State Lawmakers Hold Hearing to Address Baltimore’s Surge in Violence

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The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee convened yesterday to listen to testimony from city officials, community leaders, and experts from Johns Hopkins, among others, to address Baltimore’s spike in violence.

Top city officials including Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, and Mayor Catherine Pugh weighed in on factors they believe to be contributing to the problem.

According to the Washington Post, Davis told the committee that the state’s juvenile justice policies need to be re-evaluated.  He lamented that too many juveniles who could be tried as adults were winding up in juvenile court. He said at the hearing that the uptick in violence is “the most important public-safety issue facing our city and state,” adding, “premeditated murders rule the day in our city.”

Mosby and Pugh both took issue with judges who sentence probation rather than time behind bars. Davis said equipment like street cameras, license-plate readers, and gunshot-detectors would help law enforcement as would a mobile crime lab and police station upgrades. Mosby said she needs more money to hire more prosecutors and for witness protection programs.

Mayor Pugh discussed her approach to reducing violence, from installing 6,000 street lights in the city to funding more after school programs to making Baltimore City Community College tuition free. She emphasized her efforts to involve members of the community to work collaboratively for a solution.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Professor Daniel Webster cited Safe Streets, a Baltimore Health Department program, as statistically one of the most effective violence prevention initiatives in the city.

City Council President Jack Young highlighted efforts to improve relations between the Baltimore Police Department and citizens, and stressed that government alone does not hold all the answers to the problem because “the fight against crime is everyone’s fight.”

“The nearly nine-hour hearing highlighted a significant number of initiatives that can assist in reducing crime,” said Senator Bobby Zirkin, chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, in a statement. “This issue requires a holistic, wrap-around approach. We heard ideas to assist in criminal law, public health, education, child abuse, and other fields and I am looking forward to working with my colleagues on a substantial package of legislation.”

As of today, 246 murders have been committed in Baltimore in 2017.



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