The four bills, introduced in both the state House and Senate, are part of a $21 million crime-reduction plan the governor announced last month. That plan also called for adding up to 500 additional law enforcement officers to back up city police officers.
The bills include:
- (HB 355/SB 272) Judicial Transparency Act, which would publish sentencing records for judges in violent crime cases annually;
- (HB 356/SB 273) Violent Firearm Offenders Act, which would prohibit district court commissioners from releasing certain defendants charged with some firearm-related crimes before trial and increase sentences for gang members and others who illegally carry guns;
- (HB 357/SB 271) Witness Intimidation Prevention Act, which would crack down on those who intimidate witnesses through physical injury or death; and
- (HB 358/SB 268) Victims’ Right to Restitution Act, which would require restitution payments under certain circumstances
The judicial transparency legislation was also introduced last session; it passed in the Senate but didn’t come up for a vote in the House.
Addressing crime has been a top priority for lawmakers at the city and state levels; last year, Baltimore saw 348 homicides, the second-highest total in its history and the highest ever when adjusting for the city’s shrinking population. The city has seen five consecutive years with more than 300 homicides.
Hogan’s latest state budget proposal unveiled last week called for more than $9 million for community policing efforts, $23 million to demolish blighted buildings in crime-ridden neighborhoods and $2.6 million to add more than two dozen new prosecutors and support staff to help the attorney general’s office handle more violent crime cases.
If passed, all four bills would take effect on October 1.