State legislators to hold hearing on Baltimore violence, solutions

State legislators have scheduled a hearing in Annapolis next month to discuss the record levels of violence in Baltimore this year and potential solutions.

State Sen. Bobby Zirkin, chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, announced Thursday that his committee and the city’s Senate delegation will meet at 1 p.m. Sept. 12 “in response to statewide concern about the increase of violence” in the city.

There were a record 204 homicides in the city through the end of July. Four more people have been killed in the city through Thursday, pushing the total to 208.

Speakers at the hearing will discuss topics such as “crime statistics and trends, potential changes in criminal law, general public safety, education, drug treatment, services for juveniles and more,” Zirkin’s office said.

The hearing will be open to members of the public, who will be allowed to testify.

Zirkin, a Democrat from Baltimore County, said the success of the city “is critical to the success of our state,” and the legislature “must do everything in its power to help stop this growing crisis of violence.”

Zirkin has helped foil past attempts by city leaders to create mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of possessing a gun in the city illegally, arguing that judges should have discretion. But he recently told The Baltimore Sun that he would be willing to consider such legislation during the next legislative session, given how deadly Baltimore has become.

In his statement Thursday, Zirkin said solutions “cannot be limited to changes to criminal sentences, but must also include strategies to enhance education, drug treatment, juvenile services and other innovative methods to decrease violence.”

“We look forward to working with our partners in government, the private and nonprofit sectors and communities to move this in the right direction,” he said.

Activists slammed elected leaders in the city this week, including Mayor Catherine Pugh, for not issuing a plan to address the violence. Pugh has said her plan, which also will take a multifaceted approach, is forthcoming.

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