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Baltimore’s ‘Accountability’ will return with the enforcement of minor crimes, according to the city’s new top prosecutor

By 06/06/2023 11:29 PMNo CommentsBy YidInfo Staff

The top prosecutor in Baltimore unveiled a new program on Thursday that will allow police to cite people for infractions like drug possession, loitering, and public urinating.

This is a dramatic departure from the more liberal practices of his predecessor, who declined to prosecute such instances.

The divergent strategies are an illustrative example of the current national debate between proponents of criminal justice reform and those advocating a return to the nation’s more conventional “law and order” strategy.

Ivan Bates, the state’s attorney for Baltimore who took office in January, held a news conference on Thursday afternoon to announce and reiterate a campaign pledge to deal with alleged “quality of life” infractions.

According to Bates, the program responds to persistent complaints from locals who, among other issues, are “sick and tired” of seeing drug sellers on their blocks.

In addition to enhancing public safety, he claimed it would bring a “return to accountability” to Baltimore.

It’s unclear whether issuing citations for minor offenses will affect violence.

Bates acknowledged that many defendants who commit these crimes struggle with addiction, homelessness, and other social issues.

He claimed that providing people with services instead of prosecution is a crucial program component.

After the day, he declared, “We simply cannot permit people to do whatever they want.”

All we’re suggesting is that Baltimore City will experience some accountability and order.

After losing to incumbent Marilyn Mosby in a Democratic primary, Bates was elected last year. Before campaigning for state’s attorney, Bates worked as a high-profile defense attorney and a local prosecutor.

Bates pledged to reverse some of Mosby’s most important decisions throughout the campaign, including her decision not to pursue some crimes and infractions of the law, most notably simple drug possession and prostitution.

During the pandemic, when governments nationwide were taking steps to cut back on the number of people in jails and lessen the spread of COVID, Mosby announced the choice.

Before now, she had decided not to pursue marijuana possession cases. She eventually made the epidemic adjustments permanent, claiming that doing so would lessen the burden of over-policing in Baltimore’s Black areas and free up local law enforcement to concentrate on permanently lowering violent crime.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported in a report from 2021 that the strategy reduced 911 calls and low-level arrests.

They also discovered that individuals who had minor charges dismissed nearly never had their original arrests for lesser offenses renewed.

However, the program’s detractors claimed it restricted police officers’ capacity to take preventative action.

Despite a recent downward trend in gun violence in Baltimore, the city has regularly had one of the worst murder rates in the nation, with over 300 homicides per year for the past eight years.

On Thursday, when questioned about the Hopkins study, Bates stated that his office intended to gather its data and regularly assess it after the citation program was in place.

Participating in the program will be issued a citation with a court date.

Prosecutors will propose community service hours as an alternative to prosecuting qualified defendants in court.

Additionally, they will direct defendants to nearby social service providers, who might offer housing and employment assistance, addiction treatment, and other services.

Prosecutors will drop the charges if the defendant completes their community service requirements — most likely five hours for a first violation and 10 hours for a second — before the matter goes to trial. No matter what, the prosecution would follow a third offense, according to officials.

Among other requirements, defendants must not have any current accusations of violent crime or outstanding warrants to be eligible for diversion.

At the news conference on Thursday, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison stated, “What this is not… is mass incarceration and aggressive policing.” “This is not about putting people through the hassle of getting cited or arresting our way out of violent crime.”

Harrison claimed that some of his officers under Mosby became frustrated with their inability always to address citizens’ complaints regarding the quality of life issues.

Harrison and other city officials repeatedly emphasized that the program wouldn’t be as detrimental to communities of color as previous convictions of a similar nature.

They claimed it advances the city’s all-encompassing strategy for enhancing public safety.

It aims to deal with the underlying causes of crime rather than focusing exclusively on law enforcement activity.

However, the district public defender for Baltimore, Marguerite Lanaux, claimed that the emphasis on insignificant offenses “will inherently result in disproportionate enforcement” against some of the city’s most vulnerable groups, including “unhoused people, Black and Brown individuals, people experiencing poverty, and individuals with mental health concerns.”

The Maryland Office of the Public Defender, according to a statement released on Thursday, wants to see a move toward actual diversion, which entails providing people with services without first demanding that they appear in court.

According to Bates, defendants will probably receive a summons if they miss their court date.


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