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Feds pledge to use $3.5M in state funding for new violence reduction initiatives

Madeleine O'Neill//August 24, 2022

Feds pledge to use $3.5M in state funding for new violence reduction initiatives

By Madeleine O'Neill

//August 24, 2022

Federal law enforcement officials will use $3.5 million in state money to fund a set of new initiatives aimed at reducing violent crime, U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron said Wednesday at a news conference in Baltimore.

Barron announced three strategies that he said his office has never before undertaken in its pursuit of repeat violent offenders.

U.S. Attorney Erek Barron, at the lectern, is flanked by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott at a news conference Aug. 24 about reducing violent crime. (Madeleine O’Neill/The Daily Record)

His office reorganized, combining the narcotics and organized crime sections into a single violent crime division that will include additional prosecutors and investigators. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland is currently working to fill new positions, Barron said.

He is also using an “Al Capone model” to take violent offenders off the streets by identifying other nonviolent crimes they may participate in, including pandemic-related fraud, another priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“All too often we look at our violent crime targets in a vacuum,” Barron said. “We’re not going to do that anymore. If we suspect you for committing violent crime in our communities, you will be vetted for any and all wrongdoing that meets our office’s priorities.”

Barron said his office will also evaluate gun cases for violations of the federal school zone statute. The law allows for federal charges against people who are caught possessing firearms within 1,000 feet of a school, even if they wouldn’t normally be eligible for federal prosecution.

“It’s a little known or prosecuted statute, particularly in the history of the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” Barron said. “We are actively looking to prosecute that school zone statute.”

Barron was joined by Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Gov. Larry Hogan, who first announced the funding in March as part of a larger package of crime reduction initiatives.

Harrison said the collaboration is especially important with students heading back to school.

“As students prepare to return to the classroom, it is paramount that our local schools are a safe place for the success of our communities,” he said. “Violence near and in schools is absolutely unconscionable, and this new initiative illustrates exactly how serious we are about that.”

Barron has previously touted the “Al Capone model” of prosecution, which he described in an interview with The Daily Record in January.

In the same way that tax evasion charges gave prosecutors ammunition to move against Al Capone, the famed gangster of the Prohibition era, COVID-19 fraud investigations could offer another option to get violent people off the streets, Barron said previously.

The approach requires extensive cooperation among state, local and federal law enforcement in order to target suspected violent offenders for other types of prosecution.

Barron said Wednesday that the latest funding from state coffers is a sign that cooperation is thriving.

“Unlike any other time in the history of my office, we are going after violent offenders in new ways and by any legal means necessary,” Barron said. “This unprecedented level of state funding demonstrates that our federal, state and local law enforcement partnership is stronger than ever.”


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