Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday announced initiatives aimed at curbing violent crime in Baltimore. The following is a transcript of the announcement.
HOGAN: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for being here. I especially appreciate all of the federal, state and local law enforcement leaders who have joined us today. I’ll point out that we also have productive meetings and discussions with others who are not able to join us, including the FBI.
We’re here today to announce several very important initiatives that we will be implementing to combat the criminal gang enterprises and the violent repeat offenders who are terrorizing Baltimore City and participating in violent crime throughout our state.
Last year there were more than 330 drug trafficking organizations in Maryland. Law enforcement has identified over 10,000 individuals associated with gangs and more than 5,000 firearms were involved in crimes last year alone. According to the Baltimore Police Department, shockingly 90 percent of all Baltimore City homicide victims have criminal records averaging over 11 arrests and three convictions. Nearly half of them have previously been convicted for gun crimes. The sad reality is that one day, someone is the shooter and the next day, they are the victim.
According to the Baltimore City Police Department, 60 percent of those convicted of gun crimes do not serve serious time and are released back onto the streets to commit violent felonies again. Let me be crystal clear, I have absolutely no tolerance whatsoever for these repeat violent offenders and these criminal gangs causing lawlessness in our streets.
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. During the 2016 legislative session, we pushed for and passed tough anti-crime legislation. Just 60 days ago, Maryland’s new RICO statutes became law. This new law now allows prosecutors to reach across county borders, pursue violent criminals in other jurisdictions and it will assist them in taking down entire criminal gang enterprises.
Today we are announcing the formation of a new Maryland criminal intelligence network to assist police and prosecutors in going after and taking down the people who are responsible for so much of the violence. This session we will be introducing additional tough anti-violent crime legislation including tougher gang laws, much tougher penalties for people who commit crimes with a gun and new truth in sentencing legislation which will insure people who repeatedly commit violent crimes, will no longer have their sentences suspended and just be let back out onto the streets.
In addition, here in Baltimore, we along with our federal partners will take a number of additional immediate steps to assist the Baltimore Police Department in getting violent repeat offenders off the streets of the city. Today affective immediately, I am directing the Maryland State Police, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, the Maryland Transit Administration Police and the Maryland Capitol Police to expand vehicular land and boat patrol tactics. This will establish a more visible police presence in high crime areas and those suffering from market increases in violent crimes. Affective immediately, the Maryland State Police will assist the Baltimore Police Department and the Baltimore City Sheriffs Department in serving high-priority warrants. I am tasking MSP to work with the locals to identify and focus on the highest priority, most dangerous and most violent of those warrants. I have also directed more than 200 state parole and probation officers to partner with and provide assistance to the Baltimore Police Department to track down, locate and arrest repeat violate criminals who have parole and probation violations.
We have placed these state officers in every single precinct of Baltimore City to work in tandem with BPD officers. We have also requested the U.S. Marshal Service and they have agreed to immediately begin an aggressive sweep across the city with 80 more U.S. marshals and federally designated task force officers to join with the state and the city on these high-priority violent warrants. There are far too many violent gang members terrorizing the streets of Baltimore and we need to remove as many of them as we can, as quickly as possible.
Further, under Project CORE, we have already demolished over 1,200 vacant belated properties in Baltimore City. Today, we are directing the State Department of Housing and Community Development and the Maryland Stadium Authority to work with the city to identify those vacant properties in the highest violent crime areas where the most criminal gang activity occurs. In order to expedite the demolition of this properties where so much criminal gang activity is being perpetrated, we want to give these violent criminals fewer places to hide.
But Baltimore City is not the only place where crime exists in the state. Gang violence and violent crime is not limited to one city or one county, it is infecting communities everywhere. Now their stranglehold on Baltimore City and their poisoning of too many of our communities is far reaching. Our administration is committed to doing whatever we can to assist local law enforcement in their mission to identify, disrupt and dismantle these violent criminal networks and gangs and to assist them in getting criminals off the streets and we will target repeat violent offenders, especially those who have committed a crime with a gun.
Today, we are also launching the Maryland Criminal Intelligence Network to connect Baltimore City and other strategic counties and cities with 36 federal, state and local task forces. This new crime fighting network will focus on comprehensive data sharing and collaboration between jurisdictions. Our goal is to break down jurisdictional barriers in order to provide the information necessary for law enforcement and prosecutors to bring down entire violent criminal enterprises and to help arrest, convict and imprison more of these violent repeat offenders. County lines to not deter or even slow down criminals and now they will no longer be roadblocks for those brave and dedicated men and women who are trying to stop them.
It is critical for our state to have an intelligence-sharing infrastructure in place, which will allow law enforcement officials to develop timely, accurate and actionable intelligence, which will produce more arrests, more convictions and more incarcerations of these violent criminals for longer periods of time. This morning I also signed an executive order creating the governor’s council on Gangs and Violent Criminal Networks. This council will provide leadership and coordinate the operational strategies to collect and share relevant data related to violent crime and victimization across the state. This new council will be comprised of members of the state’s criminal justice agencies, local law enforcement, state prosecutors, as well as our federal partners.
