The morning after Baltimore recorded its 300th homicide in 2016, city State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby and police Commissioner Kevin Davis acknowledged the work ahead of them to members of the business community while also suggesting ways the private sector could assist their efforts.
“We’re certainly not where we need to be as a city,” Davis said at a Greater Baltimore Committee event Wednesday. “Those numbers are human beings. Those numbers are families that have been torn apart.”
The overwhelming majority of Baltimore’s homicides occur outdoors and in public spaces, according to Davis. More than half of them are in daylight.
The solution, he said, is to focus on the “trigger-pullers” and the “naked possession of guns.”
Both Mosby and Davis advocated changing the sentencing laws for firearms offenders, including prohibiting judges from suspending the 30-day mandatory minimum sentence for a handgun possession conviction.
Davis said he believes repeat offenders continue to commit violent crimes because they do not think anyone will speak up or do anything about it.
Mosby said her office’s felony conviction rate is more than 90 percent of cases they bring to court.
“The problem is not necessarily the police, because police get these individuals off our streets, and clearly when we get them into court we’re able to sustain and obtain a conviction, but we have to impress upon the community that they have a stake in the outcome of these cases and that we can’t do this by ourselves,” she said.
Both Mosby and Davis also denied any friction between their offices after the prosecution of the officers involved in Freddie Gray’s arrest last year.
“I think that anyone who wants to cling to the notion that the state’s attorney’s office and the police department don’t work collaboratively should take a couple hours and pick a district court room and go into it, pick a circuit court room and go into it, and look at those police officers and detectives and assistant state’s attorneys who are working together every day to bring justice to families,” Davis said.
Business community’s role
Mosby cited the intimidation of victims and witnesses, which hampers her office’s ability to prosecute violent crimes.
“They have to feel as if they’re going to be protected if they come forward,” she said, adding that victim and witness services has been a priority for her office this year.
The business community can help incentivize victims and witnesses to come forward, Mosby said, by increasing reward money for Metro Crime Stoppers and funds for relocation.
The private sector can also work with the criminal justice system to provide opportunities to people returning to the community after incarceration, which was the subject of a GBC report released last week. Davis said the first days and weeks are critical in creating stability and preventing recidivism, and Mosby added that employment is key.
The report, released by the Coalition for a Second Chance, recommended better communication between service providers to prepare people for release and emphasized employment and its link to a decreased likelihood of re-offending.
“I think we lose momentum if we wait to interact with someone returning to society after we get out, because there’s a gap there,” Davis said.
Mosby said her office’s “Aim to B’More” program targets first-time, nonviolent felony drug offenders to receive job skills and other training, culminating with employment and an expunged record. The program is grant-funded and in its pilot stages, but if it expands, more community partners could become involved, she said.