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MD Senate Overturns Hogan's Vetoes Of Crime-Fighting Bills

Baltimore City Health Department
Wikimedia Commons

The state Senate on Friday voted along party lines to override 16 of Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes. The list of bills includes three intended to reduce crime in Baltimore City that passed last year with bipartisan support.


One of the three bills gives $3 million to the Maryland Violence Intervention and Prevention Program Fund and authorizes its use for Safe Streets, a violence intervention program, in Baltimore City.


“It's well established that in order to effectively reduce violent crime, you need five components. You need prevention, intervention, enforcement, rehabilitation and reentry, and so this bill gets at those first two, which we fall short in terms of resourcing,” said Baltimore Sen. Jill Carter, the bill’s sponsor. “These are evidence-based programs.”


Another bill “would establish 10 high-crime micro-zones and invest and coordinate unprecedented amounts of resources and money and expertise into solving violent crimes,” Sen. Will Smith, a Democrat who leads the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, explained during Friday’s debate.


Among other things, the bill creates community organizer positions in each zone — all of which are in Baltimore City — to increase collaboration between police and the communities where they are located. The bill also reassigns certain Baltimore Police duties to other agencies to free up resources within the department. 


“This is exactly what you want in a crime prevention program,” Smith said. “And this is exactly the type of approach that you want in a high-crime area — coordinating resources, ensuring people with expertise and stakes — stakeholders in the matter — are all working together and coordinated regionally.”


The last bill increases coordination among law enforcement agencies.


Republicans agreed to support the bills last year in exchange for Democratic support of Hogan’s crime package. However, Hogan’s package, which emphasized tougher sentences for certain offenders, later failed in the House.


On Friday, Sen. Bob Cassilly, a Harford County Republican, referred to some of the Democrat-backed bills’ tactics as “soft programs.” 


“The members of the minority party agreed to support these soft programs as a compromise because they were at the time coupled with bills that would remove violent criminal offenders from the community,” Cassilly said. “As they say on the streets, you do the crime, you do the time. When we as legislators fail in our basic responsibility to uphold principles of criminal justice, we destroy innocent lives, we destroy families, we destroy neighborhoods, we destroy cities, and we destroy the state.”


However, Senate President Bill Ferguson said the outcome of Hogan’s crime legislation should not affect legislators’ decision making on other policies.


“The bills that were in front of us today are evidence-based to work,” Ferguson told reporters Friday afternoon. “I certainly don’t agree that we should not pass something that’s effective just because somebody else didn’t get something that they wanted.”


The House is expected to take up the governor’s vetoes next month.


Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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