Maryland governor focuses on gangs in plan to cut violence
BALTIMORE (AP) — With Baltimore homicides surpassing 300 for the third consecutive year, Gov. Larry Hogan announced a variety of steps Tuesday to crack down on gangs and repeat violent offenders.
Hogan, a Republican, outlined measures he is taking immediately and in next year’s legislative session.
“Our focus is to give law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges the tools they need to get these violent criminals off the streets and into prison,” Hogan said, as federal, state and local law enforcement officers stood by his side.
The governor underscored that the problem is statewide.
“Gang violence and violent crime is not limited to one city or one county. It is infecting communities everywhere,” Hogan said. “Now their stranglehold on Baltimore city and their poisoning of too many of our communities is far reaching.”
Hogan announced a new state criminal intelligence network to help police and prosecutors pursue people responsible for much of the violence. He is directing state police assets to create a more visible police presence in high-crime areas. Hogan also directed the state police to help serve high-priority warrants in Baltimore, and he said the U.S. Marshals Service has agreed to begin an aggressive sweep across the city to help the state and the city on high-priority arrest warrants for violent criminals.
“There are far too many violent gang members terrorizing the streets of Baltimore, and we need to remove as many of them as we can as quickly as possible,” Hogan said.
Although neither Mayor Catherine Pugh nor Police Commissioner Kevin Davis attended the governor’s news conference, Davis said the department appreciated the assistance.
“I know the Mayor and Governor are working collaboratively with the Baltimore Police Department to reduce violence in Baltimore,” Davis said. “Designating additional State resources and enhancing ongoing initiatives are appreciated by me and the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department.”
Hogan also signed an executive order to create a new council on gangs and violent criminal networks to coordinate strategy and collect and share data on violent crime.
Last year, more than 330 drug-trafficking organizations were identified as operating in Maryland, Hogan said, and law enforcement agencies have identified more than 10,000 people associated with gangs. More than 5,000 firearms have been involved in crimes, Hogan said.
At the start of next year’s legislative session in January, Hogan said he would submit three separate bills on an emergency basis.
A truth-in-sentencing measure would require second-time violent criminals to serve their full sentence.
A second measure is aimed at repeat offenders who use guns to commit crime. It would double the current five-year penalty to 10 years — and require them to serve it.
“It is unacceptable that we have a system, particularly in Baltimore city, where repeat gun criminals are getting a slap on the wrist and are then being released back on the streets to commit yet another felony with a gun,” Hogan said.
The governor said a third measure would strengthen existing laws enabling prosecutors to better target and dismantle gangs.
Hogan emphasized that his initiatives and proposals are not a criticism of the policies of the police department or Mayor Catherine Pugh, a Democrat.
“We’re not trying to criticize those efforts at all,” he said. “We’re just trying to provide whatever help we can to assist them in their mission.”