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Transcript: November 23 Crime Announcement

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  Good afternoon.  Joining me here today are superintendent of the Maryland State Police, Colonel Jerry Jones and our chief legislative officer and senior counselor to the Governor, Keiffer Mitchell.

The murders, shootings, and out of control violent crime in the streets of Baltimore has long been the most urgent issue facing the city.  But the latest string of heinous crimes over the last few weeks have been particularly disturbing, and it has shaken city residents and community leaders to the core.

Ten days ago in broad daylight, a Catholic priest was assaulted, robbed, and struck in the head with a gun right outside his church in Little Italy.  The next afternoon an armed suspect went on a shooting spree in east Baltimore.  He shot three people, two of them fatally, at three separate locations, including a local barber shop.  A week ago today Evelyn Player, a 69-year-old retiree and grandmother, arrived after sunrise at Southern Baptist Church, where she was a long time member and volunteer.  She was found later that morning stabbed to death in the church bathroom.

Last week Baltimore surpassed the staggering milestone of 300 murders for the seventh straight year.  The 300th victim was a 5-year-old girl, whose body showed signs of previous abuse.  And on Thursday night, a 13-year-old girl was gunned down near a recreation center in west Baltimore.

These aren’t just stories.  Statistics.  These are lives tragically snuffed out and families that will never be the same.  It’s heart breaking and it’s completely unacceptable.  The people of Baltimore are hurting.  They’re scared.  And they’re searching for answers.  They want to know why this bloodshed keeps happening and what it’s going to take for something to finally change.

This horrifying violence is tearing Baltimore City apart, and enough is enough.

Last week I directed the Maryland State Police and all state law enforcement agencies to immediately provide additional assistance to the Baltimore Police Department and to provide enhanced visibility patrols and an all-hands-on-deck effort.  Since then the state of Maryland initiated more than 550 enhanced visibility patrols by state police agencies into the city of Baltimore over the past five days.

In addition to the 100 percent match of all crime stoppers rewards that lead to arrests, which we previously announced, we also offered an additional $100,000 reward for the information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Evelyn Player’s murder.

Last month of course we announced an additional $150 million of increased support for state and local police agencies to pay for body cameras, deescalation training, to hire more officers, provide additional victim services and community policing initiatives all across the state.  There’s plenty of blame to go around for the lawlessness and violence in Baltimore.  But now is not the time for finger pointing, for excuses.  What the people of Baltimore City desperately need are answers and action.

A few weeks ago we announced that we would invest another $10 million in the upcoming budget for neighborhood safety grants to support lighting, cameras, hardware upgrades, and increased security services for community organizations, business districts, main streets and neighbors in Baltimore City and all across the state.

Today I’m announcing that we are expediting that funding and making it immediately available.  Today we are also expanding the eligibility requirements to include places of worship and vulnerable communities.  But as I have repeatedly said, we also need a prosecutor who will actually prosecute violent criminals.  Our residents deserve transparency and accountability, and they and all Maryland taxpayers deserve to know that the millions of dollars in funding that the state provides each year are being used to actually prosecute criminals and to keep them off the streets.

Effective immediately I am directing the Office of Crime Prevention, Youth, and Victim Services to conduct a top to bottom evaluation of all funding provided to the Baltimore City state’s attorney’s office.  All of that state funding will remain pending and under review until that office provides complete data regarding the number of cases they have chosen not to prosecute and why, the number of cases pled down to lesser charges, and the number of violent offenders who are given plea deals.

We’re also asking the Baltimore Police Department to immediately redouble their tactical efforts in high crime areas of the city.  The state law enforcement officials believe this should include the BPD increasing district, sector, and community patrols and deploying lighting and traffic employment measures to increase visibility in known high crime areas.

I am introducing emergency legislation to be submitted during the special session of the legislature which begins on December 6th to require tougher sentencing for violent offenders, specifically those who continue to commit violent felonies with guns.

In 2021 a staggering 82 percent of homicide suspects had a prior criminal record.  Nearly half had prior gun-related charges and had prior arrests for a crime of violence.  And yet they remain out on the streets, continuing to perpetrate these crimes over and over again.  The reality is, no matter what actions we take, Baltimore City will never get control of the violence if they don’t arrest more, prosecute more, and sentence more to get the most violent criminals off the streets.  And if they can’t keep the flood of illegal guns from making it into the hands of these violent criminals.

