Back in March of last year, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby quietly began the process of “decriminalizing” a number of low-level crimes such as drug possession and prostitution. The move was ostensibly made to reduce jail populations during the pandemic to prevent the spread of COVID behind bars. (We’ll get to the real reason in a moment.) Now, after a year of refusing to prosecute people for breaking laws that are still on the books, Mosby has declared the project to be such a resounding success that she’s going to make those changes permanent, even if we get the pandemic under control. What could possibly go wrong? (Yahoo News)
A year ago, as the coronavirus began to spread across Maryland, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby stopped prosecuting drug possession, prostitution, minor traffic violations and other low-level offenses, a move aimed at curbing Covid-19’s spread behind bars.
That shift — repeated by prosecutors in many other cities — didn’t just reduce jail populations. In Baltimore, nearly all categories of crime have since declined, confirming to Mosby what she and criminal justice experts have argued for years: Crackdowns on quality-of-life crimes are not necessary for stopping more serious crime.
On Friday, Mosby announced that she was making her pandemic experiment permanent, saying Baltimore — for decades notorious for runaway violence and rough policing — had become a case study in criminal justice reform.
Hearing Marilyn Mosby call Baltimore “a case study in criminal justice reform” is a line I wouldn’t have expected to see outside of a Saturday Night Live skit or The Onion. In case that name sounds familiar to you, it might be because Marilyn Mosby (along with her husband, the president of the City Council) is currently dodging a grand jury investigation into a number of her affairs. These include “forgetting” to pay her taxes, a dodgy travel company she started as a side gig, and her recent purchase of two Florida vacation homes while crying poverty back in Maryland. At this point, she’s probably just glad to be generating some headlines about literally anything else than a corruption investigation.
As far as the plan to permanently stop prosecuting various crimes goes, the explanation being offered is dubious at best. Last year, just as was done by many officials in large, liberal cities, Mosby used the pandemic as an excuse to push forward an agenda to “empty the jails.” In some (though not all) cities, there actually was a dip in certain crime levels, but Mosby can’t take credit for that. Most of the types of crimes that saw decreases involved property crimes, such a burglary. But that’s because so many people were locked down at home so there were fewer empty houses for thieves to target.
Meanwhile, Charm City still has the highest per capita murder rate in the country, an issue that Mosby has consistently failed to make a dent in over the entire time she’s been in office. But it is true that there were certainly fewer incidents of drug abuse and prostitution showing up on the books. Why do you suppose that is? Perhaps it’s because when you announce that you won’t be prosecuting those crimes, police don’t bother making arrests and fewer people report such activity since it won’t do any good to call the cops.
What Mosby is boasting about is her own flavor of a theory that’s become increasingly popular on the far left. The idea is often referred to as “decriminalizing poverty,” implying that impoverished people are forced into such illegal activities and unfairly “punished for being poor.” That’s a blatantly inaccurate assertion because there are many poor people all around the country who somehow manage to avoid turning to a life of crime. For the record, I’m actually not opposed to states or cities legalizing prostitution if that’s what the voters wish to do. But as long as the laws are on the books, they need to be enforced.
What’s going on in Baltimore is pretty much the exact opposite of the broken windows theory of policing. When you tolerate or ignore lower-level crime, you foster an environment where more serious, violent crime takes place. Marilyn Mosby is looking to make this a permanent condition in Baltimore. You can expect the exodus of law-abiding citizens from her city to continue while gang violence proliferates even more. And it’s the regular people living in those neighborhoods that will pay the price for this.