During his “State of the State” speech in Annapolis on Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan pointed to the separate shootings of two young sisters in Baltimore — 7-year-old Taylor Hayes was killed in July; 5-year-old Amy survived in November — to condemn city violence and call for change.
“People who live in Baltimore city don’t feel safe in their own neighborhoods, and citizens all across the state are outraged by the daily reports of this rampant gang violence,” Hogan said.
If the remarks sounded familiar, that may be because they were strikingly similar — verbatim, at times — to those Hogan gave at an event in Baltimore on Jan. 8, when he also cited the shootings of the Hayes sisters in describing the need to bring 200 law enforcement officers into the city as part of a new “strike force” to fight crime.
“People who live in Baltimore are rightfully scared,” Hogan said at the time. “They don’t feel safe in their own neighborhoods. Citizens across the state are outraged by the daily headlines of this rampant gang violence.”
That Hogan re-purposed language from the Baltimore event two weeks later for an address to the entire state is perhaps not surprising.
The speech Wednesday was to a much larger audience, including many watchers of television and online live-streams in other parts of the state who may not have caught his commitments to fighting crime in Baltimore earlier in the month.
The tragedy of the Hayes family being struck twice by separate incidents of gun violence provides a glaring example of the threat such crime poses to innocent children and families and a compelling real-life anecdote for arguing why the state interventions he’s promoting are necessary.
And, in the end, both speeches were opportunities to advocate the same policy prescriptions.
The Jan. 8 event was held specifically to announce the strike force and the launch of a “new violent crime joint operation center” in Baltimore where 200 officers from 16 agencies will target gangs; and the expansion of Project Exile, a program in which defendants are prosecuted in federal court, where they are more likely to receive longer prison sentences.
Hogan also said the state would provide money for signing bonuses to attract more recruits to the Baltimore Police Department, and noted legislation he planned to introduce that would increase mandatory minimum sentences for repeat gun offenders.
On Wednesday, Hogan hit on all those same initiatives, and asked the legislators gathered before him to pass related pieces of legislation.
That included the “Repeat Firearms Offenders Act” and the “Judicial Transparency Act,” which Hogan said would require the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy to “track and publish information on the sentencing by judges to those convicted of violent crimes.”
“Sixty percent of those convicted of gun crimes in Baltimore city do not serve any serious jail time and are simply released to commit violent felonies again and again,” Hogan said Wednesday. “That is completely unacceptable.”