I will be introducing emergency legislation in the special session the violent firearms offender act to significantly tougher penalties for those who use and illegally possess guns as well as those who supply illegal guns to violent criminals.  This legislation includes truth in sentencing provisions, requiring criminals to use guns to commit violent crimes to serve their time consecutively, and it increases penalties for those who use guns who commit violent crimes.  The violent firearms offender ability will increase pan alts for those illegally possessing a firearm as well as penalties for convicted gang members who illegally possess firearms.  We know that guns used in crimes often do not belong to the offender, which is why our legislation also increases penalties for knowingly and illegally transferring a gun to someone who plans to use it to commit a crime or to cause harm and increases penalties for those who possess stolen firearms and guns with obliterated serial numbers.

The violent firearms offender act will also increase the minimum penalty for those who knowingly participate in a purchase to illegally provide a gun to a prohibited person or to a minor.  We will also again introduce the Judicial Transparency Act as emergency legislation during the special session.  It will require the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy to track and publish detailed information on the sentences that are handed down by judges for all violent crimes.  For seven years I have been fighting to bring transparency and accountability to state government.  Why should that standard only apply to the executive and legislative branches?  It needs to apply to the judicial branch as well.  The public has a right to know about the sentences judges are giving or not giving to the most violent offenders.  People are being shot nearly every single day in Baltimore City, and we have an obligation to do something about it right now.

I want to thank the Maryland Senate for passing these bills in past years, but the House must also take decisive emergency action.  An overwhelming majority of Baltimore City residents and all Marylanders strongly support these bills.  We have all waited long enough.

We have reached out to Mayor Scott to set up a meeting, and today we are once again asking city leaders and the city delegation to stop working against this legislation and to work together with us to expeditiously pass this emergency legislation.

On Thursday families across Maryland and across America will gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving.  For the family of Evelyn Player and the families of the more than 300 we have lost this year, it will be a long and very difficult holiday season.  I ask all Marylanders to keep them in your prayers.  But prayers are not enough.  With all of the actions that we’ve announced here today, I want those families and all the victims of this violence to know that we will not stop pursuing those criminals who are terrorizing our community, and we will continue to use every tool in our disposal to make these neighborhoods safer and to get these violent shooters off the streets.

With that, I would be happy to take a few questions.

(Question off mic).

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  I think we’ve invested something like $5 billion into the city of Baltimore to address some of the root causes of crime, but I’m concerned about people getting shot this week and this weekend, and that doesn’t do anything to stop that.  You know, an overwhelming majority of Marylanders and people in Baltimore City support all three of these pieces of legislation.  Something like 88 percent of the people in Baltimore City agree with us according to polls.  75 percent nationwide say we need more funding for police.  So I know there are some council members who want to eliminate the police department.  I can tell you almost no one agrees with them.

(Question off mic).

SPEAKER:  What about Prince George’s County?

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  Great question.  Violent crime is up all across America, but these staggering numbers, PG County is also obviously seeing an increase.  The they are about 50 percent larger than Baltimore City and has one-third of the murder.  So I’m not trying to diminish the severity of the problem.  It is getting worse but it’s not as bad as Baltimore.  It is the second largest problem we have in the state.  But every single one of the things we talk about, even though I’ve kind of focused in on the city, every one of these pieces of legislation, the funding, the increased support for local police applies to PG County just as it does Baltimore City and all of our other 24 jurisdictions.

SPEAKER:  Governor, why is it so difficult to meet with the mayor?

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  It’s not difficult to meet with the mayor.  We reached out to him today and I think we’re going to meet with him.

SPEAKER:  This has been going on, the dialogue saying we want to meet, we want to meet.

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  No, that’s not true.  We met with the mayor before on crime and he sat down and went through his 5-year plan and we responded to it and said we need to do some things.  I’ve been with the mayor a dozen times since then and we’re going to have another meeting.  There’s no issue with that.

(Question off mic).

