The view from a Baltimore City fire escape.
Credit: Schaun Champion

Maryland Lawmakers Approve the Bates Bill 

A piece of legislation that Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates lobbied for is on its way to Governor Wes Moore’s desk for his signature.

“I am grateful to the members of the MGA [Maryland General Assembly], especially the leadership, including Senate President Bill Ferguson and Speaker Adrienne Jones, as well as my bill sponsors, Delegate Frank Conaway Jr. and Senator Cory McCray, for passing this legislation and bringing uniformity to this law by ensuring that everyone over 18 is held accountable for possessing an illegal firearm,” Bates said via press release. 

Back in February, we wrote about Baltimore City State’s Attorney Ivan Bates and his tough-on-crime approach to stopping crime in Baltimore. 

“Is Bates, as many politicians before him, putting weight on quick actions rather than long-term, true success?” asked Editor-in-Chief Lisa Snowden. 

In the piece, Snowden also discussed the heavily contested piece of legislation that increased penalties for people 21 and older found with a handgun without a permit. Academics — especially some at the University of Baltimore School of Law — and local activists opposed the bill, saying that it would not stop crime.

“It will result in the unnecessary incarceration of first-time gun possessors for longer and further from home, despite the research demonstrating that disconnection from family is a direct contributor to recidivism,” Heather Warnken, executive director of the University of Baltimore School of Law’s Center for Criminal Justice Reform said, testifying against the bill in late March.

Bates went on a media blitz to promote the legislation, writing op-eds where he insisted that people in Baltimore don’t want progressive policies and appearing on WBAL-TV to say that those who oppose his plans “don’t care about the city.” 

Violent Crime is Down in Baltimore

According to the Baltimore Police Department, city crime is down. 

“Many neighbors across Baltimore City may believe crime is getting worse, but the numbers tell another story, as the Baltimore Police Department reports violent crime has dropped 16 percent since 2018,” according to a report from WMAR-2. 

For some, especially those who don’t live here, this city is synonymous with crime and Blackness. Mainstream news channels tend to favor headlines that stoke fear rather than those that enrich communities, so perception often beats reality. 

Police pointed to the work of people at the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement as a reason for the sustained drop — especially the organization’s Group Violence Reduction Strategy. Shantay Jackson leads the program.

“City officials say a pilot in the Western District showed promise, reducing homicides and nonfatal shootings, and are working to expand it citywide by the end of 2024. Already, it has expanded to the Southwest District and will be implemented in the Central District by the end of June, according to the Mayor’s Office for Neighborhood Safety and Engagement,” the Baltimore Sun reported.

Baltimore Baby Bonus Petition Drive

The Maryland Child Alliance is pushing for a charter amendment that would put money directly into the hands of new parents. The amendment would create the Baltimore Baby Bonus Fund, which would offer a one-time payment of at least $1,000 to new parents upon the birth or adoption of a child. 

Organizers at the advocacy group are focused on ending child poverty. They announced on April 11 that they need 10,000 signatures from registered voters in Baltimore City by July 27, 2024.

“Research shows that direct financial support for new parents can have a profound impact on a child’s cognitive development and future success. The Baltimore Baby Bonus Fund is an investment in our youngest residents and in the future of our city,” the group tweeted.