[Baltimore Sun] Larry Hogan: How the federal government can fight carjacking rings in Maryland | GUEST COMMENTARY

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One alarming aspect of the current crime wave is the dramatic increase of both violent and property crime in areas of Maryland that have not seen similar surges in the past. That’s exactly what is happening in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, which are suffering from rapid increases in rates of violent crimes, carjackings and robberies. In just the past few years, crime has exploded in these counties from a secondary concern to now ranking as the top concern for residents. Local and state leaders are unable to address this crisis alone — in the Senate, I will make sure the federal government steps up to be the real partner Maryland needs.

Organized carjacking rings are a major source of the problem. In Prince George’s County alone, carjackings have increased almost 600% since 2019 and are on track to increase even more this year. These rings often operate by recruiting teenagers. Well-intentioned but reckless efforts to keep juveniles out of the criminal justice system have made it virtually impossible to hold them accountable and offer real rehabilitation.

While we must continue to work to address the long-term root causes of crime, provide more and better mental health resources, and help those who have paid their debts successfully re-enter society, we cannot afford to avoid taking immediate action to get violent criminals off the streets.

In 2022, when I was governor, my administration showed that this could be done effectively in Baltimore City by leveraging federal resources. When then-State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby was failing to prosecute crimes, we worked with the U.S. Attorney for Maryland, Erek Barron, to deploy strategic federal assets to get the job done, providing millions of state funding to support additional prosecutors and staff, including 10 additional Special Assistant United States Attorneys for the Baltimore Office. These prosecutors pursued the “Al Capone model” of pursuing federal firearms, fraud and other criminal charges against individuals known to be repeat violent offenders.

That same year, amid cuts to police funding by some local jurisdictions, we advanced our $500 million Re-Fund the Police initiative, which provided a 50% increase in state aid to local police for historic salary increases and bonuses for law enforcement officers, support for victim services, and more funding for training and technology. Starting in August 2022, murders in Baltimore began to decline compared to the prior year. This trend continued for five out of the next six months before I left office and thankfully continued through 2023.

We must adopt this proven approach at the federal level as a critical tool in our crime-fighting toolbox. On day one in the Senate, I will get to work to surge resources to hire federal prosecutors who will focus on breaking up these carjacking gangs and other organized crime. Despite our investments in law enforcement, this funding and support is not always matched by local leaders. Just in the past week, we met with the Prince George’s FOP, Anne Arundel FOP and federal law enforcement to hear about the resources they need to get the job done. We need a federal Re-Fund the Police initiative with greater training for law enforcement, more school resource officers, and funding to solve violent crimes that are terrorizing our communities and eroding the quality of life for too many Marylanders.

This is only the start of what the federal government must and can do to tackle crime across not just Mayland, but all across the country. We need to pass tougher federal penalties for criminals who use illegal guns and encourage states to implement red flag laws to get guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. We need to be proactive about leveraging the federal laws on the books, such as increased penalties for firearms in school zones and other federally-designated locations, to get repeat violent offenders off the street.

Crime is on the top of the minds of Marylanders and Americans, but — like most pressing issues of the day — Washington politicians only offer platitudes and point fingers. That must change. We can no longer allow politics to get in the way of public safety. There are bipartisan common sense solutions the federal government can adopt that will make a real difference. In the Senate, I will make it a top priority to bring people in both parties together to get this done, support our law enforcement, and make our communities safer.

Larry Hogan ([email protected]) was the 62nd governor of Maryland and is the state’s Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Ben Cardin. 

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