Whenever a tragedy occurs, and another innocent victim of crime is created, an outraged public always cries out for more police. Unfortunately, this is the wrong response. Allow me to expose to you a dark and well-kept secret. The reason for a continuing and an expanding cycle of violent crime can be laid at the doorstep of politicians.
The Governor and the Maryland General Assembly are the top law enforcement officials in our state. They are responsible for creating criminal laws, prison construction, sentencing guidelines, parole, probation, capital punishment, juvenile justice, and public safety in general. It is a complex system which the general public has a difficult time understanding. It is easier to shout, “We need more police,” than it is to force the Governor and the General Assembly to provide the police and prosecutors with the laws they need.
Let me provide you with some examples. Maryland releases more violent criminals into our neighborhoods than any other state. We have the most lenient parole and probation policies in the country and the most liberal early release for good time credits. Our state is the only one in the nation that provides judges with the authority to release violent criminals early including murderers. The bottom line is clear. Maryland citizens are the victims of potential violence at any time by an environment infested with dangerous perpetrators in our midst. There is little wonder why the murder rate and violent crimes incidents are in the news every day.
This dark and dangerous secret is being kept from the public by a disinterested media that would rather engage in sensationalism after a crime has been committed instead of informing the people about the real cause of crime.
The politicians in Annapolis have the power to pass mandatory sentencing that would successfully eliminate the early release of so many violent criminals. The Governor and the General Assembly could change the landscape over night with one special session dedicated to a serious public safety agenda. Mandatory sentencing would remove the authority of judges to issue lenient punishments. More funding for prisons, stronger laws against juvenile offenders, and other measures would begin to cure this epidemic.
Presently, there are too many criminal advocates elected to the state legislature. They are now engaged in attempting to abolish capital punishment and reduce sentencing.
For more than thirty years, I have been fighting this battle. In 1979, I was a founding member of the Maryland Coalition Against Crime, along with Anne McCloskey and Rita Furst. Both women had members of their family murdered. There has been a long line of innocent murder victims over the years, numbering in the thousands. I have known the families of some of them. During my years in the General Assembly, I have introduced numerous pieces of legislation to protect public safety and assist crime victims and their families. My proposals and similar legislation by others has been consistently rejected by the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Moreover, for fifteen years, I have spoken out forcefully on talk radio about this scandal. Despite my efforts and the work of others, the situation has become worse.
Recently, my friend and neighbor, Shirley Worcestor, became another victim. Her perpetrator is a repeat offender who should have been behind bars. As time passes, I become more determined to win this struggle. There is an old saying, “You never lose unless you quit.”
It is time for the Governor and the General Assemble to pass mandatory sentencing and eliminate early release. It is too late in the General Assembly session now, but next year I will look into the possibility of passing a law that would invoke the death penalty when an innocent bystander is murdered. Baltimore County needs an anti-loitering law that will permit our police to engage the criminal element, gang bangers, drug dealers, and gun slingers, on the front lines. There are other actions that are needed that are too numerous to mention in this article.
I want to dedicate this commentary to all the people in our state that will have the opportunity to read about the truth and the real cause of this serious violent crime epidemic. I especially hope that the family members who have had loved ones harmed will now understand the real source of our problem. It is important to know the truth.
Delegate Pat McDonough