Baltimore officials and gubernatorial candidates step up debate on public safety issues

Baltimore City Councilman Eric T. Costello (D), joined by his colleagues, said the city needs additional resources to combat rising murder rates. Photo by Hannah Gaskill.

Crime begins to dominate the conversation between Baltimore city officials and Democrats seeking governorship.

Baltimore’s 2022 murder count continues to rise, and at a Thursday news conference, city council members called on Mayor Brandon Scott (D) to take action.

As the Baltimore City Council prepares to hold budget hearings later this month, Reverend Alvin Gwynn Sr. of Leadenhall Baptist Church joined council members Eric T. Costello (D), Sharon Green Middleton (D), Mark Conway (D), Antonio Glover (D), Isaac Yitzy Schleiffer (D) and Robert R. Stokes Sr. (D) asking Scott to ask Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) to help him reduce the city’s homicide rate.

Costello said the city is on track to reach 350 homicides in 2022 — a grim record.

According to The Baltimore Sun Homicide Database, 125 homicides have been reported since Jan. 1. Costello said it’s “the first time in Baltimore City history” that the number has topped 100 so early in the year.

He also said that 17% of Citiwatch cameras in Baltimore are idle.

“In short, the communities and people we represent expect a sense of urgency around this issue,” he said at Thursday’s press conference. “With the upcoming budget hearings this year, we intend to demonstrate that sense of urgency around this issue.”

The cohort Council members also sent letters to Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby (D), Police Commissioner Michael Harrison and Shantay Jackson, who run the Mayor’s Office for Neighborhood Engagement and security, asking them to respond, by June 3, to questions on the budget, staffing shortages. and short-term crime plans.

A budget hearing is scheduled for June 7.

Council members also ask:

  • Explanations of how the $50 million provided to the Mayor’s Office for Neighborhood Engagement and Safety will be used, how much has been spent, and what results, if any, have resulted from how the money has been spent;
  • Information on the percentage of inactive Citiwatch cameras and how long they have been out of service;
  • The number of authorized, filled, and vacant positions in the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office; and
  • An update on how the Baltimore Police Department is trying to add civilians to its workforce.

On Wednesday, Scott and Harrison announced their “Strategic Management & Alternative Response Tactics,” or “SMART,” policing plan that will divert certain calls related to behavioral health, traffic accidents and other non-emergency calls from sworn police officers to the social workers, entrepreneurs and others.

“Building true public safety requires us to develop legitimate solutions to better, more effectively and appropriately deploy law enforcement resources when and where needed,” Scott said in a statement Wednesday.

Costello said Thursday’s board member press conference was not in response to Scott’s announcement. However, he added that the mayor’s policy “is directly in conflict with what we are all talking about”.

Middleton, vice president of the council, said it was imperative to have more officers patrolling neighborhoods, whether on foot or by car.

“We need consistency and that’s not happening now,” she said.

Stokes said he asked about deploying Maryland state troopers to patrol communities. He said the city’s 14th Ward has only 14 officers tasked with patrolling the entire area.

“That’s why I’m asking the governor to give us more resources because the police can’t do it on their own,” he said.

But Costello said the request for additional resources “must come from the executive.”

“We can stand here and scream and cry and complain and curse and so on about the need for more resources,” he said. “The Governor, the Superintendent of State Police, will not listen to the Baltimore City Council.”

When asked if the board members had spoken with the Scott administration about their demands, Costello replied “ad nauseum.”

Asked to comment on criticism from council members, Scott’s office provided a statement from the mayor.

“Sustainably reducing violence is not easy, and despite what some people would have us believe, there is no silver bullet or magic button that will stop people from shooting each other overnight,” said he declared. “As the Council is acutely aware, I remain focused on doing everything in my power to address the violence that alienates residents from their families and loved ones and traumatizes Baltimore communities. I would only ask them to stay engaged in this essential work and to live up to my urgency and efforts to bring real change to our residents.

Gubernatorial candidates also weigh on public safety

Meanwhile, some Democratic gubernatorial candidates have been promoting their crime reduction plans in recent days.

Former Prince George County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said Thursday he was ready to deploy state troopers to Baltimore — less about stopping the killings and more to reign over the young men who stand on the medians with window cleaner and squeegees, otherwise known as “squeegee boys”.

Former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III at a press conference to discuss his response as governor to Baltimore’s ‘squeegee boys’. Photo by Hannah Gaskill.

“We know the mayor is doing what he can. We know the city council is doing what it can, but it’s a state matter,” said Baker, one of more than a dozen candidates vying to be Maryland’s next governor.

Baker wants to make it illegal to ask motorists to pay for window cleaning, but also wants to provide squeegees with state jobs and opportunities to attend schools in the University of Maryland system for free.

Baker also wants to provide an entrepreneurial track for these boys and men and provide them with grants to start their own businesses.

Many raclette boys – often young teenagers – accept electronic payments through Cash App.

“So clearly they think,” Baker said.

To enforce his proposed ban, Baker wants to deploy state troopers to the city to issue fines and warnings. According to a press release, repeat offenders will be prosecuted.

When asked how he decided to fine kids under 18, Baker said they often see raclette as the only option to earn money.

“What we have to do is show that there is something else,” he said. “So it’s less about fines, it’s more about us getting you off the street because there are alternatives here.”

Baker did not discuss this plan with the Scott administration.

As Baker wants to get the squeegee guys off the city’s roads and put them on the path to better careers, Talbot County State’s Attorney Scott G. Patterson (D) backs the former attorney general Douglas F. Gansler (D) to be Maryland’s next governor based on his concern for public safety.

Earlier this year, Arundel County Prosecutor Anne Colt Leitess (D) endorsed Gansler, as did former prosecutors in Somerset, Worcester, Dorchester, Cecil, Charles and Howard counties.

Patterson said Thursday he viewed Gansler as someone who believes “we have too many people in jail, and I know he believes that the people who should be in jail and in jail are those who are violent offenders. which make it dangerous for citizens to live their lives peacefully, raise families and conduct their businesses.

And Comptroller Peter VR Franchot, another Democratic gubernatorial candidate, began running a digital ad this week featuring the Reverend Alvin C. Hathaway Sr., a prominent Baltimore cabinet minister, outlining why he thinks Franchot is the candidate best equipped to make the city safer.

Leave a Reply