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Maryland House passes bill, named for lawmaker's slain grandson, to expand Safe Streets anti-violence program

A bill to expand Baltimore's Safe Streets program, named in honor of Del. Talmadge Branch's slain grandson, passed the Maryland House on Friday.
A bill to expand Baltimore's Safe Streets program, named in honor of Del. Talmadge Branch's slain grandson, passed the Maryland House on Friday.

The Maryland House of Delegates on Friday passed a bill to fund the expansion of Safe Streets, an anti-violence program that has reduced shootings and homicides in some Baltimore neighborhoods.

The bill was named in honor of Tyrone Ray, the grandson of Del. Talmadge Branch who was killed in a Labor Day shooting. Ray was the 239th homicide victim in 2017, a year with 342 homicides in Baltimore — the highest per-capita rate on record.

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“I’m filled with some emotion,” Branch said after the chamber voted 125-13 to advance the legislation to the state Senate. “I think this is the right step forward for Baltimore in lowering its murder rate.”

Branch’s legislation would add $3.6 million in state money to the $1.7 million city program’s budget. Safe Streets staff work to mediate conflicts and prevent shootings in neighborhoods including McElderry Park, Cherry Hill, Mondawmin, Park Heights and Sandtown-Winchester.

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Del. Talmadge Branch, whose grandson was killed in a shooting last year, has proposed Maryland invest $3.6 million in Baltimore's Safe Streets program. The program has shown to be effective at reducing shootings and homicides in McElderry Park and other neighborhoods.

Advocates including Mayor Catherine Pugh have declared a desire to expand the program to more neighborhoods around the city.

Branch said he is hopeful the bill will be well received in the Senate, though Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration is opposing it because it would mandate spending year after year. House Republicans amended the bill to require the city and Safe Streets officials to provide annual updates on the program’s activities.

“Everyone wants to help Baltimore, and I think the Senate will be in the same posture,” Branch said.

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