet every morning at police headquarters to discuss ways to rein in the mayhem, and made reducing crime the top priority not only of police, but also of health workers, housing officials and public works crews.

Pugh said Wednesday the joint operations would continue throughout the year.

“This collaborative effort has meant a great deal in terms of reducing violence in our city,” she said.

Acting Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa said the city is now heading in the right direction.

“We have zero tolerance for violence in the city,” he said. “We know we’re sending a message to every single criminal on the street: If you have an open warrant, this is going to put you on notice. We are coming to look for you.”

The mayor credited De Sousa’s “blitz” policing strategy, her Violence Reduction Initiative, and the community-led Ceasefire movement with contributing to the reduction.

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

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