BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A bill backed by more than a dozen Maryland Republican lawmakers targeting Baltimore crime would allow Gov. Larry Hogan to declare a state of emergency based on a community’s homicide rate.
Senate Bill 1078 would allow the governor to declare a state of emergency in any community that sees at least three homicides per 100,000 residents in a 30-day period. To qualify for the declaration, Baltimore would need to see more than 18 homicides in a month.
So far in 2020, Baltimore has seen 51 homicides and 92 non-fatal shootings, police said Tuesday morning.
“There’s clearly a problem with crime in Baltimore City,” Senator Bob Cassilly said. “The murder rates just keep rising to new record levels every month.”
The declaration would allow the governor to appoint special prosecutors to handle some criminal cases and deploy state resources, including police and first responders, in a community if its homicide rate warranted it. It would be up to Hogan to decide when to declare a state of emergency.
“The Governor could declare a state of emergency and implement any of the appropriate provisions available to him under the Emergency Powers of the Governor,” Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings, one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “This is not a mandate, but simply provides the Governor with additional tools to combat violent crime.”
Jennings’ office did not immediately clarify whether that means the governor could take other actions under the state of emergency declaration, such as those currently only used for natural disasters and in the event of a terrorist attack, including requiring evacuations and controlling access into and out of certain areas.
The state of emergency would last for up to 30 days but could be renewed, Jennings’ office said.
The bill lays much of the blame on city leadership, saying it’s clear the city, “is unable to halt the wave of violence, protect its citizens, investigate acts of criminal violence, arrest and bring arrested violent defendants to trial, or provide justice to its inhabitants.”
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In a separate statement earlier Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings said:
“We are two thirds of the way through the Legislative Session and nothing has been done to provide immediate relief for the violent crime crisis in Baltimore City…. The Senate Republican Caucus dropped an Emergency Bill last night that would expand the Emergency Powers of the Governor to allow him to send state law enforcement, emergency responders and prosecutors into Baltimore City to immediately restore law and order.”
The Annapolis Coalition of Black Progressives’ political action committee blasted the bill and Hogan’s overall crime plan, calling his “tough on crime” stance “ineffective and discriminatory.”
“The Governor’s crime bill is not only ineffective, but it also undermines our ability to be smart on crime,” the group’s co-founder and executive director Octavia Brown said in a statement. “Being smart on crime entails using funds to appropriately train law enforcement on how to effectively work in urban and crime impacted neighborhoods, developing more economic and mental health resources to address the underlying causes of crime, and empowering community members through the use of social workers, mental health workers, and case managers who are trained in behavioral health in urban communities.”
Because the bill was filed late, it has to first be presented and assigned to a committee before moving forward.