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Baltimore drops prosecution of low-level crimes, including prostitution, drug possession

Baltimore drops prosecution of low-level crimes, including prostitution, drug possession
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The city of Baltimore will no longer prosecute certain low-level crimes, including prostitution, drug possession and minor traffic violations, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced Friday. 

The move was unveiled in a press release from Mosby’s office as it reported “one-year success” of policies implemented last March to not prosecute the nonviolent charges amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

According to the state’s attorney’s office, last year’s decision has “resulted in a decrease in arrests, no adverse impact on the crime rate, and address the systemic inequity of mass incarceration.” 

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Due to the success of the policies, which were initially enacted as a way to reduce the chances of massive coronavirus outbreaks in prisons or jails, Mosby on Friday announced that the changes would be permanent.  

“Today, America’s war on drug users is over in the city of Baltimore,” Mosby said in a statement. “We leave behind the era of tough-on-crime prosecution and zero tolerance policing and no longer default to the status quo to criminalize mostly people of color for addiction.” 

The attorney went on to say, “We will develop sustainable solutions and allow our public health partners to do their part to address mental health and substance use disorder.” 

"Clearly prosecuting low-level offenses with no public safety value is counterproductive to the limited law enforcement resources we have," Mosby added. "When the courts open next month, I want my prosecutors working with the police and focused on violent offenses, like armed robbery, carjacking cases and drug distribution organizations that are the underbelly of the violence in Baltimore, not using valuable jury trial time on those that suffer from addiction." 

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott (D) praised Mosby for the decision Friday, writing in a statement, “I applaud State’s Attorney Mosby’s Office for working with partners to stem violence in Baltimore and ensure residents have the adequate support services they deserve.” 

“Reimagining public safety in Baltimore requires innovation and collaborative effort,” he added. 

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Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said in a statement included in the press release that the police force will continue “to work collaboratively with the State’s Attorney Office to focus on violent crimes and reducing violence in our city.” 

“We will continue to be responsive to the public safety needs of our residents and hold violent criminals accountable,” Harrison said. 

The state’s attorney’s office said that under the now-permanent policies, it will no longer prosecute crimes ranging from controlled substance possession and open container, to trespassing and prostitution.

The policies, which were developed through coordination with various public health experts, helped decrease the overall incarcerated population in Baltimore by about 18 percent in the past year, according to data from the city’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. 

Additionally, there has been a 39 percent decrease in people entering the city’s criminal justice system, Mosby’s office announced Friday. 

The move comes as more cities across the country have decided to lower punishments for certain offenses and instead offer increased services for those suffering from drug addictions and other assistance to low-income and minority communities as a way to prevent future crimes.