Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that he will spend state money to hire more than two dozen prosecutors and staff to help the state attorney general prosecute criminal cases in Baltimore.
Speaking at his office on the 23rd floor of the William Donald Schaefer Tower in downtown Baltimore, Hogan said the money will allow Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office to prosecute far more gun, drug and gang cases.
Hogan was flanked by chiefs of several state police agencies and state crime and security officials as he announced the funding and other initiatives that he said will help with “our continued state efforts to help Baltimore city address its single most urgent issue: the murders, the shootings and out-of-control violence in the streets.”
Hogan, a Republican, issued an executive order in September directing Frosh’s office to prosecute more crimes in Baltimore, as part of a strategy to attack the city’s persistently high rate of shootings and homicides. Through Wednesday evening, there had been 322 homicides in Baltimore so far this year, along with more than 700 nonfatal shootings, according to Baltimore police.
Frosh, a Democrat, responded that he’d be glad to, if the governor would provide more money. Frosh currently has eight prosecutors who work on violent crime cases.
Most criminal cases in the city are handled by the Baltimore state’s attorney or by federal prosecutors.
The money would be included in the governor’s next budget proposal. If approved by state lawmakers, the additional money would flow to the attorney general in July.
Hogan did not say exactly how much money would be earmarked for the additional attorney general’s staff.
Frosh said in a statement that funding for more prosecutors would help “continue our collaborative efforts with our law enforcement partners to fight crime in Baltimore city.”
But Frosh added that new prosecutors “are only one part of the solution.” He said he will work to combat poverty, lack of affordable housing, lack of access to health care and other underlying issues that drive crime rates up.
The funding for the attorney general’s office was part of a package of budget and policy proposals related to crime that Hogan announced Wednesday.
Hogan also said he would fund $21 million in previously announced aid to Baltimore for crime-fighting policies, including upgrades to the Baltimore Police Department’s records lab, the purchase of license plate readers for the department, grants for community policing and money toward a new police academy.
Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, a Democrat, said he appreciates the governor’s funding.
“I am appreciative that the governor and his administration worked with us to help fund the relocation of the police training academy and now have funded the remaining technology requests that are critical to build the necessary capacity to fight crime," Young said in a statement.
Hogan also announced four bills that he will propose during the 2020 General Assembly session. Hogan has had difficulty getting any of his legislation approved by the Democrat-led legislature.
Lawmakers have previously declined to approve a Hogan proposal to increase penalties for certain repeat offenders who use guns. In 2018, lawmakers passed a similar bill, and a nonpartisan analysis showed Hogan’s version would have meant longer sentences for only 13 offenders that year.
Hogan is re-introducing that bill — the Violent Firearms Offenders Act — and adding provisions that would increase penalties for people who give or sell guns to someone they know will use them to commit a crime, as well as for anyone who destroys a firearm’s serial number.
He also plans to bring back a proposal to require a report on sentences handed down by judges. The Judicial Transparency Act also has failed in past legislative sessions.
The governor also will introduce a bill called the Witness Intimidation Prevention Act that would increase penalties for intimidation that results in a witness’ death or serious injury. And he intends to propose a bill that would require judges to order victim restitution payments in criminal cases.
Maryland Policy & Politics
The governor did not release the full text of his proposed bills.
Sen. Bill Ferguson, who has been nominated to be the next state Senate president, responded to Hogan’s proposals by saying he appreciated “the governor’s willingness to engage in the conversation.”
“There is no quick fix to crime and violence, and the current state of affairs remains untenable,” Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, noted in his statement.
While the policy proposals would be statewide laws, Hogan emphasized the effect he believes they would have in reducing crime in Baltimore.
“I want to be very clear: I am not the mayor of Baltimore city. I’m not the city police commissioner. I’m not the city’s state’s attorney,” Hogan said. “But keeping Marylanders safe is my responsibility.”
Hogan said he would hold city leaders “accountable to ensure that we are working together" to arrest and convict violent criminals.
This is Hogan’s second installment in a gradual rollout of his 2020 legislative priorities. Last week, he unveiled his education plans: A plan for additional school construction funding that appears identical to one supported by Democratic lawmakers, and a new program for turning around Maryland’s lowest-performing public schools.