Crime is a major concern when Maryland voters go to the polls


Crime in Baltimore and beyond has become a top issue in the Maryland gubernatorial race, a marked departure in a wealthy, highly educated state where business and education typically draw voters’ most attention.

Even before the mass shootings in Highland Park, Illinois, Ulvade, Tex., and Buffalo, persistent gun violence in Baltimore and beyond transformed the gubernatorial primary debate, as frustrated residents urged candidates to go beyond thought, prayer, and topics of conversation to offer solutions.

“We can’t go on like this,” said Marvin “Doc” Cheatham Sr., 71, a community activist and president of the Matthew Henson Neighborhood Association in Baltimore, who sponsored a candidate forum last month.

Recent high-profile incidents have thrown the wreckage and causes of shootings into the folds of candidates as they struggle to break through in an election that has seen many voters enter the final stages undecided, shifting the focus and tenor of the governor’s race: a gunman sprayed 60 rounds from an assault weapon in northeast Baltimore, killing a man in his 20s; a bullet entered the home of an 83-year-old woman as she lay in bed; A 15-year-old allegedly opened fire in downtown Baltimore, killing a teenager, injuring two others and sending hundreds running for cover.

Tensions echo in races up and down the country and come amid urgency and consistent bipartisan federal action on firearms over the past month. Tough anti-crime messages, a hallmark of 1990s politics fueled by the aftermath of the War on Drugs, echo through midterm races across the country as cities face spikes in gun violence and homicide rates, and the Democrats between caught up in the promises of social progress, justice and the reduction of violence.

Democratic candidates compete has spoken about crime with greater urgency and, in some cases, more aggressively as the successor to term-limited Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who feuded with city leaders over crime as he attempted to raise his national profile ahead of a possible presidential bid. than in past election cycles. One candidate suggested declaring a state of emergency in Baltimore. Another, who wants to hire more civil servants, launched a campaign ad that some voters called scaremongering. The ad begins with a hooded carjacker wielding a crowbar, banging on a windshield and startling a woman at a red light.

“I have the experience and the plan to fight crime now,” former Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, who has made fighting crime a central part of his campaign, said in the ad. Gansler, who is lagging behind in polls, has defended himself against criticism of his ad, saying, “With nearly 3,000 deaths in Baltimore City alone during this administration, this is not scaremongering. That is real.”

Gun violence — a category that includes homicides and non-fatal shootings — has risen 10 percent in Baltimore since July 2, while total violent crimes rose 6 percent, Baltimore Police Department data showed. Meanwhile, Anne Arundel Police Chief this month called for an “all-hands-on-deck approach” following a spate of shootings in the Baltimore suburbs. Last month, a gunman killed three people at a Smithsburg factory near the Pennsylvania border. Statewide crime figures for 2021 are not publicly available, and data across all jurisdictions show spikes in some categories and dips in others. In Prince George’s County, for example, homicides and nonfatal shootings fell but carjackings rose year over year, while in neighboring Montgomery County, rates of gun-related homicides and nonfatal shootings increased by a relatively flat 75 percent.

“We watch crimes that feel more outrageous, and we watch … answers that feel more elusive,” said bestselling author and former nonprofit leader Wes Moore, one of three front-runners in the Democratic primary. Moore said voters were becoming increasingly aware of the state’s role in solving the problem and what he described as Hogan’s failure to work with city leaders — a characterization the governor’s spokesman challenged and funding policing, fighting crime , victim ministries and community based programs .

Two years ago, following protests following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, Democrats discussed ways to rethink policing and ensure police are held accountable for wrongdoing. Now, candidates to lead a state that has passed sweeping police reforms want voters to know that their support for social justice doesn’t mean they’re fighting crime.

“We cannot allow people to be dragged out of their cars and their cars stolen at intersections,” said State Inspector Peter Franchot, who competed in a horse race with Moore and U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez for the Democratic nomination in the 10-person race on the field. “You can’t have a thriving economy in the state of Maryland if people don’t feel safe in their communities.”

