Democrats and Republicans talk crime at dueling press conferences
Maryland’s Democratic senators unveiled their four-part crime-fighting agenda on Thursday and Senate Republicans followed with a quick response at their own press conference.
The partisan dueling showdown came on the heels of Gov. Hogan touting his violent crime agenda Wednesday night in his final state of the state address.
The Democrats’ package centered on what they called prevention, intervention, transparency and rehabilitation. Senate President Bill Ferguson said it was not a single bill, but an overall effort to reduce violence.
“What we need is a coordinated plan across all levels of government,” he said. “And the leadership of the Senate is here today to say that we are providing the framework and the resources.”
Baltimore County Police Chief Andre Davis, who attended the Democrats’ press conference, said afterward that Maryland needed a “comprehensive package” to deal with rising crime.
“We need communication with other law enforcement agencies. We need the Ministry of Health,” he said. “We need other agencies to really help and stronger legislation to help prosecute and lock up the people needed and provide services to prevent these types of crimes from happening.”
One of them is to ban so-called “phantom weapons”. They can be made from kits sold on the internet and have no serial number, making them impossible to trace.
Attorney General Brian Frosh said they were becoming the guns of choice for young people who can’t buy a gun without an adult, and for convicted felons who couldn’t buy a gun legally.
“That’s how they get guns,” Frosh said. “And there were searches and seizures all over the country where they arrested gang members and found they had a stockpile of ghost guns. Why? This is the easiest way to do it.
The Democrats’ package also contains efforts to improve behavioral health and mental health services for children and strengthen the parole and probation division. It would provide risk assessments for parolees, better record keeping, raises and apprenticeship programs to try to fill the nearly 150 vacancies in the department.
Ferguson said they need to recruit more people into the division to avoid case overloads and ensure they are properly trained.
“We have to make sure that those who come back have the skills they need, the educational skills, the social skills,” he said. “And that’s the job of parole and probation. They are not just a box-ticking entity, they are an essential part of the criminal justice system. »
Democrats agreed with the governor in his call for judicial and prosecution transparency to track how judges and prosecutors handle certain cases. But Will Smith, the Montgomery County Democrat who chairs the Court Proceedings Committee, said there may be differences in how they proceed.
“But essentially what the bill would do is allow an individual, you, me, and everyone else to have synthesized information to understand how judicial decision-making is going on,” he said. he explains. “And what happens with the layouts is done per circuit. So across the state, you would be able to understand which jurisdictions are making which decisions and why.
Republicans, however, dismissed the Democrats’ package as “woke and progressive ideas.”
Harford County Sen. Robert Cassilly said he was not addressing the immediate issues of violent repeat offenders released on parole.
“We have probation officers looking for violent offenders, violent repeat offenders who haven’t learned their lesson and show no, no, no remorse for their crimes, haven’t proven they’re ready to move on. something else and readjust their lives,” he said. “It can’t succeed like this.”
Bryan Simonaire, the Republican leader in the Senate, said the package reminded him of a magic show.
“When the magician says look this way, look this way and don’t really focus on the main problem,” he said. “And that’s what we see with the Democrats with their solution. They nibble at the edges and ignore immediate and urgent crime control needs.
Instead, they advocated for the tougher crime crackdowns the governor has called for.