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Governor candidate calls for 1,000 more police officers to fight violent crime

“Everywhere that I go, it is the one issue that is on everybody’s minds — crime in Baltimore city,” says Douglas Gansler, a Democratic gubernatorial hopeful and former state attorney general. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

One Democratic candidate for governor is vowing to hire 1,000 new police officers and install 10,000 street lights as part of an effort to reduce crime in Baltimore and around the state.

Doug Gansler made the promises as part of a multifaceted crime-fighting approach.

“Everywhere that I go, it is the one issue that is on everybody’s minds — crime in Baltimore city,” said Gansler, contending that he is the only candidate in either party “who has a scintilla of a background in criminal justice.”

Gansler is one of 10 Democrats currently seeking the party’s nomination for governor. He is the second, along with Rushern Baker III, to make crime in Baltimore a focus of the campaign.

Candace Hollingsworth, Gansler’s running mate, said the proposals are not a return to zero-tolerance policing that led to mass incarceration of Black people.

“We know that the solutions of the ’90s did not work to address public safety,” she said. “What we are proposing is a radically different alternative where the two of us are focused on building safe communities with an attention to justice.”

Gansler’s plan calls for 1,000 new police officers trained in de-escalation techniques. The officers would be hired statewide but “heavily focused on Baltimore.” He also called for school resource officers in every school statewide, an issue that has inflamed some progressives who oppose uniformed police in school buildings.

Additionally, Gansler promised to shine a literal light on Baltimore by installing 10,000 new streetlights.

Gansler said the lights will “make sure that crime does not happen in dark places.”

Other components of his crime-fighting plan include adding dedicated domestic violence courts; reducing warrant backlogs; setting up a family justice center that would offer services to victims; and moving all gun crimes involving repeat felons to federal court.

Gansler also proposed a diversion system in which prosecutors are brought in early to help ensure proper collection of evidence and prevent cases that do not belong in a courtroom from seeing a judge.

Jurisdictions around the state and the country continue to struggle with violent crime. In Maryland, much of the spotlight has been on Baltimore, which is on pace to exceed 300 homicides for the eighth consecutive year.

“If you are running for governor and you are not talking about crime in Baltimore, you do not appreciate the magnitude of the task before you,” said Thiru Vignarajah, a former assistant attorney general under Ganlser and a challenger to Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby in the Democratic primary.

Vignarajah praised Gansler for focusing on crime in the city “not because I want that to be the top agenda item for the governor but because it has to be. This city is in crisis. It’s been in crisis for years.”

Gansler and his running mate, Candace Hollingsworth, said repeatedly they believed the city was on pace to reach 400, a grim figure never reported in Baltimore.

Baker, the former Prince George’s executive who is also running for governor, vowed to work out of Baltimore and focus on crime reduction efforts. He has also proposed reducing some nuisance crimes, including illegal street bike riding on city streets.

Outgoing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, a frequent critic of city violence and leadership, last week sent a letter to Mayor Brandon Scott demanding updates on efforts to reduce warrant backlogs and stem the tide of murders and other crimes.

“In February you assured us that there was a comprehensive plan in place, but at this point I do not believe anyone — including you – believes it is working,” Hogan wrote. “The state funded every single one of the requests you made when we met.”

Scott responded a day later that he was confused by Hogan’s outburst. He cited a number of trends that he said shows that most violent crimes are not significantly outpacing the previous year.

Scott invited Hogan to visit the city “so that we can show him the full extent of our work and make sure he understands the pressing need within our communities to build a safer Baltimore truly.”