Gov. Larry Hogan today announced a package of programs and legislative proposals that would coordinate local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, increase the number of federal cases for gun charges and release new data on sentences given out by judges–all in the name of stemming violence in Baltimore.
The governor is launching a violent crime joint operations center in the city that serves as a hub for law agencies tracking gangs and criminal organizations. The center will be home to a team of Maryland State Police, analysts and a dedicated prosecutor; task force teams with the DEA, ATF, Baltimore Police Department, Homeland Security, FBI and U.S. Marshals; and a newly formed “strike force” pulling together 200 officers from 16 different agencies to target gangs.
Additionally, the governor said he would be directing more state funds to Project Exile, a crime-fighting strategy that sends more cases for repeat violent offenders to federal court, where there is a greater chance of a mandatory sentence for convictions of gun crimes.
These efforts would be paired with additional funding for witness protection and victim services, and state funds for BPD to offer recruiting incentives for new officers. Currently, the state pays $7 million to fund 75 officers in the city.
“The level of violence here in Baltimore City is completely unacceptable,” Hogan said. “People who live in Baltimore are rightfully scared, they don’t feel safe in their own neighborhoods. And citizens all across the state are outraged by the daily headlines of this rampant gang violence.”
The governor also announced two pieces of legislation his office plans to submit during the upcoming session. One would be the re-submission of a proposal to increase the mandatory sentence for a gun conviction to 10 years, an effort that stalled during last year’s legislative session, even though other pieces of a larger crime bill advanced.
The other bill, the Judicial Transparency Act of 2019, would require the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy to publish reports on the sentences handed down by judges across the state for violent crimes.
“This will ensure that the public has visibility into how the courts are dealing with violent criminals and bring the same standards of fairness and openness that apply to the executive and legislative branches to the judiciary,” Hogan’s office said in a release.
Last year, Hogan, in partnership with Mayor Catherine Pugh and then-Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa, launched a surge of 500 officers from various agencies to combat crime. On Tuesday, the governor credited that effort with 1,900 arrests, including “several hundred of the city’s most violent offenders,” the seizure of 700 firearms and 272 federal gun cases.
The state has allotted more than $230 million for crime prevention over the last four years, ranging from the Safe Streets program to new technology for the BPD.
“It has made a difference,” he said, “but it’s not enough.”
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