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Mayor, governor discuss Baltimore violence as lawmakers promote statewide crime plans

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Gov. Larry Hogan held a private meeting Thursday to discuss the pressing issue of crime, as lawmakers promoted competing plans for combating violence.

The Democratic mayor and Republican governor — whose last planned meeting on crime was nixed when Hogan contracted COVID-19 — met behind closed doors at the State House in Annapolis.

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Violence has continued at a relentless pace in the state’s largest city, despite various efforts to curb crime and promote safety. In the month of January, 36 people were killed in homicides in Baltimore, the deadliest January in at least half a century. That came on the heels of 337 people being killed in Baltimore in 2021 continuing a period of elevated violence dating to 2015.

“It was a great meeting, very productive,” Scott told reporters after emerging from the governor’s suite in the State House. “We talked about ways we can strengthen the already-strong partnerships with us.”

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Hogan did not speak to reporters after the meeting, though he later issued a statement thanking the mayor for coming to Annapolis.

“We had a very productive discussion on a number of fronts. I look forward to working with him to address our shared priorities,” Hogan posted on Twitter, without elaborating.

He also posted a video clip to social media from his State of the State speech from the night before, in which he decried recent murders in Baltimore and pushed for his own crime-fighting proposals.

“There can be no more excuses,” Hogan wrote on Twitter.

Hogan has proposed a bill stiffening penalties for certain violent crimes as well as one that would require public reports on the sentences handed down by judges. He also wants to plow more money into policing.

Versions of the governor’s “Repeat Violent Offenders Act” have passed the state Senate in past years, but never got any traction in the House of Delegates. The bill requiring a report on sentencing also has failed in the past, but Democratic lawmakers have signaled an interest in the issue this year.

Scott, meanwhile, used the meeting to present Hogan with several proposals to enhance the visibility and scope of the city’s public safety operations, according to the mayor’s team. He was joined by Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison.

One request is for more assistance from state-run police agencies to patrol public places in the city, including Lexington Market and Mondawmin Mall.

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Scott also asked for more enforcement of people who violate the terms of their parole and probation, a task that’s overseen by a state agency. In the same vein, the mayor proposed a cooperative agreement between city police and state agencies to prioritize supervision of violent offenders who are at risk of becoming repeat offenders.

Also among the requests made by the mayor was more “targeted funding” for the city police department’s Warrant Apprehension Task Force. Scott proposed overtime funding for city police and partnering agencies to prioritize clearing warrants for known violent offenders.

Thursday’s meeting was reminiscent of a get-together between the two men last May, when both emerged saying they’d discussed issues of crime and violence. At that time, the mayor said that generally that meeting was productive and the governor said he was “impressed” with the mayor’s crime plan. Eventually, though, Hogan returned to regularly criticizing city officials for not doing enough to reduce crime through arrests and prosecutions.

Earlier on Thursday, groups of Democratic and Republican lawmakers offered competing plans for how they hope to curb violent crime.

“The level of violence that we have witnessed across the entire state has simply been unprecedented,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat. “Sadly, it’s not just in targeted areas, it is across the board, across the state. And it can’t continue.”

Ferguson and Democratic senators unveiled their “community safety plan” during a Thursday morning news conference in Annapolis.

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The package of proposals includes banning so-called “ghost” guns that lack serial numbers, creating a “gun analytics center,” improving warrant apprehension programs, increasing money for violence prevention programs and requiring more information about judges’ sentences to be made public.

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The Democrats also want to focus on the state’s Division of Parole and Probation to offer more monitoring and services for people under supervision and filling the estimated 140 vacancies in the division.

Republican senators countered with their own news conference minutes later, criticizing the Democratic plans as doing little to address the imminent public safety threats that residents face.

The Democratic plans are “nibbling round the edges” of the causes of violent crime and ignoring the immediate problems, said Sen. Bryan Simonaire of Anne Arundel County, the Republican minority leader.

Simonaire pointed to the Democrats’ focus on parole and probation as an example: “Our solution is to not let those violent criminals out in the first place.”

Simonaire and Republican leaders said they support the governor’s proposals, saying they’re sharply focused only on the most violent offenders.

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Republicans also have offered other proposals, including making theft of a gun a felony crime. But they face an uphill battle in getting their bills passed, as they’re outnumbered by Democrats by a 2-to-1 margin.

Baltimore Sun reporter Bryn Stole contributed to this article.


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