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Public Statements

U.S. Attorney's Office Project Safe Neighborhoods Awards Ceremony


Location: Baltimore, MD

Thank you very, very much. [U.S. Attorney] Rod Rosenstein, it has been a great honor and a privilege to be able to work with you. As the U.S. Attorney, you are, in essence, the quarterback of all the prosecutorial decisions that allow us to make this really a comprehensive and connected strategy of partnerships that build on the good work and the courage that the men and women of law enforcement who are here exhibit every single day,… going out there under very dangerous circumstances. So, let me begin, on behalf of the people of Maryland, by saying thank you to all of you, and thank you also to your families, without whose support you would not be able to do this critically important work,… this life-saving work.

It's an honor to be here also with Colonel Marcus Brown of our Maryland State Police, and also [Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services] Secretary Gary Maynard. [Baltimore Police] Commissioner Anthony Batts, welcome to Maryland. I'm looking forward to working with you to save lives in Baltimore City. [Prince George's County Police] Chief Mark MaGaw, it's been really terrific working with you in partnership in Prince George's County. My goodness, 41% reduction in homicides on a year-to-date basis. Really, really good work. And your State's Attorney, Scott Shellenberger's office is focused and connected and moving forward with us and all of our county State's Attorneys that do such outstanding work.

Again, let me say thank you. Our State is safer -- not because of the weather. It's safer because of you. Those lives that have been saved have been saved because of you. I once heard a gentleman who was the architect of the Reginald Lewis Museum, right over there on President's street, describe the colors of our State flag in this way,…

He said that the black and the white represent the shades of our diversity. The red represents the red blood of humanity that all of us share as children of one God. And the gold represents the opportunity that we have, if we should so choose, to work together to make this world a better place, a safer place, a more prosperous place for our children and our children's children.

The most sacred responsibility that any government has is really the protection of the lives of our citizens. I'm all for improving schools, I'm all for expanding opportunity and prosperity, I'm for improving the environment,… but none of those things is possible unless we can protect the lives of our citizens. Unless people feel secure in their own neighborhoods. Unless people can send their kids off to school without worrying that they might have to dodge drug dealer gunfire on the way home.

We've set 15 strategic goals for our State. And three of them, the foundational three, the sine qua non, that without which there is nothing, were all about saving lives -- reduction of violent crime, reduction of violent crimes against women, and reduction of violent crimes against children.

You heard Rod talk about the progress that we have made. And a lot of that progress is built upon your courage and your hard work, by actually forming the partnerships behind your badge that allow you to do your job in a much more connected way. Partnerships that allow you to target your resources, as well as the resources of the prosecutors, and corrections officers, and parole and probation officers, behind you. So that every time that you put your life on the line to arrest one of these repeat offenders, you are more and more confident that they're not going to come back out here for you to have to risk your life to arrest another time.

Together, building on your courage and hard work, we've driven violent crime down more than 24% since 2006 -- and that's a 34 year low that you have driven it down to. Not the weather, not barometric pressure. Because of you, together we've driven down juvenile homicides by 36% since 2006. We've driven down female homicides by 12%. And together, we've driven total crime in Maryland to a 36 year low. None of those things happened by themselves.
Progress is a choice. Reducing crime is a choice. Improving the connectedness of our efforts to apprehend, and yes, incarcerate, repeat violent offenders -- this is a choice. This is what a free and civilized people do in order to protect one another.

Partnering with the Maryland State Police and our Division of Parole and Probation, we cleared a DNA backlog back in 2008. And because of your courage and hard work, we've used that DNA technology to take -- get this -- 503 murderers, rapists, and other violent offenders off the street, who would not have been taken off the street before, had it not been for those advances and those partnerships that support your work.

We've expanded Operation Safe Kids and the GPS monitoring. We've created the Public Safety Dashboard, and the Violence Prevention Initiative. Too often, we think of Parole and Probation as some sort of underappreciated or underutilized social service network, instead of realizing that they are crime reduction assets and that they need to be partners in crime reduction with all of you.

Together, with our Federal partners who recognize that criminals don't respect borders or jurisdictions, we're implementing connected strategies like the Federal Gang Prosecution Initiative, the Gang Awareness for Schools Initiative, and the Safe Streets Initiative.

And Rod, thank you so much for everything your office and your prosecutors have done on Maryland EXILE as well.

This progress is not possible without your courage, and without you hard work. I consider myself blessed every day to be able to wake up and know that I can do something to strengthen the partnerships, the sharing of information, and the connectedness of your State partners to back up your work. What we do is really about the common good. And the foundation of the common good is improving public safety.

I'll conclude with this story. One of the very first meetings we had at State Stat was with Parole and Probation. And [DPSCS Secretary] Gary Maynard had yet to kindly come here from Iowa at the time. He's one of best, I think, the best there is as a Secretary of Public Safety, but in other states he did not control Parole and Probation, that was kind of a local function. So we were together there at a State Stat meeting, and I was finally able to ask the question that as Mayor of Baltimore I had wanted to ask for years from a position of being able to do something about it. I asked the head of Parole and Probation, "Of the last 50 people charged with murdering an American in the city of Baltimore, how many of them were under our supervision at the time that they murdered another American?"

They kind of talked amongst themselves, came back to the microphone, and said, "Can you repeat the question?"

I said, "Yes. How many of the last 50 people charged with murdering an American in the city of Baltimore were under our State supervision. Any one of those categories that you've just described to me, from very, very, very closely supervised to very, very closely supervised to very closely supervised -- how many of them were under our supervision?"

Murmur, murmur. Murmur, murmur. "Can we get back to you?"

I said, "Sure,…you don't know that now?"

And he said, "Well, I'm not sure who we'd ask."

I said, "I think you should ask the Baltimore City Police Department, your partners in crime reduction."

Two weeks later, they came back. The answer? Twenty eight. And 22 of them were under the category that we called very, very, very, very closely supervised. And none of them actually were closely supervised. Because we supervised so many people across the spectrum, that we only supervised any one of them minimally.

Now, with better information, with better diagnostics, we supervise on the front end. The baddest of the bad guys, the repeat violent offenders -- we supervise them as they should be supervised.

And the second they mess up and violate their privilege, we put them back in jail. With your help, with your courage, with your hard work.

You know, an immune system -- in our bodies -- isn't strong because it outnumbers the bad bugs and the bad germs out there. It's strong because it's better connected than the bad bugs, and the bad germs. With technology, with the partnerships that your leadership makes possible,… with the partnerships that your courage and hard work makes possible,… every day we're getting a little better at "knowing what we know."

You know, General [Keith B.] Alexander, who is the Director at the National Security Agency, has an expression in a lot of his meetings,… when the NSA looks back with the glaring clarity of hindsight. He says, "If we only knew, what we knew."

"If we only knew, what we knew," and, implicitly, if we only acted upon it. That's what we're doing now. The crime reduction that we've accomplished, family members, was only possible because of the people you love, and that you back up, and that we honor here today. And they are the best that Maryland or America has to send forward.

Thanks very much.

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