The murder rate in Baltimore, Maryland is down somewhat this year, which is definitely welcome news. But the news isn’t all that great because they’re still sitting at 260 murders with two months to go, on track to come in below the horrific record of 342 they set last year. And 260 still puts them well ahead of New York City, which has more than 15 times the population. So why is this still happening?
Rather than going to politicians for excuses, the Baltimore Sun looks at the tragic story of Dawn Ponsi and her one-woman crusade to have the city and the state get tougher on crime. Dawn’s son Robert was riding his bicycle home from work in 2016 when he saw someone being robbed by a gang of youths with knives. Robert stopped and tried to break up the encounter, but the gang turned on him and stabbed him to death with more than a dozen knife wounds. Three of the juveniles were charged with his murder and initially charged as adults. Two of them were acquitted entirely and the third one, Prince Greene, wound up doing 12 months before being released. Police later revealed that the young killer had ditched a backpack containing a loaded handgun near the scene of the murder.
Dawn Ponsi said a judge transferred her son’s accused killer to the juvenile system where she said he was out of detention “in 12 months.”
“My son’s case should have been enough to highlight the problems of this system,” Ponsi said. “But apparently it wasn’t,”
“Because a witness backed out, during the trials, it was not disclosed that he stopped to save someone else who was being robbed by this gang of teenagers, and he lost his life in doing so,” his mom said.
Ponsi has been tracking other recent cases of underage killers who were released after very little time behind bars who went on to kill again. And she wants something done about it.
Governor Larry Hogan had been criticizing judges over lax punishments in the juvenile justice system only the day before the newspaper spoke with Ponsi. It’s a campaign he’s been working on for quite some time now. In 2017 he was trying to push through a “Truth in Sentencing” bill which was widely opposed by legislators in the Baltimore area. The judges, for their part, refused to even meet with the Governor and said that the high murder rates aren’t their fault.
But how do they expect to cut down on violent crime when they keep putting the same people out on the streets over and over again with what essentially amounts to a slap on the wrist? That’s the question Hogan would like answered. It’s the question Dawn Ponsi is asking. And it’s the question the rest of us should be asking as well.