(NBC News) — A year ago, as the coronavirus began to spread across Maryland, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby stopped prosecuting drug possession, prostitution, minor traffic violations and other low-level offenses, a move aimed at curbing Covid-19’s spread behind bars.
That shift — repeated by prosecutors in many other cities — didn’t just reduce jail populations. 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 that she was making her pandemic experiment permanent, saying Baltimore — for decades notorious for runaway violence and rough policing — had become a case study in criminal justice reform.
In the 12 months since she ordered scaled-back enforcement, violent crime is down 20 percent and property crime has declined 36 percent, she said. 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, she said.
“Clearly, the data suggest there is no public safety value in prosecuting low-level offenses,” Mosby said at a news conference.