Public Safety Agenda Press Conference

Published: 1/11/2024

​​​​​​​​​​​Remarks as prepared
​Delivered on Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Good morning. We’ve been clear since inauguration day that public safety is our administration’s top priority. 

On our first full day in office, I met with Attorney General Anthony Brown and U.S. Attorney Erek Barron in the State House to discuss our strategy for public safety.

Six months later, I stood with my cabinet in this room, and we made our shared vision very clear: When it comes to public safety, we aren’t going to point fingers and place blame while homicide rates increase. We are going to lead – and we are going to lead together.

We announced an all-of-the-above approach to public safety. We said that our success would depend on the participation of every single Marylander.

Today, we are here to discuss our continued partnership and our aggressive approach to keep Marylanders safe;

And I’m pleased to stand with a remarkable team.

We’re joined by cabinet secretaries, law enforcement; state’s attorneys; the Attorney General; federal leaders; members of the General Assembly; and advisors across the public and private sectors.

And we have a lot to share this morning.

But before we talk about the work ahead, I want to take a moment to highlight the work we’ve done.

In Year One, we knew that we had to create a new culture of collaboration.

We made the choice to trust and support the people on the ground.

We made the choice to stand with law enforcement, state’s attorneys, public defenders, federal partners, and those doing violence reduction work in communities;

And we gave them the resources they needed.

We made the choice to forge bonds across executive agencies, nurture partnerships with village elders, and reach out to everyone with a vested interest in public safety.

We made the choice to grow opportunity, so our kids – particularly those living in our most challenged communities – can contribute to society, instead of resorting to crime as a way to survive. 

We invested $122 million in funding for local police departments and signed legislation to get illegal guns off our streets.

We expanded the Office of the Attorney General by securing and supporting 66 new full-time positions, including positions in the Criminal Investigation Division.

We secured $11 million for the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center; $7 million for more staff in the Public Defender’s Office; And $7 million to our State’s Attorneys, including $5 million for the Baltimore City State’s Attorney.

We delivered $2 million to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. And I’m proud that Maryland is one of the only states in the country to provide direct support to our U.S. Attorney.

And on top of everything I mentioned, we secured strategic investments to expand education, end child poverty, and build stronger pathways to prosperity. 

The results we've achieved together are undeniable.

We proved to the state that we can bring down violent crime.

We proved to the state that we can bring down non-fatal shootings. 

We proved to the state that we can break the cycle of 300+ homicides in Baltimore City each year.

I highlight our progress not to indicate that our work is done — it's not. I highlight our progress because it means that by working together, we can actually make change.

This year, we are going to continue to use every tool at our disposal to ensure that people feel safe in their communities.

We’re going to make use of the budget. We’re going to make use of executive orders. And we’re going to make use of the data;

We’re going to make use of partnerships with the U.S. Attorney, the Attorney General, our State's Attorneys, lawmakers, advocates, and local law enforcement;

And we’re going to use the legislative process, through bills we will introduce – and through bills we will help shape, in partnership with the General Assembly.

We plan to introduce three public safety bills this session.

First, we will introduce the Victim’s Compensation Reform Act. 

This bill will ensure that victims of crime can count on support when they need it most.

When people feel safe and feel like justice will be served, we have a better chance of getting convictions and closing cases.

And by forging stronger bonds with victims of crime, we can help break cycles of violence in our communities. That’s why this bill matters.

Second, we will introduce the Growing Apprenticeships in Public Safety Act – also called the GAPS Act. 

Law enforcement is vital to the safety of our communities. We have a responsibility to recruit, train, and retain quality law enforcement officers. 

Our legislation will build stronger pipelines to law enforcement jobs for all Marylanders – even those who don’t pursue a four-year degree.

And as we contend with workforce shortages across our public safety agencies, this bill will help us get more boots on the ground – and help us keep the boots we already have. 

Third, we will introduce a bill to create a new Center for Firearm Violence Prevention and Intervention in the Maryland Department of Health.

