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State bolsters Baltimore’s violent crime fighting strategy with new division

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Rachel Baye
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U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek Barron is creating a new division in his office with state funds to combat violent crime with some new tactics.

Nearly a dozen city, state and federal elected leaders and law enforcement officials were in East Baltimore Wednesday to announce the latest in their efforts to curb gun violence in Baltimore.

With $3.5 million in new state funding, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek Barron is creating a new division within his office devoted to violent and organized crime, with 30 new prosecutors, investigators and analysts. He plans to have the office fully staffed by Oct. 7, according to spokeswoman Marcia Lubin.

Barron said he is also going to take new tactics as his office prosecutes people who commit violent crimes.

“All too often, we look at our violent crime targets in a vacuum. We're not going to do that anymore,” he said. “If we suspect you for committing violent crime in our communities, you will be vetted for any and all wrongdoing that meets our office’s priorities.”

He explained that if someone is suspected in a violent crime, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will also investigate them for possible unemployment insurance fraud, CARES Act fraud or Payroll Protection Program fraud, for example.

Barron called this the “Al Capone method of prosecution.”

“You might not believe it, but what we have found is that more than half of our targets are involved in such fraud,” he said.

Standing across the street from Tench Tilghman Elementary/Middle School, Barron said he also plans to prosecute people under a “little-known or prosecuted” federal statute barring unlicensed guns within a thousand feet of a school.

In addition to the new special assistant U.S. attorneys working under Barron, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said the new state funding — proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan and approved earlier this year by the General Assembly — will also pay for more prosecutors to support the organized crime unit in his office.

The prosecutors are also collaborating with local police, as well as federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the FBI.

However, Frosh warned that more law enforcement and prosecutions are not a panacea for Baltimore’s crime rates.

“I do have to emphasize that we're not going to prosecute or incarcerate our way out of the violent crime problem that afflicts Baltimore City and the rest of our state,” Frosh said.

Rachel Baye is a reporter for WYPR's newsroom.
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