Carroll County State’s Attorney, Brian DeLeonardo will chair the council, other council members will include, Colonel Bill Pallozzi, Superintendent of Maryland State Police, Secretary of Public Safety and Corrections, Steve Moyer, Glenn Fueston, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, Stephen Schenning, Baltimore City Police Commissioner, Kevin Davis, Hank Stawinski, Prince George’s County Police Chief, Salisbury Police Chief, Barbara Duncan, Charles County Sheriff, Troy Berry, Washington County Sheriff, Douglas Mullendore, State’s Attorney for Montgomery County, John McCarthy, Scott Shellenberger and Marilyn Mosby, State’s Attorneys for Baltimore County and Baltimore City, State’s Attorney, Charlie Smith from Frederick County and Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney, Wes Adams. I want to thank all of them for their willingness to serve.
On the first day of the legislative session next month, we will introduce three pieces of emergency legislation aimed at combating violent crime in Maryland. This will include truth and sentencing legislation to get the worst violent offenders who have repeatedly victimized our communities off our streets and into prison. It will make second-time violent criminals ineligible for parole and it will require them to serve their full sentences without suspension, parole or probation. In addition, we will also be introducing legislation, which will hold repeat offenders who use guns to commit crimes truly accountable for their actions. It is unacceptable that we have a system, particularly in Baltimore City, where repeat gun criminals are getting a slap on the wrist and are then being released back on the streets to commit yet another felony with a gun. Current minimum penalty for using a firearm to commit a violent crime in Maryland is five years, but all too often, especially in Baltimore City, do violent criminals have their sentences suspended and are put back on the streets of the city. Our bill will double to minimum sentence to 10 years for repeat violent offenders and will require them to serve this 10-year sentence without suspension, parole or probation. If you do the crime, you do the time. Our bill will make this act a felony and make individuals who convicted of possession of a firearm in relation to drug trafficking subject to additional penalties if they are later found to illegally possess a firearm.
In addition, we will introduce emergency legislation to further strengthen Maryland’s gang statues and RICO laws to allow Maryland prosecutors to more effectively build and prosecute cases against and to take down these criminal gang enterprises. This legislation will clarify that the underlying crimes of gang activity, including drug distribution and human trafficking can be tried across jurisdictional lines and it will also expand the list of underlying crimes to include additional activities often conducted by these criminal enterprises. With all of these many actions that we are announcing today, we are saying enough is enough. This is about taking our communities back, getting gangs and violent offenders off the streets and saving lives.
Keeping Marylanders safe is our number one priority and as long as I am governor, we will continue to do everything we possibly can to empower our law enforcement agencies and our prosecutors and judges with the tools and the resources they need to finally get these violent criminals off of our streets and behind bars where they belong. Thank you, and at this time I’d be happy to take any questions.
REPORTER: Governor, some activists say that what also we need is funding for employment and housing of offenders, will your packages include anything regarding any of those aspects?
HOGAN: Today’s press conference is about immediate action that we are taking effective today to remove repeat violent offenders from the streets. Obviously, things like community centers and summer jobs and free college tuition that people talked about are things we can address, maybe they have an impact long-term on crime, but they have nothing whatsoever to do with immediately taking these criminals off the streets. Any budget items or legislation, although this one we have emergency legislation that will take affect the first day that it’s passed, but the budget won’t be passed until April and it wouldn’t take affect until July 1, so even if those things took effect immediately its not going to have anything to do with violent criminals on the streets, today.
REPORTER: Do you have reason to believe that Baltimore’s gang activity is bleeding into the other counties around it?
HOGAN: Pete you want to take a shot at that one?
PETE LANDON: Good afternoon, I’m Pete Landon, Director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security. I think the mere fact that Governor Hogan has assembled all the people in this room that are team members is enough to tell you that we feel very strongly that could be the case.
REPORTER: Governor, is the Maryland Criminal Intelligence Network replacing what the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center does or are they going to working together?
HOGAN: I think they’ll be working in addition to, supplementing.
REPORTER: Do you envision RICO style charges at a state level across jurisdictions, so let’s say a gang is operating in both Baltimore City and Baltimore County, Harford County, do you think they could all be tried the same in Harford County?
HOGAN: Well that’s kind of specular to see what might happen in the future, but being able to work together and to have more tools to say, take down these enterprises for more crime and to share more information and to prosecute them wherever they may be doing business could be a real advantage.
REPORTER: Governor, what kind of legislative roadblocks do you presume may happen with this legislation that you are proposing?
HOGAN: Well, time will tell once we get to the legislative session, but I would hope that all of the people in Baltimore City and all across the state who are angry and frustrated and concerned about this violent crime will help us convince some of our wayward legislators that it’s maybe time to get tough on them.