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  Sure.  I mean, why now?  All the legislation we’ve introduced year after year after year.  The reason we’re announcing it now is the past 10 days of violence in the city which is the most heart wrenching I’ve seen, and because we have a special session starting to on December 6 and we want the legislature to take this up as emergency legislation rather than waiting until January or February or March to try to argue about these bills.  We think we need to do it immediately.

I’m sorry.  What was the second part?

(Question off mic).

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention has been compiling data all across the state with respect to sentencing, and we haven’t gotten data from Baltimore City.  This is going to require them to respond to the state before they get additional funding.

(Question off mic).

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  A lot of money in there.  We want to make sure the state taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.  So we’re not really freezing it, but we’re doing an immediate review, and we’re hoping that we will get the cooperation we need out of the state’s attorneys’ office and if not, we may have to withhold funding.

(Question off mic).

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  I mean, this is a concern I’ve had for a long time.  One of the reasons why we push for the Judicial Transparency Act, I think there’s a lot of flexibility in what judges do and sentencing.  We just want to know exactly — people have the right to know what they are and aren’t doing.  That is one particular case that’s concerning but there are literally hundreds of ones just like that that we’re concerned about, so we want to get to the bottom of it and get the data.  The judicial system opposes this bill.  I think over 90 percent of the people in Maryland support the bill, and we’re going to push to get it done.

(Question off mic).

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  We tried a number of things.  I mean, people come up to me and say, can you fire the state’s attorney in Baltimore City, and I say, no, only you can do that, the people in the city.  She doesn’t work for us.  She works for the citizens of Baltimore.

But you know, we’ve been trying to take various actions.  One thing we did was we try to push more of the gun crimes to the U.S. attorney.  The state actually pays for federal prosecutors in the U.S. attorneys’ office so they can process project exile with gun crimes because the city wasn’t doing a good job of it.

The Attorney General agreed to try to take over the prosecution of some of the violent crimes in Baltimore City and we put more than 50 prosecutors into his office but it was killed by the legislature because the city was opposed to it.

Now we’re saying we’re going to review their cases completely and if so we will have to hold funding until we get the actions we need.  So we will do whatever we can to help, but it’s not in our direct control or we would already have fixed it by now.

(Question off mic).

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  Meeting with the mayor will just be with the mayor.  We don’t want a dog and pony show.  We want a real discussion about what we can do about taking immediate action on the violent crime.

(Question off mic).

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  It’s not just the state police.  It’s all five of our state police agencies have been doing increased patrols, more than they normally do so.  You’re seeing state police vehicles from five agencies driving through some of these dangerous neighborhoods to provide a presence.  There are a lot of things we work on an ongoing basis with respect to helping process warrants, we do searches from time to time where we send people in, but right now this is a huge increase in the visibility.  The state can’t take the place of the Baltimore City Police Department, and they’re actually bigger than the state police and have more people.  And that’s not what our guys have trained for, but in this particular case, just getting them in there to do some patrols to help provide some backup for the overwhelmed city police department is what we’re trying to do.

(Question off mic).

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  You know, I said earlier I didn’t want to point fingers because I would rather focus on solutions.  Obviously the job isn’t getting done.  I don’t want to say who is not getting the job done.  But I would like to figure out a way for us to come together and everybody do a better job.

SPEAKER:  Do you have a date for that meeting?

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  I think we just reached out to him this morning and I know our schedulers are working but sometime in the next week or two we’ll try to get together.

SPEAKER:  Last question.

(Question off mic).

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  So Secretary Schultz has done an incredible job for us for the past 7 years.  She’s served in the legislature admirably, small business owner, terrific job as our labor secretary, commerce secretary.  She would make a great Governor.  I fully intend to help her.  (Inaudible) is a QAnon whack job, (inaudible) talking about hanging him.  It’s a pretty clear choice.  Last week someone said a republican like Hogan would beat a progressive democrat and a republican like Trump would lose 69/29 I think is the number.  But yeah, at some point we’ll be having more answers about that.  We had a big meeting with the Governors Association last week talking about this problem.  The President is attacking six or seven sitting governors and members of Congress.  I think it’s bad for the party.  I think it’s bad for Donald Trump.  And we’re going to continue to push back.  But the voters of Maryland will make their own decision who they think the next Governor should be, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be that crazy QAnon guy.

Thank you.