Gov. Larry Hogan expressed outrage with, and then mocked, Maryland lawmakers as he attempted to goad legislators into enacting stiffer penalties for repeat violent offenders.
Hogan unleashed his latest fusillade against legislators during a news conference Wednesday in Baltimore amidst a growing uproar over crime in the city and ways to solve the crisis. The governor joined law enforcement officials, including U.S. Marshal Johnny L. Hughes and Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, to tout results of a recent warrant sweep dubbed Operation Seven Sentinels.
“These are people who are convicted multiple times of committing a felony with a gun. Inexplicably, shockingly and disgracefully, the legislature has failed to support this,” Hogan said. “How can anyone be against tough penalties for … convicted felons, who are convicted multiple times, who keep shooting people on the streets of Baltimore City?”
The governor also lamented the legislature’s lack of action on the Repeat Firearms Offender Act of 2019 (House Bill 236/Senate Bill 166) as the General Assembly’s current session heads into its final 12 days. The Republican governor ridiculed Democratic legislators for prioritizing a ban on 3D printed guns.
“OK. Drop it. Step away from the copier. No one has ever committed a crime in the state of Maryland, ever, with a 3D printed gun,” Hogan said.
Sen. Antonio Hayes, D-Baltimore, called the governor’s comments “cheap shots.” Hayes said the governor lacks vision on public safety and pushes short-term fixes without addressing the root causes of crime in Baltimore.
“To believe that mandatory minimum sentences that traditionally over-incarcerate African Americans (will make a difference), if that’s the governor’s only way to deal with crime in Baltimore City, it’s shortsighted,” Hayes said.
Putting an ever-increasing number of people in jail for longer terms was not how his constituents in west Baltimore want to deal with crime, Hayes said. He added that when the governor was ready to move beyond “short-term” measures he would be ready to talk.
“Right now he hasn’t put anything on the table,” Hayes said.
During the press conference, Harrison, who is trying to rebuild faith in Baltimore’s scandal-tarnished police department while simultaneously fighting crime in a city that saw more than 300 murders annually in recent years, staked out the middle ground.
“You’ve heard me say: ‘Be tough on crime. Be soft on people.’ And so together we will all make Baltimore a safer city,” Harrison said.
The back and forth over how to stop the violence in Baltimore comes a day after elected officials and downtown boosters said slowing crime downtown requires city, state, federal and private intervention.
Saying downtown was the fastest-growing part of the city and one of its most diverse neighborhoods, Downtown Partnership of Baltimore President Kirby Fowler urged joint action.
“We’re in this together,” Fowler said at the group’s annual State of Downtown breakfast on Tuesday.
Operation Seven Sentinels, which ran from Feb. 11 to March 21, targeted 400 Baltimore residents with outstanding warrants and resulted in 264 arrests, according to the U.S. Marshals Service. Hughes said the targets were violent offenders in the city. Following a warrant sweep last year with the same name, Baltimore had no murders for three weeks, he said.
Arrests stemming from this year’s sweep included 16 for homicide, nine for attempted homicide, 17 for robbery, four for sex offenses and two for kidnapping, the U.S. Marshals reported. The service added that law enforcement officers also caught 74 people wanted for assault, 20 for probation violations, 26 for drug-related charges and two for prostitution.
“Our anti-crime initiative, Operation Seven Sentinels, has struck fear in the hearts of evil,” Hughes said.