I’m very honored to be with all of you, and I want to thank you and your offices and organizations. And I hope you will relay to those persons my heartfelt appreciation for the fact that you actually are here — despite the cynicism that exists in this world that we can never make our government work, let alone our criminal justice system work — and by your presence showing the triumph of hope over cruel experience, if you will.
I don’t think that any of you would be in the endeavors and in the vocations that you’ve chosen were it not for the fact that you do believe very passionately in the dignity of every individual. And you also believe that each of us has the responsibility to advance the common good and in doing an increasingly better job in protecting the lives of individuals in our State.
I also want to thank Kristen Mahoney for the terrific job that she has done as the head of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. Kristen is one of the most capable and effective people that I’ve ever worked with in or out of government. And those of you that are only getting to know her now; I think you will appreciate what I’ve learned over time.
And, Kristen, thank you for your leadership so far. The great thing about Kristen is she comes to work every day, realizing that we’re only scratching the surface of what’s possible with coordination and cooperation, which are unnatural acts between non-consenting adults, right? But with coordination and cooperation, we really can do a much better job at this most important of all missions that our government has.
I also want to thank Roberta Roper for her tireless efforts to support the rights of our citizens who have been victims, and to the families that have been victims of violent crimes. Thank you for your relentlessness. And I also want to thank Anna Sauers for being here – I want to let you know that the prayers of all of our citizens are with you. We love you, we support you, and we are going to do everything we can to make this State a better and safer place, and you are not alone.
So welcome, everyone, to the first annual Maryland Crime Victims’ Rights and Compliance Conference. This is the first conference of its kind, even though this legislation has been a part of our State Constitution since 1996.
I served for a couple of years as a prosecutor, I served for eight years as a defense attorney, and I served for seven years as Mayor of the City of Baltimore, doing my best every day to support our law enforcement in turning around what was the most violent city in America by most counts and is still far, far too violent, even for all the sacrifice, all the struggle and the hard work.
And it has been my experience and kind of a conclusion that I believe Maryland has some pretty good laws. In fact, I think we have better laws than most states in the Union. Unfortunately, where we fall down is in the enforcement of those laws. It’s one thing to proclaim the dignity of every individual in our laws and in our Constitution, in words and in writing; it’s quite another to effectuate it in terms of our actions and our interactions with one another, and especially in our interactions with people who have become victims of violent crime in our State.
So, what we hope this conference will accomplish is to make real that vision and that belief that is embodied in our law and do our very best to make sure it’s embodied in practice, as well. And we do this at a time of significant challenge, where the political pendulum has swung very, very far in the direction of cutting government as quickly as possible, as much as possible and as far as possible. And that’s a result of the things like huge cuts to the Byrne grants or local law enforcement block grants, all of those things in the name of supposedly improving homeland security.
And at end of the shell game, five years later, we see less money for homeland security. Then all the grants that we used to assist us in knitting together the various aspects of our criminal justice system are very, very seriously challenged in terms of resourcing — all the more reason why we need to share best practices with one another, figure out the things that work, the protocols that work, the methods that work that allow us to serve those who have been victims of violent crime in a much better way.
We are making progress in a number of fronts, and I want to take you up a little higher before you return to the particular work of this conference and talk in a broader sense about the things that we’re doing together as a State. You know, over the last year, there has been a focus for good reason on the potential of having to cut $2 million out of a $15 billion base in our State Government. And as many of you know who are in local law enforcement and local government, a huge portion of what our State does is formula-driven and not discretionary. The things that are discretionary, sadly, sometimes come down to the very grants for local law enforcement that we want to be doing more of, but then when the clamor is for cuts, cuts, cuts, it falls disproportionately on that 20 percent of your budget where you have some discretion.
So, we have had a focus for the last year on overcoming that structural deficit. And to a large degree we have. Another 25 percent of the fix leads to the applied referendum this upcoming fall. And the voters will do what they feel is in the best interest of themselves and their families and their fellow citizens.
But in the meantime, we have been doing our very best to continue to improve public safety in our State and, actually, to turn around the really sad fact that although Maryland leads the country on a number of really great categories — I think we have more Ph.Ds, the last I checked, than any other state in the Union, and according to the U.S. Census, we’re the wealthiest state in the Union on a per-capita basis. If you look at Federal medical research and health grants and those sorts of dollars, we receive more than any other state in the Union because we have more institutions of higher learning in healing and science than any other state in the Union. But, you know what; we’re about the third or fourth most violent. And that should cause all of us a great deal of shame and it should also encourage all of us to act even more urgently.
There is no reason for it. There really is no reason for it. We can improve our State; we can improve public safety. And one of the really major things of our O’Malley/Brown Administration, in addition to work force creation and a more sustainable future in terms of the environment, the energy, the land we use — the third one is security integration; creative coordination as collaboration and as cooperation, and, yes, information sharing in a timely and effective way so we can target our resources on that tiny kernel of repeat violent offenders that make our state a very, very tragic place to live for far too many of our decent, law-abiding, hard-working families and people.
So, what have we been doing together? Enforcement. We have been doing a much better job of enforcing the already strong gun laws that we have in our State, by launching the task force through the Maryland State Police, Baltimore City and Prince George’s County. And we’ve had some tremendous results. We’ve had some tremendous results in getting warrants and getting a lot of guns out of the hands of people that use them time and again to shoot other people.
We launched an initiative to gather gang intelligence, led by Gary Maynard. There is so much information that flows in and out of our prisons. But how much of it ever becomes analyzed? That information needs to be relayed to local law enforcement so that you can act on it. We are doing a better job of that, but there’s still a lot more — a lot further we must go.
