I am very proud of our accomplishments during my seven years as Prince George’s State’s Attorney. Our office played a vital role in the 50% reduction in violent crime and we increased our homicide conviction rate to well over 90%. It had been lagging just above 70% for several years.

 

As State’s Attorney, I used a three-part approach to fighting crime: enforcement, prevention and rehabilitation.

For those who choose to commit a serious offense, the only answer is to get them off of the street, so they cannot harm to others. During my time as State’s Attorney we recognized a small group of repeat violent offenders were responsible for a large number of violent crimes in our county. Consequently, I created the Strategic Investigations Unit to address these individuals. By doing so, when we convicted these defendants, we secured longer sentences because their current crimes and past criminal history were considered, thus removing them from our communities.

As State’s Attorney, my goal is to keep people from entering the judicial system at all. Dropping out of school can be linked with criminal behavior; we needed to address this risk factor preemptively. I initiated our I Belong Here truancy reduction program. We began by identifying three county schools with the highest truancy rates. The program used positive peer pressure to encourage students to attend class and stay in school. We also taught students about the correlation between doing well in school and being successful in life. Through our efforts, we increased attendance rates in those schools to well over 90% from as low as 60%. We hosted summits for young women and young men, connecting them with mentors, life skills and new experiences they may not otherwise have had. Teaching young people to resolve conflict non-violently was a primary theme. We focused on domestic violence, working with our faith community on the specific family issues causing violence.

I believe that the ultimate goal of law enforcement is a just and safe community, and I see an important role for rehabilitation in achieving that vision. Thus, I implemented the Back on Track program which diverts low-level, non-violent drug dealers to educational programs and job placement–and away from jail. If they complete the 12-18-month program, their record is wiped clean once and they leave the program with a job. This program doesn’t cost taxpayers anything as it is paid for entirely with asset forfeiture money. Diversion saves taxpayer dollars because it is less costly than incarceration, but it assists those who have lost their way to become contributing members of society. I have also hosted expungement fairs, giving non-violent, eligible ex-offenders a chance to wipe their record clean–after completing their punishment–to pursue employment and return to a productive life.

With that as our goal, we must acknowledge that we still have work to do. Below are some of the policies that I would pursue to keep our communities safe.

The police department has significantly increased safety in the county, and I will support them as they continue those efforts.

  • I credit our current police department with understanding that creating and maintaining a positive working relationship with our community must come first. I would seek to strengthen this connection.
  • I will encourage the police department to continue to innovate in data analysis, targeted officer deployment, and new technologies to fight crime, as they have recently and successfully done.

Our police force also must have the officers and resources it needs to keep us safe.

  • We must fully staff our Police Department with 2,000 sworn officers. This is what a jurisdiction of our size requires and that will be my goal.
  • I will ensure that our police department has the staffing, vehicles and technology necessary to do its job and to do it well.

Being an active presence in the community is an important way to understand the root causes of crime, and how and where people feel unsafe.

  • In the past few years, I have attended hundreds of meetings with municipalities, civic and neighborhood associations and I’ve personally hosted many events to hear from residents.
  • I will be present and listen to communities’ concerns and ideas, so that I can work with the police department to do more to make people feel safe.

The sale and abuse of drugs plays a role in too many crimes in the County.

  • Working with our state and federal partners, we need to get serious about offering treatment options for those who purchase and use illegal drugs.It is unacceptable that anyone who seeks to rid themselves of a drug addiction is turned away because of a lack of adequate treatment options.

Gangs are another source of violence in our county and require a flexible, multi-jurisdictional approach.

  • Gang prevention is not just about policing: it starts with reaching out to our children, who too often become associated with gangs at an early age.
  • Gangs are seldom limited to the boundaries of the County. I would enhance our level of coordination with Montgomery County, the District of Columbia, northern Virginia, and federal law enforcement to share intelligence and develop collective solutions.

Too frequently our neighbors are released from prison, fall into old patterns and return to a life of crime.

  • We should more effectively address the risk factors that lead individuals to commit crimes. While they are incarcerated we must provide substance abuse treatment, workforce training, and supportive services for transitioning back to society.
  • These programs reduce the likelihood that these individuals will commit crimes after release.

I strongly support bail reform, because bail decisions should be based on factual evidence, not a defendant’s bank balance.

  • In Maryland, 70% of people incarcerated pretrial are there not because they are dangerous or a flight risk, but because they cannot afford to post bail. Additionally, people incarcerated because of inability to pay were 30% more likely to be convicted.
  • I will ensure there is not a disparate impact on poor and minority families, many of whom are losing jobs and the ability to support their loved ones as a result of being jailed, in many instances, for low risk offenses. Prior to reform, too often bail decisions were based not on how dangerous or violent the crime was but on who could afford to pay.
  • I will fight against any effort to reverse these important reforms.

Frederick Douglass once noted, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” I am a stronger believer that we can avoid many crimes by providing a high quality education, ensuring that every child respects themselves, and challenging our children’s minds and bodies with activities.

  • I will not settle for a school system that fails to deliver the outstanding education our children deserve.
  • If students wish to pursue a higher education, they must be fully prepared and supported every step of the way. In addition, we must strengthen our vocational education programs and embrace those who wish to seek employment in career and technical fields.
  • Our school system should better integrate character education, enforcing the values of hard work, respect for your elders, your community and–most importantly–respect for yourself.
  • We must create more youth employment opportunities and expand the County’s support for youth athletic leagues.

Our strides in reducing violence among strangers has magnified the problem with violence among acquaintances and family members.

  • We need to break this cycle of violence. As State’s Attorney I have made sure those escaping a violent, abusive relationship know they have places to turn. These efforts must continue; no one should suffer in silence. We must offer safe, comfortable alternatives to a harmful relationship.
  • We must educate our community on the signs of abusive relationships, what constitutes a proper, respectful relationship, and break though the barriers preventing us from having an honest discussion on this difficult topic.
  • We must build existing partnerships among the faith community and non-profits offering services to victims, couples and families in crisis. Our approach must address every aspect of this terrible crime.