Something happened in Baltimore last year. The coronavirus pandemic hit, and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that the city would no longer prosecute drug possession, prostitution, trespassing, and other minor charges, to keep people out of jail and limit the spread of the deadly virus.
And then crime went down in Baltimore. A lot.
While violent crime and homicides skyrocketed in most other big American cities last year, violent crime in Baltimore dropped 20 percent from last March to this month, property crime decreased 36 percent, and there were 13 fewer homicides compared with the previous year. This happened while 39 percent fewer people entered the city’s criminal justice system in the one-year period, and 20 percent fewer people landed in jail after Mosby’s office dismissed more than 1,400 pending cases and tossed out more than 1,400 warrants for nonviolent crimes.
So on Friday, Mosby made her temporary steps permanent. She announced that Baltimore City will continue to decline prosecution of all drug possession, prostitution, minor traffic and misdemeanor cases, and will partner with a local behavioral health service to aggressively reach out to drug users, sex workers, and people in psychiatric crisis to direct them into treatment rather than the back of a patrol car.
“A year ago, we underwent an experiment in Baltimore,” Mosby said in an interview, describing steps she took after consulting with public health and state officials to reduce the public’s exposure to the coronavirus, including not prosecuting nonviolent offenses. “What we learned in that year, and it’s so incredibly exciting, is there’s no public safety value in prosecuting these low-level offenses. These low-level offenses were being, and have been, discriminately enforced against Black and brown people. Prosecutors have to recognize their power to change the criminal justice system.
Click here to read more.