Federal, state and local law enforcement officials had the chance to exhale Wednesday – albeit briefly – as their collaborative efforts of the last 60 days showed some success in slowing the crippling violent crime that has gripped Baltimore over the last year.
Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) took the lead in presenting an update on the joint initiative to combat violent crime in the city at a news conference at the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. Courthouse in Baltimore.
“The goal of this aggressive joint federal, state and local surge operation was to apprehend as many violent criminals as possible from the streets of Baltimore City,” Hogan said.
The result, he said, was more than 500 arrests in Baltimore, including 259 of the city’s most violent criminals. Among that number are 10 individuals who have been charged with murder, 10 charged with attempted murder, 21 charged with serious gun or weapons offenses, and 76 charged with aggravated assault or assault.
“When it comes to these repeat violent offenders, and the people shooting and killing people on the streets of Baltimore City, I want to be absolutely clear: We have no tolerance whatsoever to those who are engaging in this violent activity and terrorizing the streets of Baltimore,” Hogan said.
“Make no mistake about it,” he added. “We will find you, we will arrest you, and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
Hogan went on to say that as a result of what he called “joint enhanced visibility patrols,” law enforcement officials executed 44,135 premises checks, responded to 5,665 calls for service, and issued 5,333 citations. He said they “closed an additional 261 high-priority warrants on the most violent criminals in the city, and we made 263 additional arrests.”
During the 60-day sweep, he said, parole and probation officers conducted 2,463 site visits, and 379 additional probation warrants were served.
Hogan was flanked by Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, a Democrat, and Col. William M. Pallozzi, superintendent of the Maryland State Police. Beside them were acting Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl D. De Sousa, who is awaiting confirmation by the City Council, and Daniel L. Board Jr., special agent in charge of the Baltimore Field Division of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
So far in 2018, homicides, shootings and violent crime generally are down sharply in Baltimore, where there have been more than 300 killings in each of the last three years. Last year, there were 342 homicides, a record number per capita.
“We’re going in the right direction now. It’s still early, but we’re encouraged by what we see so far,” said De Sousa, a 30-year veteran of the Baltimore department. “This initiative was on steroids. So, this is what we needed to give us that jolt.”
U.S. Marshal Johnny L. Hughes, a former Maryland state trooper, hosted the update in the federal offices.
Hughes, who resides in Baltimore, praised Hogan and Pugh, as well as De Sousa, whom he said he has known for years – both as a police officer and someone who has tended to the homeless and less fortunate along Baltimore’s Old Town Mall on N. Gay Street, as part of a church-related outreach program.
“I know you got heart for the city, and you have a heart for people, and you’re a good man,” Hughes said of the acting police commissioner.
Other federal, state and local law enforcement authorities filled the conference room, and Hogan seemed to thank them all: the U.S. Marshals Service, FBI, ATF, Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Secret Service, as well as all the Maryland state police agencies and Division of Parole and Probation.
Hogan began the news conference by referencing the death of off-duty Prince George’s County police officer, Cpl. Mujahid A. Ramzziddin, 51, a 14-year veteran of the department who was shot and killed Wednesday while protecting a neighbor in need of help in a domestic dispute. He ordered state flags to be flown at half-staff.
De Sousa, who was appointed by Pugh last month after she fired Police Commissioner Kevin F. Davis, was confirmed unanimously Wednesday night by a City Council committee, which in turn sent his name to the full body for approval.
Before her brief remarks, Pugh thanked Hogan for his help, particularly in dispatching more than 200 state parole and probation officers to Baltimore and assigning two to each of the city’s nine police districts — 18 total — as had been the case at one time.
“This police department, I believe, under the direction of our commissioner designee De Sousa will make strides in how we attack and reduce violence in our city,” Pugh said. “These kinds of collaborative efforts only can mean one thing for Baltimore: That we will become a safer city. that is the goal of this administration, that is the goal of this collaborative.
“We can make Baltimore one of the safest cities in America,” she said.