UPDATED 1:55 PM PT – Sunday, March 28, 2021
Higher-ups in Baltimore said they’re no longer pursuing certain low-level crime, like drug possession, minor traffic offenses and prostitution.
This announcement came late last week by State Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who declared “America’s war on drug users is over in the city of Baltimore.”
The decision came as the State Attorney’s office reported the success of policies implemented one year ago in an attempt to reduce the city’s jail population. The reduction was done in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus in prisons. Now, the policies are permanent.
The policies reportedly helped decrease the city’s incarcerated population by about 18 percent.
According to Mosby, prosecuting low-level offenses is counterproductive, given the limited law enforcement resources the city has.
The Baltimore City Council approved more than $22 million in cuts to the police department in June of last year.
Some lawmakers, however, have come down on Mosby’s decision, saying attorneys are elected to uphold all the laws, not the ones they pick and choose to uphold.
“Prosecutors take an oath to uphold the constitution in the state of Maryland and the constitution says the general assembly sets the policy, not the prosecutors,” state Sen. Robert Cassilly (R-Md.) said.
The decision has drawn mixed reviews from the city’s population.
“It is going to be important to have things on a case by case basis because it’s, you know, it is not one solution fits all type of thing,” Baltimore resident Nakita Gulston explained. “It is going to be interesting. I am not totally for it, and I’m not totally against it either, because I think in some cases it’s necessary. But in others, you need to prosecute.”
These low-level crimes will now be handled as public health issues and turned over to community partners.
“Show me where is the information that not prosecuting low-level crime causes crime to drop in general. So I don’t think that makes any sense. I think we have to see statistically before you say anything like that,” Baltimore resident Robert Gooding said. “People always pull out statistics out of the air and say things, it means this, and it means that, but they never tell you where they got it from. I never remember hearing any information where those statistics came from.”
Mosby assured violent offenses, carjackings, murders, armed robberies and crimes of that nature will still see prosecution.
The pull-back on prosecution came at a time when other Democrat-run cities, like Los Angeles, sought to end cash bail, potentially freeing hundreds of suspects back onto the streets.
New York City enacted similar bail reform measures, which has police unions pleading with judges and lawmakers to address amid a surge of gun violence in the city.