REPORTER: Do you have a lot of wayward legislators?
HOGAN: Well, we have on some issues in the past, but I think maybe we can come together on getting people off the streets to stop from killing people.
REPORTER: Have you spoken to anyone on the other side of the aisle on this proposal on this legislation?
HOGAN: We’ve talked to a number of people on both sides of the aisle and we’ve have had repeated recent discussions with Baltimore City, with the mayor, with the police commissioner, all of the elected officials you see in the room here who are on both sides of the aisle. Legislation is not in session until the end of January and most of them are not around to talk to, but we look forward to seeing what they have to say about some of these proposals.
REPORTER: Governor, in terms of man power, how much man power are these folks going to have, who will they report to, will they report to an agency?
HOGAN: We will be coordinating with and supporting the Baltimore City Police Department, they’ll certainly be in charge and still have the main responsibility and authority, but each of these various groups of people, the 200 parole and probation officers will still report to the Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections and the 80 federal marshals will still report to the federal marshal. Each of the five or six police agencies will still report to their folks, it will just be more visibility and more coordination and more assistance, but this is primarily Baltimore City’s responsibility. We are not trying to step on anyone’s toes, we’re trying to provide as much backup and support as we possibly can, but it will be under Kevin Davis’ direction.
REPORTER: Is that assistance going to take effect immediately and does the commissioner have tools in order to [join] all of this into one action?
HOGAN: I think it’s a lot of different actions, a couple of them we have already taken. We’ve already taken a number of steps in the city and provided a tremendous amount of funding. The mayor put in a request back in August about a bunch of different things, most of which we’ve already done. The police commissioner requested the help on serving some of these high priority warrants. I think we already have the 200 parole and probation officers today on the streets and in the precincts. Everything else I’ve talked about with the exception of legislation that we will put in the first day of session as emergency bill to take effect immediately. So that could happen in January, everything else is starting today.
REPORTER: Would you say Detective Sean Suiter’s death galvanized this effort and is really motivating and pushing this to happen?
HOGAN: Well, it was a tragic situation and as I’ve had to do too many times, I was one of the people who spoke at Detective Suiter’s funeral and I would say it had an impact on me in many ways, but these are things that we’ve been working on for a long time and the timing of it is simply that … we are just trying to get everything to coordinate as you can imagine all of things that people and all of the various details is something we have been working on for quite some time.
REPORTER: Of the five state law enforcement agencies that you are directing in Baltimore City, will they be involved in day-to-day policing activities?
HOGAN: No, they will simply be doing their normal jobs, maybe providing some background for some of the functions of the police department you’ll see more police on the streets of Baltimore, in their cars and their boats in waterfront areas, but they will not be policing the streets of Baltimore. Baltimore City still remains focused on their primary mission.
REPORTER: Did you speak to Mayor Pugh about the announcement and did you seen a crime plan?
HOGAN: I have had the opportunity to speak with Mayor Pugh numerous times over the past week in a number of conversations in detail about her ideas and about our ideas and what the city was doing and what help they needed and what they needed to provide. I think there were some differences of opinion. We have had a number of discussions with the major, she did put in a request in August as she mentioned earlier was more of a letter asking for certain things many of which we’ve already done and then some proposals about long-term potential things to change society and perhaps over decades will lower some crime for example the things we were asked about earlier, but I have not seen and I said it the other day and I discussed it with the mayor, I didn’t consider that to be an immediate violent crime plan or strategy and I still don’t.
REPORTER: Governor, it’s the third year now we have had over 300 homicides here in Baltimore, what do you and the state officials who advise you think is the cause for this three-year spike?
HOGAN: I think it’s a lot of the things I talked about earlier. This is the culmination this is the beginning of a new wave, of a new serge of activity. We’ve been trying to provide assistance and increasing funding and providing grants through the governor’s office for crime control and prevention and providing to the local law enforcement tougher statues that have passed through the legislature and the RICO laws, it’s just an ongoing process. But, the biggest part is that we’ve had meetings with every single federal law enforcement operation and we’ve had a follow up meeting with federal, state and local law enforcement, you’ll recall the judges didn’t want to come because they felt they shouldn’t be involved in discussing violent crime, but there was near unanimous opinion that people were getting a slap on the wrist in Baltimore City where they are being prosecuted in other jurisdictions and that people were having their entire sentences suspended and after committing a violent crime with a gun you’re just on the streets the next day and you’re going to shoot someone out, so that’s … a lot of gang activity is up, heroin and fentanyl are out of control and growing across the state, but particularly in the city and these are all factors. It’s been a very difficult situation for the mayor and a very difficult situation for the police commissioner and I just want to say I believe both of them are working very hard to address these issues. We’re not trying to criticize those efforts at all, we’re just trying to provide whatever help we can to assist them in their mission.
REPORTER: Outside of the legislation, these immediate actions that you’re taking, will the state incur any overtime or other expenses and do you have any estimate on what the price tag will be?