Ho­gan pledges $21 mil­lion for crime fight

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Luke Broad­wa­ter

Gov. Larry Ho­gan on Tues­day pledged $21 mil­lion to help fight crime in Bal­ti­more and en­dorsed the use of a con­tro­ver­sial sur­veil­lance plane to fly over the city recording the move­ments of peo­ple and ve­hi­cles be­low.

In a let­ter to Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, Ho­gan also said he au­tho­rized up to 10 Mary­land State Po­lice he­li­copter crews to staff their own flights over the city and urged city of­fi­cials to set a goal of re­duc­ing homi­cides to be­low 200 a year.

“You have in­her­ited a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion, but now is the time to show the peo­ple of the city that we are all se­ri­ous about stop­ping this deadly vi­o­lence and get­ting shoot­ers off of the streets,” Ho­gan, a Repub­li­can, wrote to Young, a Demo­crat.

Ho­gan’s let­ter comes af­ter he met last month with Young and Bal­ti­more Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Michael Harrison, and Young asked for more state sup­port for fight­ing crime amid a surg­ing rate of gun vi­o­lence. The city has had more than 300 homi­cides for four years in a row, and Mary­land Gov. Larry Ho­gan is en­dors­ing the use of a sur­veil­lance plane to aid in Bal­ti­more’s crime fight as well as pledg­ing $21 mil­lion for other crime-fight­ing costs. In this Aug. 23 photo, Ho­gan, left, ap­pears with Bal­ti­more Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Michael Harrison and Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young af­ter a pri­vate meet­ing.

killings are up again this year.

Specif­i­cally, Young asked Ho­gan for more state po­lice de­ploy­ments in the city, more staff for pa­role and pro­ba­tion ser­vices in Bal­ti­more and the re­lease of $7 mil­lion in fund­ing for tech­nol­ogy up­grades in the Bal­ti­more Po­lice Depart­ment.

In his let­ter Tues­day, Ho­gan said the state would pro­vide the $7 mil­lion for the po­lice depart­ment and an ad­di­tional $14 mil­lion for Young’s other re­quests “pro­vided that you sub­mit ac­cept­able quar­terly per­for­mance mea­sures to the Gov­er­nor’s Of­fice of Crime Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion” by Oct. 15. A spokesman for the gov­er­nor said of­fi­cials want to ne­go­ti­ate with the mayor on what those benchmarks should be.

“The state is al­ready do­ing much of what you re­cently re­quested us to do,” Ho­gan told Young, “and we are pre­pared to do even more.”

Lester Davis, a spokesman for Young, said the mayor had not yet re­ceived a copy of the let­ter. Davis said Young wanted to re­view it be­fore re­spond­ing.

The last time the city saw fewer than 200 homi­cides was 2011. Ho­gan noted the po­lice depart­ment’s bud­get has in­creased 47% since then.

About 750 peo­ple have been shot this year in Bal­ti­more, a 23% in­crease from the same time last year. Among those was Sgt. Isaac Car­ring­ton, 43 and a 22-year vet­eran of the po­lice depart­ment, who sur­vived be­ing shot mul­ti­ple times last month dur­ing an ap­par­ent rob­bery out­side his home in the Frank­ford neigh­bor­hood of North­east Bal­ti­more.

In July, Harrison re­leased a crime plan that set a “new per­for­mance goal” of re­spond­ing to se­ri­ous calls within 10 min­utes. The po­lice com­mis­sioner also said of­fi­cers will be asked to spend a third of their time on proac­tive ef­forts to curb vi­o­lent crime.

In his let­ter, Ho­gan said the city needs to go fur­ther.

“While your new Crime Re­duc­tion Strat­egy takes some im­por­tant steps in the right di­rec­tion, much of what you are propos­ing rep­re­sents the sta­tus quo and is al­ready be­ing done or has been tried be­fore,” the gov­er­nor wrote. Ho­gan said the city has “no clear goals in place for the re­duc­tion of vi­o­lent crime. Tax­pay­ers should be able to track your progress and mea­sure whether what you are do­ing is work­ing.”

The gov­er­nor said the state po­lice he­li­copter crews will “con­duct law en­force­ment tac­ti­cal flights over Bal­ti­more when­ever their du­ties bring them into or near the city.” He said state po­lice will work with Bal­ti­more’s Fox­trot aerial unit to pro­vide “ad­di­tional sup­port to the po­lice of­fi­cers on the ground and will proac­tively search for crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity or sus­pi­cious cir­cum­stances from the air.”

Ho­gan is the high­est-pro­file Mary­land of­fi­cial to en­dorse use of the sur­veil­lance plane, though he has no di­rect con­trol over whether Bal­ti­more po­lice use it.

“We urge you to im­ple­ment this pro­gram im­me­di­ately,” the gov­er­nor wrote.

Young and Harrison said last month they haven’t ruled out res­ur­rect­ing the sur­veil­lance pro­gram, which city po­lice grounded in 2016 af­ter the rev­e­la­tion of its use sparked an pub­lic out­cry. They have met with Ross McNutt, founder of Ohiobased Per­sis­tent Sur­veil­lance Sys­tems.

Per­sis­tent Sur­veil­lance Sys­tems con­ducted 300 hours of sur­veil­lance in 2016 in Bal­ti­more as part of a pi­lot pro­gram. The Cessna plane the com­pany flew with po­lice per­mis­sion could record footage of 32 square miles of the city at any given mo­ment. But the pro­gram had not been pub­licly dis­closed, and its rev­e­la­tion sparked an up­roar — par­tic­u­larly among ad­vo­cates for civil lib­er­ties — that prompted po­lice to end the city’s use of the sys­tem.

David Rocah, a se­nior staff at­tor­ney of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of Mary­land, warned Tues­day against a re­turn to us­ing the sur­veil­lance sys­tem.

“Gov­er­nor Ho­gan is as wrong and mis­guided as Ross McNutt,” Rocah said. “His en­dorse­ment of it demon­strates the con­tempt with which he holds the res­i­dents of Bal­ti­more, who are the ones who will have a vir­tual po­lice of­fi­cer fol­low­ing their ev­ery move­ment — not the gov­er­nor.”

Rocah also con­demned McNutt’s lob­by­ing ef­fort.

“It’s be­ing pushed by peo­ple out­side of Bal­ti­more,” Rocah said. “It’s a cynical at­tempt to use the fail­ings of pub­lic safety in Bal­ti­more as a govern­ment power grab. There’s noth­ing more de­spi­ca­ble than that.”

McNutt has said the plane could re­sume fly­ing for three years, with­out cost to the city, thanks to do­na­tions. He said also donors are will­ing to pay for mul­ti­ple planes to per­form sur­veil­lance. Af­ter three years, the city would need to pay for the pro­gram.

“Bal­ti­more needs all the help it can get,” McNutt said of Ho­gan’s let­ter. “We would be happy to come back and help as quickly as pos­si­ble.”

For­mer City Coun­cil­woman Rochelle “Rikki” Spec­tor, a Demo­crat who­sup­ports the plane, said she planned to use the gov­er­nor’s let­ter to push Young and Harrison to re­vive the pro­gram.

City Coun­cil­man Isaac “Yitzy” Sch­leifer, who is chair­man of the coun­cil’s Pub­lic Safety Com­mit­tee, said city of­fi­cials have been ask­ing for more state po­lice re­sources for months and he wel­comed the ad­di­tional sup­port. He said Young and Harrison would make a de­ci­sion about the sur­veil­lance plane.

KARL MERTON FER­RON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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