Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Violence has lawmakers urging Hogan for state of emergency in Baltimore

Two Maryland state senators called on Gov. Larry Hogan to declare a state of emergency in Baltimore in an effort to assist the city in stemming the increase in violence and homicide.

Sen. James Rosapepe (File)

Sen. James Rosapepe (File)

The city is on pace again to reach the 300-homicide mark for the third consecutive year while also seeing a spike in non-fatal shootings, street robberies and assaults, including one lunch-time incident involving a deputy Baltimore City health commissioner who oversees anti-violence programs.

“It clearly is a state problem. The state has a responsibility. The governor has a responsibility, for sure. I would say as well, whatever is being done so far isn’t enough,” Sen. James C. Rosapepe, D-Anne Arundel and Prince George’s, said on the C4 Show on WBAL radio. “So, I think if the governor thought it made sense to declare an emergency, I don’t think anybody would disagree with him on that.”

Sen. Kathy Klausmeier, D-Baltimore County, compared the spike in city violence to the state’s opioid crisis, noting state government responses to the latter.

“Maybe we need to take state action, just like we did (with the opioid crisis) with the (Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Systems) and you know the governor needs to declare a state of emergency possibly, I don’t know, it’s just a thought because something needs to happen,” said Klausmeier, who also appeared on the program.

Sen. Kathy Klausmeier

Sen. Kathy Klausmeier

 

Hogan was responsible for declaring the last state of emergency in Baltimore in response to 2015 rioting.

Douglass Mayer, a Hogan spokesman, said the governor is “not actively considering this action.”

“The crime and homicide rate in Baltimore City is a problem of grave concern,” Mayer said. “The Hogan administration will continue to provide support to Mayor (Catherine) Pugh and Commissioner Davis as they work to strengthen the police department and improve community relations in an effort to address the issues that have plagued the City for decades. The governor will also continue to focus on the administration-led initiatives that are making real change like Project CORE, a city-state partnership to address blight, and the More Jobs for Marylanders Act, which will spur economic development and put Baltimore City residents back to work.”

Anthony McCarthy, a spokesman for Pugh — who previously served in the Senate with both Klausmeier and Rosapepe, said the General Assembly could help the city by passing tougher penalties on handgun possession in the city.

In particular, McCarthy said, Pugh supports passage of a law that would make the illegal possession of a handgun in the commission of a crime a felony for repeat offenders. Currently, the crime is a misdemeanor.

The legislation has failed in each of the last two sessions.

No direct communications have occurred between the city and state regarding a state response to the violence, McCarthy said.

“We appreciate the senators’ attention to the challenges being faced in Baltimore,” McCarthy said, adding that “it would be appreciated if they brought their concerns or suggestions to the mayor.”

The city has already recorded 159 homicides, including six in two days at the beginning of the week. The rise of violence has followed the riots after the death of Freddie Gray in 2015.

The city recorded 344 homicides in 2015 and and 318 homicides in 2016. The totals rank as the two deadliest years in city history and a return to the 300-homicide mark after a decade.

In response, Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis announced Tuesday that patrol officers and detectives would be required to work 12-hour shifts in an attempt to increase police presence and visibility.

Both said city violence should be viewed as a regional problem because of the number of people who commute to the city for work and recreation.

“To say it’s a city problem is actually misleading,” said Rosapepe. “It clearly is a regional problem. It’s a Maryland problem.”

 

Klausmeier said the violence levels reflect poorly on the state and has residents in her district, which borders the city, concerned.

The senator said attendants at a recent community meeting complained of the violence, telling her “it’s spilling over”  from the city into the county.

“That’s not what I want, that’s not what you want, nobody wants it,” said Klausmeier. “So, I think it’s time to take some sort of action and try to figure out what we can do as a state in the city. And it’s not just for the city, it’s for the state in general.”

This isn’t the first time a state legislator called for the state to step in to assist with policing in the city.

In 2012, Del. Pat McDonough, R-Baltimore County, called for state intervention to deal with what he described as “roving mobs of black youth” he said were responsible for street assaults in the Inner Harbor area.

A spokesperson for then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called McDonough’s comments a “sad and racially-charged political stunt.”

 


To purchase a reprint of this article, contact [email protected].