We ended parole for child sex offenders with Jessica’s Law. We have virtually knocked out a backlog of DNA samples. You know, another example, we had a great law that said that people convicted of violent crime had to submit the DNA samples. And yet we had backlogged 27,000 people who we knew had committed crimes of violence against other people, who we knew in time would be back, on parole or probation or their sentence is up and back in neighborhoods. Well, we’ve knocked out that backlog and almost doubled the number of hits in which those who clear more crimes, and if we saved just one life as the Talmud tells us, it is as if we have saved the world.
Also for the first time, I think, we have made available Comstat on Demand, a new take on drug treatment on demand — something you’re all familiar with? We want to make Comstat on Demand available at any local law enforcement agency that wants to go to the computer mapping, the timely and accurate information shared by all, along with preliminary resources and effective tactics and strategies in the relentless follow-up that the Baltimore City Police Department has used to great effect and other departments, big and small, have been using. So, any department that wants to do that, we are ready, willing, and we are able to help you make those upgrades in your own departments to do that. Already 19 jurisdictions have applied and received those, and we still have more to do in terms of harnessing technology.
We’ve also begun to change the way that we administer diagnostics — the diagnostic that determines how high of a risk a particular offender is to society. What do I mean by that? In the past in our State, we would evaluate how intensely we want to supervise a person on parole or probation by how many convictions they had in their background. In other states, they look not only at convictions, they look at arrests; they look at whether the person bears the scars of being an enforcer in drug organizations or in drug gangs and has that history that tells us that they are the type of person, who if not closely monitored and watched every step of the way, is going to murder another person if we allow them to get too far out in the orbit of acceptable behavior.
And, so, we have changed our diagnostic. We have put everybody through it now, and now with parole and probation and increasingly with juvenile services, as well. We are doing a much better job of diagnosing who are those individuals in that smaller universe of people who are likely to murder again if we do not keep close, close tabs on them.
About three months into the life of this administration as part of our stat process through the Department of Parole and Probation, I asked General Maynard to go back and pull, for example, the last 50 homicides that have been cleared in the City of Baltimore, the jurisdiction that struggles against the biggest challenge in sheer number terms of homicides in our State. And two weeks later they came back. And of the last 50 homicides cleared in the City of Baltimore, guess how many were supposedly under our supervision — your and my supervision, the State of Maryland’s supervision, through Parole and Probation at the time that they murdered.
Two? Ten? Twenty? Twenty-eight. Twenty-eight out of 50 people were actually under the supervision of Parole and Probation. 24 of the 28, by the way, were under the most intense level. So, when we started going through the records, we found in looking at the first one, I asked how many times had he been arrested while on our intensely supervised probation? Not once, not twice, not three, not four times. Thirteen subsequent times. Thirteen times he had been arrested. Thirteen times law enforcement officers had risked their lives as they do in every arrest, and yet he was still out on the street and murdered again.
And the next person had been arrested five times. How old was he? Well, he was only 18. Five times as an adult, with a history of violent crime even as a young adult. I asked how often had he been arrested as a juvenile? They said we don’t know, we’re not allowed to look at that. Well, that’s the problem you’ve got. I mean, if that’s what the law is, well, that’s a bad law; they need to change that law.
But we figured out that a lot of the things — a lot of the myth-busting that Kristen Mahoney talked about — are things that we’ve been doing, we’ve been very actively doing, if not withstanding the work in the special session. And I’ve very proud of some of the strides that we’re making because we’ve been able to target those people that commit crimes of violence again and again and go after them. We’ve seen some encouraging trends, knock on wood, but they’re not only in Baltimore City. Prince George’s has also experienced a downturn towards the second half of the year. Unfortunately, violent predators aren’t limited to one jurisdiction.
I’ve been talking long enough, but suffice to say, let me conclude by saying this. There is no duty that I take more seriously or more strongly than the duty that I have as Governor to protect the lives of the people of our State. I will not rest, and I will work every single day, and I will work with passionate commitment as all of you do in your own jobs to make our State a safer and better place. If where we have more Ph.Ds, if where we have more institutions of discovery and science in humans, there is no reason why we should not be a leader in violent crime reduction.
Sadly, what I have experienced in the past is that oftentimes, you know, to borrow a phrase from the poet, it’s easy to sleep on another man’s wounds. When crime is restricted to people in that area, for that area, for those people, rather than the people that look like me, it becomes easier for us to sleep on another man’s wounds.
But the vision that we share as Marylanders is the vision of One Maryland, and there’s no such thing as a spare American. That’s the vision that Anthony Brown and I are committed to. That’s the vision that you’re committed to by being here. And I want to do everything I possibly can to make our State the most solid, reliable, forward-looking, forward-driving, forward-working State that we can possibly be with all of you in your jobs.
I leave you with words that were spoken 40 years ago, which at the bottom they say is a long time. It doesn’t seem that long once you get a little older, but 40 years ago, a great American said this — that violent crime “is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence of black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown, they are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one — no matter where he lives or what he does — can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed, and yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours, and why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created?
“…Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily — whether it is done in the name of the law or in defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence — whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.
“The real threat of crime is what it does to ourselves and our communities. No nation hiding behind locked doors is free, for it is imprisoned by its own fear. No nation whose citizens fear to walk their own streets is healthy, for in isolation lies the poisoning of public participation.”
Thus the fight against crime is, in the last analysis, the same as the fight for equal opportunity, or the battle against hunger and deprivation, or the struggle to prevent the pollution of our air and water. It is the fight to preserve that quality of community which is at the root of our great nation, a fight to preserve confidence in ourselves, in our fellow citizens, a battle for the quality of our lives.
It’s a great honor to be in this battle with all of you. Thank you so much for what you do every day, and let’s vow today to do it better together to make our State the safest state in the Union. Thanks very much.