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With violence spiking in Baltimore, council president moves to require mayor to submit crime plan every 2 years

With violence spiking in Baltimore, City Council President Brandon Scott on Monday proposed legislation requiring the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice to create and update a comprehensive crime plan every two years. In this June 4, 2019, file photo, crime scene tape stretches across Christian Street at the scene of bloodshed following a shooting at a Southwest Baltimore corner store.
With violence spiking in Baltimore, City Council President Brandon Scott on Monday proposed legislation requiring the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice to create and update a comprehensive crime plan every two years. In this June 4, 2019, file photo, crime scene tape stretches across Christian Street at the scene of bloodshed following a shooting at a Southwest Baltimore corner store. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

With violence spiking in Baltimore, City Council President Brandon Scott proposed legislation Monday requiring the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice to create and update a comprehensive crime plan every two years.

Scott’s bill stems from a fight he had with then-Mayor Catherine Pugh over the city’s lack of a plan to combat violence. At a council lunch Monday, the Democratic council president told his colleagues the goal of his bill is to keep future mayors from running the city without a comprehensive crime reduction strategy.

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Scott, who has announced his run for mayor, said the legislation will require agencies across city government to contribute to fighting crime.

“The Baltimore Police Department cannot be expected to reduce crime alone," Scott said. “All of our agencies have a role to play in addressing gun violence.”

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The legislation also requires the plan to include an analysis of criminal justice data, an assessment of holistic efforts beyond policing that are aimed at reducing crime, and the establishment of goals, priorities and standards for crime reduction in Baltimore.

A mayor would have to publish the plan online for public comment at least one month before submitting it to the City Council. All comments received would become part of the plan the council considers.

This summer, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison released a crime plan that set a “new performance goal” of responding to serious calls within 10 minutes. The commissioner also said officers would be asked to spend a third of their time on proactive efforts to curb violent crime.

“Before Commissioner Harrison presented a crime plan in July, our city went without one for two years, despite demands from the City Council when I served as chair of the public safety committee,” Scott noted. “This legislation seeks to avoid that situation in the future."

Baltimore has suffered from more than 300 homicides annually for four consecutive years. Nearly 800 people have been shot this year in Baltimore, a 25% increase from this time last year.

On Monday, the council also cast a preliminary vote in favor of whistleblower protection legislation introduced by Democratic City Councilman Ryan Dorsey. The legislation is part of a package of bills introduced after a scandal that resulted in the resignation of Pugh, a Democrat, in May. Among other things, the legislation would create a board designed to protect whistleblowers and encourage them to come forward with reports of fraud, waste and abuse.

Council members introduced a series of bills in April proposing changes to government ethics laws to limit the power of the mayor and create a way to oust a sitting mayor.

At its next meeting in October, the council plans to take up legislation that would ban language from city settlement agreements that plaintiffs have said bar them from talking about what happened to them, notably in cases involving police misconduct.

Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and City Solicitor Andre Davis have said such a law would not be valid, in part because the police department is technically a state agency and not subject to the council’s legislation.

Young and Davis also have said they already have taken steps to make sure victims of police misconduct can talk about why they sued, including inviting them to speak to the city’s Board of Estimates as the board considers whether to approve payments to settle their cases.

Young spokesman Lester Davis said Young would not ask Andre Davis, a former federal judge, to comply with it.

“The mayor is not going to be in the business of asking a former federal judge to do something he feels is illegal,” Lester Davis said.

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Council members say they are ready to override a veto, should it come.

“If they do veto it, the council will override the veto,” said Stefanie Mavronis, a spokeswoman for Scott. “From our reading of the law, the council has the authority to pass legislation governing the appropriation of settlements.”

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