When the COVID-19 pandemic began last year, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby decided to stop pursuing “low-level offenses” like prostitution, drug possession and minor traffic violations with the intention of curbing the virus’s spread in jails and prisons.
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 her “pandemic experiment” of ignoring low-level crimes will become permanent.
According to recent statistics, property crime has dropped 36 percent and violent crime has declined 20 percent.
Homicides inched down, though Baltimore still has one of the highest homicide rates among cities nationwide. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found sharp reductions in calls to police complaining about drugs and prostitution, Mosby said.
“Clearly, the data suggest there is no public safety value in prosecuting low-level offenses,” Mosby said at a news conference.
But whether Baltimore is indeed an experiment that can be replicated elsewhere remains to be seen. Enforcement of low-level crimes has dropped in many parts of the country over the past year, as police limited operations to avoid contracting and spreading the virus and as prosecutors and judges sought to contain the virus’s spread in jails. But Baltimore is one of the few big cities where violence did not increase. In dozens of cities, homicides and shootings rose in 2020.
Image Credit: The National Interest