Unprecedented conditions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic resulted in adjustments to the way some jurisdictions policed their streets, and a prominent official in one of America’s major cities has just announced she is making those changes permanent.
According to NBC News, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced on Friday that she will no longer prosecute drug and prostitution offenses or other low-level crimes such as minor traffic infractions, extending for good a policy she implemented on a temporarily basis amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The decision was made public in a press release that touted “one-year success” of a strategy embarked upon last March in which offenses deemed of a less serious nature would not be prosecuted, The Hill reported. Mosby boasted that her change in policy had “resulted in a decrease in arrests, no adverse impact on the crime rate” and helped “address the systemic inequality of mass incarceration.”
Mosby went on to assert that “prosecuting low-level offenses with no public safety value is counterproductive to the limited law enforcement resources we have,” and said that her city would “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.”
While it is true that the past year has seen declines in certain categories of crime in Baltimore such as property offenses and robberies during the pandemic, its staggering rate of shootings and killings continued apace in 2020.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison has warned that any reported drop in crime is not necessarily cause to celebrate – the city had already tallied well over 300 homicides by the end of 2020 – and said, “the decreases are attributed to fewer people being out, which means fewer opportunities and chances for victimization,” according to the Baltimore Sun.
Local activist James Timpson told The Sun late last year that many likely criminals are coming to the realization that they simply stand a much lower chance of arrest under current conditions, and “they really don’t fear the repercussions of their actions right now,” something that may prove catastrophic once cities return to a pre-pandemic level of societal engagement.
Mosby first rose to national prominence for her role in charging several Baltimore police officers in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, cases in which she obtained zero convictions. More recently, news broke that she and her husband, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby are currently under federal investigation over tax-related matters.
Though the full impact of Mosby’s decision to abandon the prosecution of so-called low-level offenses is not yet known, the free-for-all atmosphere such a policy undoubtedly engenders almost certainly bodes ill for the law-abiding citizens of Baltimore.