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Baltimore ends drug, sex work prosecutions

“The era of tough on crime prosecutors is over in Baltimore,” the State’s Attorney said.

Marilyn Mosby Ulysses Munoz/Baltimore Sun

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced Friday (March 26) outside the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse downtown that her office will no longer prosecute drug possession, prostitution, or minor traffic related offenses.

After easing back arrests for the aforementioned crimes at the beginning of the pandemic last March, crime in Baltimore has decreased 20 percent, according to the city’s top prosecutor.

Records also revealed 13 fewer homicides during that time span and property crime dropped 36 percent. The state’s attorney’s office also dismissed over 1,400 pending cases and withdrew an additional 1,400 warrants for nonviolent crimes as Mosby and her associates attempt to overhaul the judicial system in a city that has historically punished Black and brown faces for these misdemeanors.

“The era of tough on crime prosecutors is over in Baltimore,” Mosby said during the press conference. “We have to rebuild the community’s trust in the criminal justice system and that’s what we will do, so we can focus on violent crime.”

Mosby also mentioned that since she initiated the new policy last year, 911 calls related to drug abuse, sex work and public intoxication did not increase. Instead, calls related to prostitution dropped in half and 911 calls pertaining to drugs decreased by one-third in comparison to statistics from a year ago, she said. Drug arrests have also declined nearly 80%, according to the state’s attorney’s office.

“Clearly, the data suggests that there is no public safety value in prosecuting these low-level offenses,” Mosby said. When asked whether she believes her progressive policies will make her a “target,” Mosby, shrugged. “In this position, I’m going to always do what’s in the best interest of this city and my community and public safety,” she responded. “Whether that makes me a target that’s on someone else.”

While drugs such as marijuana, heroin, and cocaine remain illegal under Maryland law, Mosby’s efforts have altered local police response from arrests to treatment. Baltimore’s Police Commisioner Michael Harrison said officers have rewritten guidelines for its officers to follow through with Mosby’s ambitious initiatives. Nowadays, police are encouraged to help the potential arrestee find treatment from social services or organizations such as Baltimore Crisis Response, Inc. Harrison said all officers are now supposed to ask for permission from a supervisor to make an arrests in these types of situations.

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