Baltimore’s congressional delegation has asked U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland for more federal crime-fighting resources for the city.
In a letter sent Monday, the elected officials say that while Baltimore suffers from high crime rates, federal law enforcement staffing levels are “significantly smaller than those located in neighboring jurisdictions.” They do not cite specific figures regarding staffing levels, but say Washington, D.C., has a “significantly larger” number of federal agents investigating violent crime.
“This mismatch between the scale of the problem and the investigatory resources available means that real progress in reducing violent crime will be much more difficult to achieve and sustain,” says the letter, which is signed by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger, John P. Sarbanes and Kweisi Mfume.
In addition to asking for a general re-evaluation of federal staffing resources, the Democratic officials ask specifically for 10 additional Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents, 15 additional U.S. Marshals, five new assistant U.S. attorneys, additional grants and other resources.
The request follows a meeting last month between members of the delegation and Mayor Brandon Scott, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison and Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan Lenzner. Scott was also invited to the White House in June to discuss the Biden administration’s crime strategies.
The Trump administration previously announced in December 2019 that a “surge” of federal law enforcement would be sent to seven cities, including Baltimore.
Sue Walitsky, a spokeswoman for Cardin, said the Trump administration “was a reluctant partner with Baltimore, wasn’t a fan of consent decrees generally, and did not really follow up on a ‘surge.’”
But a spokeswoman for the ATF in Baltimore said they did receive additional personnel “as part of Operation Relentless Pursuit and those personnel continue to work violent crime investigations in Baltimore.”
The request also comes as activists and others are asking that law enforcement budgets be cut, with more resources diverted to address root causes of crime. Scott’s first budget essentially kept the police budget the same, with no cuts and an increase to maintain services, while his crime plan unveiled last month focuses on a public health approach.
Meanwhile, the federal judge overseeing the consent decree has said that police will need to make investments in resources and manpower to comply with the reform agreement. Baltimore has been operating under the consent decree since 2017, after a U.S. Justice Department investigation found police violated residents’ rights and engaged in violent, aggressive behavior.
The police department helps staff federal agencies such as the ATF, FBI and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration by detailing “task force officers” to work with federal agents. Federal investigators, working with local authorities, have taken down some of the biggest gangs and closed some of the highest-profile cases. A recent ATF case led to the indictment of members of the Triple-C gang, who are alleged to have been involved in 18 murders and nearly 30 additional non-fatal shootings.
In addition to asking for more agents and prosecutors, the delegation also requested data analysts and related tools, and additional grants or resources for victim-witness assistance.
“Baltimore officials would benefit from additional federal funding to maintain the staffing of victim-witness coordinators, as well as pay for housing and transportation for witnesses of violent crime in Baltimore, which is critical to the prosecution of cases brought by state and local officials,” the letter says.