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Franchot, who said he has “zero tolerance for any type of violent crime” and “zero tolerance for unlawful police misconduct,” plans to deploy state police to increase police presence in select neighborhoods.

Moore recently urged Hogan to immediately fill the more than 100 State Department parole and probation vacancies. City leaders said last year that one in three suspects in non-fatal shootings and murders is either on parole or on probation and is under state supervision. He also wants to increase funding for community violence prevention groups.

“We really need to build strong partnerships between state, local and federal law enforcement agencies to prosecute and solve these gun crimes,” Moore said. who mentioned during the election campaign that he attended the funeral of a friend’s brother who was recently shot dead for false identity. “And we need to get these guns off the streets. This is how you do it [to] actually stop [crime] prevent it before it even happens.”

Perez said there was a lack of “real partnership” between the state and local leaders. He said the state has a legal responsibility to address his department’s shortcomings. A former federal attorney, Perez said he will work with former colleagues from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to deal with illegal guns and create a statewide Violence Prevention Coordinator.

John B. King Jr., who is supported by Our Revolution Maryland and other left-wing organizations, agreed on the need for increased probation and probation enforcement and advocated “police plus” mental health services, addiction treatment, and job training.

However, he cautioned against returning to an old way of thinking about solutions that fueled Maryland’s high incarceration rates and ultimately led the state to lead the country in the percentage of people serving life sentences who are black.

Gansler’s own ticket sums up the complexity of the issue.

He wants to hire 1,000 new officers nationwide, install 10,000 new lights on Baltimore’s streets and get illegal guns off the streets. Fellow campaigner Candace Hollingsworth founded a political party, Our Black Party, whose program includes Defund the Police.

Gansler, who is supported by the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #4, said he and Hollingsworth share a vision of making the state “safer and stronger,” and their platform “builds accountability and ensures that law enforcement agencies… Have the resources they need to fight violent crime, build stronger connections with communities, and invest heavily in the additional resources communities need to prevent crime in the first place…

“Black communities deserve to be safe from violent crime, and they also deserve to be safe from those responsible for their protection,” he said in an emailed statement.

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That sentiment echoes a message hammered into rushern L. Baker III during his short-lived stint on the trail. Baker called for a state of emergency and the deployment of the National Guard in Baltimore. His first campaign ad complained of inaction, claiming that black men were “slaughtered” and “because they’re black, no one in power cares.”

Hogan has repeatedly said that Baltimore residents, including black residents, are tired of feeling unsafe and has cited his internal polls as evidence of support for his crime-fighting bill, which included tougher sentencing for repeat offenders.

“It’s outrageous,” he said during a recent appearance on WBAL radio. In “Baltimore, they just continue to have no responsibility for their actions.”

Several Baltimore residents said they objected to the use of the city as a political tool by Hogan and, in recent years, by former President Donald Trump.

“I don’t like the way he’s talking about Baltimore,” said Rita Crews, president of a community association in Belair, northeast Baltimore, of Hogan, who is ending his second and final term. “Stop talking nationwide about Baltimore City and talk to us first before you decide this is what Baltimore needs. He’s not in the trenches with us. He doesn’t walk in our shoes.”

Crews said she would like to see a strategy to ensure police officers are “trained to be compassionate and to care about the community, and not just to make an arrest.” Some people have mental illnesses. You don’t need to be arrested.”

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She said a “great start” would be to shut down the open drug markets. “They’re scary and you can tell where they are,” she said.

Cheatham, meanwhile, liked Baker’s idea of ​​using the National Guard. Others, like Elijah Miles, leader of community organization Tandea Family, said more resources should be made available to grassroots organizations like his that work with teenagers and try to deter violence. Miles knew 17-year-old Neal Mack, who was shot dead in the Inner Harbor in May. Mack became involved with the Tandea Family, which offers $50 to youth to help clean up the community.

He said Mack also participated in some of the group’s programs where they spoke about what it means to be black and become a change agent in your community.

Mack is on the way, Miles said, “I just wish we had more time.” Crime is a major concern when Maryland voters go to the polls

Dustin Huang

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