The rate of fatal shootings in Baltimore has reportedly spiked in the past year. Several prosecutors and police officers believe that illegal-gun offenders are facing reduced consequences, a new trend in the city's courts.
Between November 2015 and March 2016, one-quarter of illegal-gun cases in Baltimore were dropped before reaching trial. While the average sentence for offenders was 16 months in January 2015, that number has been reduced to an average of six months, The Baltimore Sun reports.
Baltimore prosecutors estimate that people who are convicted of carrying an illegal firearm currently only face 15 percent of their potential sentences, while felons convicted of possession a gun receive only 25 percent of their potential sentences.
In 2016, only 34 percent of defendants charged with carrying an illegal firearm were held without bail while roughly 20 percent were held at bail below $100,000.
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This is a dramatic decrease from just 2008, when 60 percent of defendants charged with carrying an illegal firearm were held without bail and only 8 percent received bail lower than $100,000.
While the sentencing and bail requirements placed on gun offenders have decreased, the rate of recidivism has increased. For instance, after 24-year-old Doral Cooke posted $85,000 bail for five different gun counts, he killed 24-year-old Devin Crutchfield just five days later in Halethorpe, Baltimore.
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis noted that Baltimore police had increased arrests for possession of illegal firearms but saw no decline in shootings deaths. He believes that the recently relaxed penalties for illegal gun ownership are to blame.
“There’s no certainty of consequence,” Davis said.
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Professor Daniel Webster of Johns Hopkins University says that the Baltimore justice system is attempting to relax its sentencing laws and bail thresholds, but noted that this may be misguided when it comes to illegal gun carriers.
“Focusing on gun offenders very consistently, when done well, correlates with fewer people getting shot,” Webster said.
In 2016, there have been over 750 shootings in Baltimore, with more than 250 shooting homicides, and the number keeps growing.
On Oct. 22, an unidentified 17-year-old was fatally shot in Northeast Baltimore. The suspect is 45-year-old Charles Mceachin, who had been previously charged with attempted murder, The Associated Press reports.
On Oct. 24, a 66-year-old unidentified man was shot by a passing stranger while sitting on a park bench. The victim survived his wounds, WMAR reports.
Davis is advocating for a minimum of 18 months for gun offenders with no chance of reduced sentencing.
“If the certainty was 18 months, and they knew they were going to get that and see every bit of it, I’m OK with that,” Davis said.