We need to confront the inexcusable fact that 75% of homicides in Maryland are committed with a gun.

This is a public safety crisis, and it’s a public health crisis. We need to get these illegal guns off our streets – and we will. This legislation marks an important step forward.

Just a few months ago, President Biden created the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention. That office is led by representatives in this room today.

The Biden White House recommends that states create their own offices of gun violence prevention. And today, Maryland asserts its leadership in that work.

I also know there will be robust debates this session about juvenile justice. Our administration will be an active participant in those conversations.

We need to think seriously about lengthening probation for juveniles guilty of gun crimes and violent felonies;

That way, we give juveniles additional time to complete necessary rehabilitation programs. 

I also support moving more crimes related to illegal guns from misdemeanors to felonies. 

I support reforms that data shows reduce crime. And the hallmark of what I hope to see in any juvenile justice legislation can be summarized in one word: Accountability.

We need accountability for kids that are repeatedly violating the law; I believe in rehabilitation, but I will not tolerate lawlessness. 

We need accountability for the young person who picks up a handgun and threatens the safety of our neighborhoods; You cannot destroy the lives of other people and believe there will be no consequences. 

We need accountability for that small number of young adults who commit the most heinous crimes; Repeat violent offenders need to know any sense of invincibility you might feel will be short-lived. 

Accountability also means holding ourselves to account. 

When a kid does something wrong, they need to be held accountable. But so do the adults responsible for preventing and responding to those situations.  

It means holding local government partners and law enforcement accountable for curbing violence.

It means holding our social services and school systems accountable for helping youth break cycles of crime.

It means holding our non-profit and business partners accountable for providing new pathways to prosperity.

It means holding our families accountable for nurturing the dreams and aspirations of our youth.

It means holding state leadership accountable for following the data and implementing proven policies that work.

And it means holding our Department of Juvenile Services accountable too.

When we entered office last year, there was a measure of brokenness in the Department of Juvenile Services. 

Morale was low. Vacancies were high. 

Leaders from both sides of the aisle and throughout our communities were frustrated with a department that was not meeting its mission. 

We still have a lot of work to do in this department – but if there’s anyone who’s up to the job, it’s our Secretary of Juvenile Services, Vinny Schiraldi. 

You’ll hear from Vinny in just a few moments about the work he’s doing. 

And the thing that makes Vinny the right leader for this moment is this:

He recognizes that if children break the law and we put them into a system that doesn’t give them the resources they need to choose a better path, we’re doing it wrong.

He recognizes that if children break the law and we put them into a system that makes them more likely to commit crime, we’re doing it wrong.

I understand accountability. And I demand it. 

Secretary Schiraldi understands accountability. And he demands it.

And everyone around this podium understands accountability. We all demand it. 

And by working with social service providers, law enforcement, judges, advocates, families, and our partners in the General Assembly, we can keep making powerful progress to ensure that Maryland is a safe state. 

It takes a village to raise a child. And it will take a village to build safer communities.

So to everyone who has been a partner in this effort and who holds themselves accountable for their part in the solution: 

We see you, we appreciate you, and we need you.

We see our friends in the Maryland Violence Prevention Coalition, who are here today.

We see our friends in the Maryland Equitable Justice Collaborative, who are here today.

We see our State’s Attorneys – both in this room, and working hard across the state.

And on this day – Law Enforcement Appreciation Day – we see each and every Marylander who has raised their hand to serve in law enforcement and keep our communities safe.

We will not rest until we get this right. 

And so to all the Marylanders tuning in: Know that we will stop at nothing to ensure your safety. 

To people with guns who wish to do harm to our communities: Know we will  stop at nothing to remove you from our neighborhoods.

And to those who are utilizing and brutalizing our children and having them do their dirty work: Know that accountability is coming for you as well.

Thank you so much, and I’ll now turn the program over to Secretary of Labor Portia Wu.