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Facing criticism over ongoing violence, Baltimore’s top cop, prosecutor highlight enforcement in bid to correct ‘the narrative’

Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby are pushing back against criticism that criminals aren’t being arrested and prosecuted enough in Baltimore City.

The city’s top law enforcement officials released a video discussing complaints over the way they are handling “quality of life and other low-level crimes,” Harrison said in the video. On Wednesday, Harrison continued to pushback against complaints about the city’s crime and violence speaking on the WBAL NewsRadio 1090′s C4 and Bryan Nehman show.

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Harrison said the video was in part, “to quell the narrative that we are not making drug arrests… We absolutely are.”

But despite some declines in overall crime such as robberies and burglaries, murders are up slightly this year while non-fatal shootings remain nearly at the same, both at persistently high levels. As of Wednesday, there have been 319 homicides this year compared to 308 at this point a year ago. The total of 670 non-fatal shootings so far compare with 675 on this day in 2020.

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Harrison comments come after increased pressure from Gov. Larry Hogan, who has used cited city crime as a reason to push legislation in Annapolis.

The governor’s crime bills were ultimately not taken up during the special session of the General Assembly this month. Additionally, the legislature overturned the Republican governor’s veto to a bill that removes governors from the parole process.

“The legislature would rather make it easier for violent criminals to be released from prison than combat our violent crime crisis. Instead of even voting on our emergency crime legislation, they made it easier for violent criminals to be back on the street,” Hogan said on Twitter.

Last week, Hogan also criticized State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office’s handling of cases and ordered a review of funding. Mosby has been criticized as being soft on crime after her office announced it would no longer prosecute certain low-level drug and other arrests.

But Harrison said Wednesday that the believes individuals who commit crime in the city will be held accountable. But the problem, he said, is that many individuals don’t fear the consequences.

When asked if there should be legislative remedies, Harrison said “I believe in consequences... But it’s about the swiftness and certainty of consequences, not the severity that deters crime and deters people from committing violent crime.”

“I believe that has not changed. They do not fear consequences,” he said of criminals. Additionally, he said, the pandemic “didn’t help none because we went 18 months or longer without grand jurors or trials.”

Harrison said cases are being brought forward and he is seeing convictions. He said the department had made 1,200 gun arrests, which shows individuals would rather carry a gun because they fear being shot more than they fear getting caught by police.

Harrison said ultimately that city must address the root causes of violence, and the factors that drive people to resort to violence. He cited the mayor’s Group Violence Reduction Strategy, which remains in the early stages. The plan aims to target individuals who are at-risk of committing violence and providing them resources, such as housing or employment to prevent them from committing crime.

“The work is actually just beginning,” Harrison said. ”This mayor has a good vision and now the work is beginning.”

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