Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday a new campaign to combat gang-related violence in the state, and he selected Carroll County State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo to lead the charge.
The Maryland Criminal Intelligence Network is a data-sharing initiative designed to get state, local and federal agencies and task forces working together to “break down jurisdictional barriers and enable law enforcement and prosecutors to target entire criminal enterprises," according to a Governor’s Office media release.
Tasked with investigating the best way to implement and utilize this new network is the Governor’s Council on Gangs and Violent Criminal Networks, consisting of law enforcement and public safety officials from around the state. Col. William Pallozzi of the Maryland Department of Public Safety, U.S. Attorney Robert Hur and Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis are some of the members of the council and it is chaired by DeLeonardo.
“The governor was willing to use his leadership to bring all these people together,” DeLeonardo said. “I am certainly willing to do my part to make sure we provide him with some clear recommendations and direction as to what we believe would be the best approach.”
DeLeonardo was selected to lead the effort based on his experience and reputation, according to Director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security Pete Landon.
“His experience on the Carroll County Drug and Alcohol Abuse Council and the State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy make him a natural fit for this role,” Landon said. “He will provide guidance to Maryland law enforcement on how to combat organized criminal gangs, which often use violence to further their drug-related activities.”
Despite overall violent crime rates resting at historic lows across the nation, Baltimore City has now seen three straight years with homicide numbers approaching historic highs.
According to a Brennan Center of Justice report, violent crime last peaked in the U.S. in 1991, with 716 such crimes per 100,000 people, and has been trending downward, despite the occasional minor rise, ever since — in 2016, the violent crime rate was 366 crimes per 100,000. Homicides, too, have been trending downward overall, from 9.8 homicides per 100,000 people in 1991 to 5.3 such killings in 2016, according to the report.
Hogan’s Tuesday announcement also included several initiatives directed specifically at combating violent crime in Baltimore, and tied that violence to the activities of criminal drug gangs. The Baltimore Police Department has found 90 percent of homicide victims have more than 10 arrests on their record, according to the media release, while in 2016 more than 330 drug trafficking organizations were believed to be operating in Maryland.
“I have absolutely no tolerance whatsoever for these repeat violent offenders or these criminal gangs causing lawlessness in our streets,” Hogan is quoted as saying in the media release. “Our focus is to give law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges the tools they need to get these violent criminals off the streets and into prison.”
And it’s not just about Baltimore, DeLeonardo said, noting that while violent crime may be concentrated in the city, its effects spread much wider.
“Our heroin in Carroll County doesn’t just fall out of the sky; it comes from one of these drug organizations that are operating in other adjoining areas,” he said. “We are fortunate to have the lowest crime rate in the state, but we’re not an island, and the crime that we do have is coming from these other areas.”
Violent crime and drug related crime are collective problems and they require “collective wisdom” as part of a solution, DeLeonardo said. He is happy to serve in that process, even as he continues to serve as Carroll’s state’s attorney.
“If the governor asks you to do something, you’re going to do it, so I am certainly honored,” DeLeonardo said. “I believe it is part and parcel being the state’s attorney for Carroll County, because there is no doubt that what I do on this committee will make Carroll safer, too.”