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Del. Griffith: Proud that Harford County is reducing crime [Commentary]

As a husband, father, veteran and former first responder, crime in our community and in Maryland is something always on my mind. In a time when crime in the state of Maryland is generally rising, I am proud that Harford County has rejected the trend, focusing on reducing violent and nonviolent crime with incredible effectiveness. In 2019, crime in Harford County dropped to the lowest point ever since the beginning of crime tracking in the 1970s. There has been a 26% reduction in total violent crime and a 50% reduction in fatal opioid overdoses. Other counties across the state would do well to look to the methods that Harford County employs so effectively.

Law enforcement in Harford County is supported by the residents and our officers do an excellent job of prioritizing issues. Law enforcement is highly trained to be effective at their jobs, and the residents of Harford place a great deal of trust in that competency. The officers are also highly vetted and held to a high standard of integrity, adding to their positive reputation.

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The crime reduction has also been assisted by the adoption of a collaborative approach. An excellent example of this is the approach to lowering drug abuse. The sheriff’s office begins by educating the young. Deputies are sent into schools to talk to elementary school children about the importance of what law enforcement does, and how the children can avoid falling into criminality as they grow up. Additionally, officers place signs around the county, raising awareness about drug abuse. The dealers are heavily pursued and penalized when caught. The recent initiative from the Sheriff was the H.O.P.E. trailer, which is a mobile trailer that is designed to look like the inside of a bedroom of a drug user. The purpose of this trailer is to teach adults about the signs of drug abuse, so that they can talk to their children or peers if they begin to notice signs.

Law enforcement officers in Harford County are actively engaged with the community, not suppressing them but rather empowering and protecting them.

As a state delegate who represents parts of Harford and Cecil counties and a former Military Policeman in the Marine Corps, it is encouraging to see this incredible reduction of crime, and it is my honor to help advance several pieces of legislation that will decrease the crime levels even further. In just my first three weeks I have acted swiftly to help address these issues. I strongly support and have proudly co-sponsored these Republican initiatives this year that focus on crime.

The Stopping Dangerous and Violent Criminals Act of 2020 would require violent offenders to serve at least 90% of their sentence before they are eligible for parole. Currently, it’s only 50%, which allows violent offenders to re-enter into their communities prematurely.

The Protecting Marylanders From Violent Crime Act of 2020 is another bill that I have co-sponsored which was introduced by the Republicans. Currently, many local governments refuse to cooperate with ICE, which is incredibly dangerous when it comes to violent offenders. As I mentioned before, collaboration has been one of the greatest components of effectiveness in Harford County law enforcement. This failure to collaborate will only make violent crime worse, especially for immigrant and minority communities. This bill doesn’t target legal immigrants, but rather seeks to penalize immigrants who are in gangs or who commit violence or terrorism. Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler has been a proponent of this after seeing firsthand the impact the program, called 287g, makes on crime reduction.

Lastly, the Gun Theft is a Felony Act of 2020 would make stealing a gun a felony, as the title clearly states. We want to protect the rights of legal gun owners while focusing on reducing gun violence committed by criminals who steal guns. All of these bills and more will help even further reduce the rates of crime in our state and our county.

I am honored to have been appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan to this position. I am committed to serving my constituents in District 35B and to fighting for legislation that will make our state a better, safer place. We have done a lot of things right in Harford County, but there is still work to do. Thank you for the chance to serve you in Annapolis and I look forward to hearing from you in the future.

Mike Griffith is a Republican member of the Maryland House of Delegates, representing District 35B.

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