Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) said Tuesday that he will withhold funding from Baltimore’s state’s attorney until she provides data on crime and prosecution rates in the city, and he promised to re-introduce a failed package of crime bills when lawmakers re-convene for a special session in December.
Hogan made the series of announcements in the State House a week after the city surpassed 300 homicides for the seventh year in a row.
Among the actions Hogan proposed are fast-tracking $10 million in neighborhood safety grants he promised as part of a “Re-Fund the Police” initiative last month, and expanding the grant program to include places of worship. Last week, 69-year-old Evelyn Player was found stabbed to death in the restroom of Southern Baptist Church, the Broadway East church where she volunteered.
After Player’s death last week, Hogan ordered additional Maryland State Police patrols in the city to deter crime.
“The people of Baltimore are hurting. They’re scared. And they’re searching for answers,” Hogan said.
Though Hogan said during a press conference Tuesday that “now is not the time for finger-pointing,” he reserved his harshest comments for Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby (D), saying “we need a prosecutor who will actually prosecute violent criminals.”
Hogan and Mosby have clashed frequently during the governor’s tenure, especially over the state’s attorney’s decision to not prosecute some criminal charges.
On Tuesday, Hogan said he directed the Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention, Youth and Victim Services to “conduct a top-to-bottom evaluation of all funding” that goes to the city prosecutor’s office and withhold that funding until Mosby’s office provided complete data on the number of cases it has not prosecuted and why, the number of cases pleaded down to lesser charges and the number of repeat offenders who were given plea deals.
Three hours after Hogan’s remarks, at a hastily called press conference, Mosby shot back that her office had already disclosed the requested data through grant applications and monthly online updates.
She also listed “conviction rates” of 86% for homicide cases and 96% for felonies among her prosecutors since courts reopened after pandemic-related closures. But those figures only included the outcomes of 21 homicide cases and 195 felony cases, while there are thousands of pending charges and more than 1,300 cases that have been dropped for one reason or another. The statistics Mosby recited at the press conference are also different than those posted on the agency’s website.
She said she would provide any data the governor’s office requests.
“I stand by the work of my office, I’ll provide the governor anything he desires, because I know how much my prosecutors do for this city,” Mosby said.
She called Hogan’s press conference “a political stunt” and said it was “hypocrisy” to launch an effort to “re-fund” the police while withholding funds from prosecutors.
Mosby also said it would be better to use funding to address “root causes” of crime in the city by providing more educational and economic opportunities for residents.
“Why is his only solution to crime, more police and mandatory minimum sentences?” she asked.
Hogan said he would re-introduce two pieces of legislation he’s supported before when lawmakers re-convene in Annapolis on Dec. 6 for a special session: a bill to toughen penalties for illegal possession of firearms and the Judicial Transparency Act, which would track and publish sentences handed down by judges in crimes of violence.
It is unclear how much additional work lawmakers will undertake during the weeklong special session beyond a busy agenda of approving a new congressional district map, overriding Hogan vetoes of bills passed earlier this year and electing a new state treasurer.
In response to the governor’s plan for the special session, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) issued a statement calling the governor’s approach “reactive.” Ferguson said the Senate “remains committed to targeted, thoughtful investments in communities that are most vulnerable — solutions the governor has repeatedly vetoed.”
Ferguson said Hogan could act on his own, before lawmakers assemble, to undertake other solutions like increasing coordination with city officials and strengthening the state’s Division of Parole and Probation.
Sen. Cory V. McCray (D), chair of the city’s Senate delegation, pointed to a new report from the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, requested by the legislature, that shows 509 individuals under supervision by the Division of Parole and Probation were identified as a perpetrator or victim of gun violence.
In 2021, there were 70 homicide suspects under supervision, and about 59 of them had pending supervision violations at the time of the killing, according to the report.
Timely enforcement of pending court actions for noncompliant supervisees could reduce gun violence, the report concluded.
McCray said he will introduce legislation during the regular General Assembly session in January to mandate “measurable goals” to reduce gun crime among probationers and parolees.
He also said he would “look forward to taking any discussion around public safety” and that every state agency should be held responsible for their role in curtailing violence.
Del. Stephanie Smith (D), chair of the city’s House delegation, said the parole and probation agency has faced persistent understaffing during Hogan’s administration.
Smith added that she was disappointed to learn about the governor’s announcement via Twitter and calls from reporters.
“It’s concerning that seven years into the leadership, we’re having conversations of such grave magnitude via social media and the media at large and not through constructive, actual governance work that is unsexy, not made for tweets and maybe looks too much like hard work,” Smith said. “…I don’t think that the real pain of our constituents should be used for political purposes, it should be used for true good-faith, problem solving and good-faith solutions.”
Both Smith and McCray said any conversations about crime reduction should also focus on investments in the community, schools and social services.
During the news conference, Hogan was asked about critics who say the answer isn’t more policing but more funding for social services and other programs that address the root causes of crime and violence.
Hogan said up to $5 billion had been funneled to Baltimore to address a range of issues. “I’m concerned about people getting shot this week and this weekend,” said Hogan. “I think we should have more funding for police.”
Maryland Matters news partner WTOP contributed to this report.