Budget Analysts: Zero Out Gov’s City Safety Initiative

The Department of Legislative Services has recommended that the General Assembly eliminate funds for Governor Hogan’s proposed initiative to fight violent crime in Baltimore City.

During the House budget hearing for the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP), the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) offered its recommendations regarding that agency’s budget, as is its standard role. In that presentation, DLS has suggested that a high-profile “strike force” initiative touted by the Governor should be eliminated by the legislature, citing a lack of clarity in the recently-announced effort, and a lack of separation between it and several current anti-crime programs at both the State and local levels.

From the DLS alaysis:

DLS recommends deleting the funding and positions associated with the new initiative, as the concept is not currently well developed enough for such a significant ongoing commitment of State resources. DLS further recommends the addition of budget language restricting funds until GOCCP and DSP identify and evaluate the effectiveness and interactions among current federal, State,and local resources dedicated to combating violent crime, particularly in Baltimore City, and how the new initiative will improve upon current efforts in a measurable capacity.

The proposed budget reductin totals $10.6 million in targeted funds. Related funding of $3 million for police retention and recruitment, though publicly associated with the Governor’s City crime efforts, was not part of the recommended reduction.

Glenn Fueston, Executive Director of GOCCP, resisted the analyst’s recommendation, saying “this initiative brings together resources… to target repeat violent offenders.” He argued that the strike force effort would augment, not duplicate, current structures in place. “This is one of the most effective ways to target those criminal networks,” he continued.

The recommendation offered will be considered by the budget committees in the House and Senate in the weeks ahead, as part of the legislative deliberations on the annual budget bill.

The DLS analysis also raised issues with “mission creep” affecting GOCCP, with questions of transparency arising from the multiple functions it is projected to undertake in years ahead, including assuming the administrative functions from the former Office for Children. Because GOCCP is merely an office of the Governor, rather than a stand-alone agency, certain budget information and safeguards are not present as currently configured.

The full DLS analysis is available online.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties
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