Maryland state attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn Mosby announced on Friday that she will permanently erase all criminal charges for possession and distribution of drugs, trespassing, minor traffic offenses and prostitution among other nonviolent crimes.
Mosby temporarily stopped such prosecutions last year, aiming to reduce the prison population and eliminate the risk of a coronavirus outbreak in correctional facilities. Since then, at least 1,400 criminal cases have been dismissed, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Making the announcement outside the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse on Friday, Mosby said the data shows that the new approach has been effective in reducing crime. According to police statistics, violent crime has decreased by about 20% so far this year compared to the same three months of last year. Property crime has also declined by 35% in the same time period. As such, Mosby is now extending the policies into the future, looking to provide resources for offenders instead of hitting them with criminal charges.
“A year ago, we underwent an experiment in Baltimore,” Mosby said, according to The Washington Post. “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."
According to the progressive leader, the number of 911 calls for drugs declined by one-third compared to the same months before the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, 911 calls for sex work fell by half. Mosby added that drug arrests have decreased by about 80% in the past year.
Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said that COVID-19 likely contributed to the decline in street crime, keeping people home who would otherwise become victims. While the policies remain in place, the commissioner said he expects officers to rarely arrest people for drugs, sex work and other nonviolent offenses.
When an arrest is necessary, police are told to contact their supervisor for approval. The primary goal now is to try to connect people with help from social services or addiction treatment rather than arresting them, the commissioner said.
“We want to make sure that the people who are caught up and in need get the help that they need,” Harrison said according to Fox Baltimore.
As part of the effort to provide the necessary resources, Mosby announced a city partnership with Baltimore Crisis Response, Inc. The partners will work together to help people with drug addiction and those experiencing mental health crises, aiming to give them support and treatment instead of a prison sentence.
Mosby's progressive effort in the city has been evident since 2019 when she introduced a plan to dismiss all charges for marijuana, which remains illegal under state law along with cocaine, heroin and other drugs.