Launches Violent Crime Joint Operations Center; Major Expansion of Project Exile; New Funding for Victim Protection; Proposed Legislation to Target Repeat Violent Offenders
(ANNAPOLIS, MD – January 8, 2019) – Governor Larry Hogan today announced a series of initiatives and legislation to address violent crime in Baltimore City through a multi-pronged approach of enforcement, prevention, legislation, and victim services. The governor is committing nearly $13 million and introducing two new pieces of legislation to utilize all resources available to create the strongest state enforcement presence ever within Baltimore City.
The governor made the announcement at his office in the William Donald Schaefer Building in Baltimore City and was joined by U.S. Marshal Johnny Hughes; Drug Enforcement Agency Assistant Special Agent in Charge Don Hibbert; Maryland Transportation Authority Police Chief Colonel Jerry Jones; Maryland Transit Administration Police Chief Colonel John Gavrilis; Maryland Capitol Police Chief Michael Wilson; Maryland State Police Lt. Colonel Dave Ruel; Interim Baltimore City Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle; Governor’s Office of Homeland Security Director Walter “Pete” Landon; Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention Executive Director Glenn Fueston; and other state and local leaders.
“The level of violence in Baltimore City is completely unacceptable – the people who live here are rightfully scared, and citizens all across the state are outraged by the daily headlines of this rampant gang violence,” said Governor Hogan. “I have been bringing together all the federal, state, and local stakeholders to get everyone’s input on what else can be done. As a result of those efforts, we are launching a new coordinated offensive to go after violent crime, gangs, and criminal enterprises.”
The governor announced the launch of a new, state-of-the-art violent crime joint operations center in Baltimore City that will serve as a coordinated operational hub for state, federal, and local law enforcement. A newly formed special operations unit made up of an elite team of Maryland State Troopers, law enforcement partners, a full-time dedicated lead prosecutor, and analysts will be headquartered at the new facility.
The new violent crime joint operations center will also house a major joint strike force consisting of 200 law enforcement officers from 16 federal, state, and local state law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies, which will be focused on disrupting and dismantling the violent criminal organizations whose members commit most of the violent crimes in Baltimore City. A total of seven federal, state, and local joint task forces will operate from the operations center, including the violent crime and gang eradication forces of the DEA, ATF, Baltimore Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, FBI, and the U.S. Marshals Services.
“Governor Hogan has made it clear that we will not tolerate ongoing violence in Baltimore City and our state,” said Executive Director Fueston. “This emergency priority plan provides record-level funding that strengthens our army of subject matter experts, expands our ability to listen to the community, and bolsters evidence-based programs with proven results in all three areas of enforcement, victim services, and prevention.”
Governor Hogan also announced a major expansion of Project Exile, which will enable repeat violent offenders in Baltimore City to be charged with federal crimes. According to the Baltimore Police Department, 60 percent of those convicted of gun crimes in the city do not serve significant prison time. Through Project Exile, federal prosecutors will be able to charge repeat violent offenders in federal courts under stricter federal sentencing requirements. To facilitate the expansion, and in partnership with U.S. Attorney Robert Hur, the Hogan administration will provide funding for additional federal prosecutors dedicated to charging Baltimore City repeat violent offenders with federal crimes.
The governor announced two new legislative initiatives aimed at ensuring that repeat violent offenders are removed from the streets. The administration will introduce the Repeat Firearms Offenders Act of 2019, which will increase the minimum sentence to ten years for repeat offenders who use a gun to commit a violent crime, as well as the Judicial Transparency Act of 2019, which will require the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy to publish detailed, judge-by-judge information on the actual sentences that are handed down for violent crimes across the state. This will ensure that the public has visibility into how the courts are dealing with violent criminals and bring the same standards of fairness and openness that apply to the executive and legislative branches to the judiciary.
Finally, to help ensure that prosecutions are not hindered by lack of witness testimony, the governor announced more than $2 million in funding through the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention for the Victim and Witness Relocation Program and $50 million to fund every eligible funding request that is received from victim service providers across the state.
The initiatives announced today will also serve to free up the Baltimore Police Department to focus on community policing and street-level crime. The administration currently provides $7 million to fund 75 Baltimore City police officers, and the governor announced that the forthcoming Fiscal Year 2020 budget will provide additional funding for recruitment incentives for the city police force.
“All of the initiatives I have announced today are about attacking this violent crime crisis with everything we’ve got and ramping up federal, state, and local law enforcement in the city,” said Governor Hogan. “Let me be crystal clear, I have absolutely no tolerance whatsoever for these gangs and these violent criminals who are causing lawlessness in the streets of Baltimore. Enough is enough.”