The state of Maryland plans to spend millions to beef up a Baltimore Police Department warrant task force, pay for additional federal prosecutors to focus on gun crime in the city and send state troopers to take over traffic patrols on Interstate 83, Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Thursday.
The governor called violent crime in Baltimore “the number one concern of Marylanders” and said the Maryland State Police will also do more to help other Baltimore Police units free up city police officers to focus on higher-priority violent crime.
Hogan said he plans to request the funds from the General Assembly as part of a supplemental budget request.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison requested much of the state assistance, including the $6.5 million over the next two years that Hogan announced Thursday to expand BPD’s Warrant Apprehension Task Force.
In a February letter to Hogan requesting the funds to pay overtime to officers assigned to the unit, Scott said WATF cleared 1,766 warrants, including 986 felony warrants, and represented the “highest priority and most manpower-intensive warrants.”
“Additional manpower will help us execute even more of these mission critical warrants,” Scott wrote.
Several law enforcement union leaders complained about the lack of attention and resources for warrant service after the death of James Blue, a husband of a Baltimore Police officer. Blue was gunned down outside a home in Northeast Baltimore on Jan. 25.
Police later charged 18-year-old Sahiou Kargbo, a Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School student, who was wanted on an open warrant for a robbery in Parkville. Baltimore Police and Baltimore County Police waited several days to serve the warrant due to scheduling issues, during which Blue was killed.
State troopers will begin writing tickets on Interstate 83 on July 1, according to Lt. Col. Roland Butler, the chief of operations for the Maryland State Police. Hogan said Thursday that other stepped-up cooperation — including visibility patrols of the city by troopers, help with tracking stolen vehicles and intelligence sharing — have already begun.
The governor also said plans “are well underway” for future joint state-local operations to arrest people with outstanding warrants in the city.
Probation and parole agents are now embedded with the Baltimore Police Department, Hogan said. City officials and state lawmakers from Baltimore have called for greater cooperation between state probation agents and city police, given that a substantial proportion of those involved in shootings are on probation or parole.
Republican Hogan, however, mixed his announcement of new aid from the state with sharp criticism of Baltimore City leaders and Democratic state lawmakers for not taking a harsher lock-them-up approach to violent crime.
Hogan on Thursday again pushed for longer prison sentences for crimes involving firearms, a proposal that’s met with tepid interest by state lawmakers, who’ve argued Hogan’s approach leans heavily on failed tough-on-crime policies that for decades drove up prison populations but didn’t improve public safety. Leaders of the Democrat-controlled Maryland General Assembly said they’re more interested in taking “holistic” approaches to crime that include better funding for social services.
“The reality is that, no matter what actions we take at the state level, Baltimore City leaders will never get control of the out-of-control violence if they don’t arrest more, prosecute more and give tougher sentences to the most violence criminals to hold them accountable and get them off the streets,” Hogan said.
The governor said $3.5 million in funding for the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office will pay for 10 additional federal prosecutors in Baltimore and four more in Greenbelt, as well as additional investigators, data analysts and support staff.
The new positions under Maryland U.S. Attorney Erek Barron will be “dedicated exclusively to charging Baltimore City repeat violent offenders with federal crimes,” Hogan said.
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