Maryland Is In A Violent Crime Crisis

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Our community recently experienced a shocking incident when two Anne Arundel police detectives were shot by a criminal they were investigating for a recent murder. Detectives Scott Ballard and Ian Preece are both recovering from their injuries, and our entire community is so grateful to them for ensuring that this violent criminal is no longer on the streets.

Maryland is in the midst of a violent crime crisis. While Baltimore City is, in many ways, ground zero for this crisis, it impacts all parts of our state. With all that has transpired in Pasadena over the last few weeks, our community certainly is not immune.

With my colleagues in the House minority caucus, I am moving forward with a multifaceted and serious plan to combat violent crime in our communities and in our state as a whole.

The plan is divided into two parts; the first focuses on getting violent criminals who commit heinous acts out of our communities. These bills include:

  • House Bill 1411 - Protecting Marylanders from Violent Crime Act of 2020 would require state and local corrections agencies to cooperate with ICE detainers for those convicted of violent crimes, terrorism, and participating in criminal street gangs.
  • HB 1325 - Stopping Dangerous and Violent Offenders Act of 2020 will require violent criminals to serve at least 90% of their sentence before they are eligible for parole, instead of the required 50% that is current law.
  • HB 914 - Gun Theft Felony Act of 2012 makes the crime of stealing a gun a felony.

The second part of our plan to combat the crisis of violent crime focuses on the judicial branch; specifically on transparency in sentencing and plea deals, shining light on a branch of government that often operates outside the view of its citizens. Those bills include:

  • HB 1289 - Victim Empowerment in Plea Deals Act of 2020 provides an opportunity for victims to certify that they have been notified of the plea agreement and, should they choose, gives them an opportunity to have their opinion and feedback on the plea agreement entered into the court record.
  • HB 1376 - Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2020 will, upon request, allow media outlets to film the sentencing portion of a criminal trial. The judge must consider the privacy and safety of jurors and victims when deciding to grant the request. Victims have the right to opt out of being filmed and also have the right to ask the judge not to allow the filming at all.
  • HB 1485 - Truth in Plea Deals Act of 2020 will shed light on which state prosecutors are bad actors in allowing for short sentences of violent crimes.

We are a little over one-third of the way through the 90-day legislative session and, so far, there does not seem to be a strong desire on the part of the majority party to pass legislation that will have a meaningful impact on crime in this state. Instead, members of the majority party have already moved forward to pass House Bill 4, a bill that targets lawful gun owners and will make life harder for hunters and sportsmen and women instead of focusing on illegal guns and those who use them to commit violent crimes. Crime data shows that the vast majority of homicides in our state are committed with handguns, not long guns. In fact, more people were murdered by assailants simply using their hands, fists and feet than were murdered using a shotgun or rifle. Every loss of life is tragic, but if you are truly looking to keep communities safe on a large scale, you have to focus on the people who commit horrendous violent crimes and the illegal weapons they use. Further restricting the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens does little to keep our communities safer.

I am hopeful that by the time the 2020 legislative session ends, the Maryland General Assembly will come together in a bipartisan way and move forward with legislation that will truly keep our children, our families, and our communities safe; it is a fundamental duty of government.

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