Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby holds a press conference outside the courthouse in downtown Baltimore on Friday, March 26, 2021. (Ulysses Muñoz/Baltimore Sun).

Mosby isn’t lowering crime, she’s inviting more drug abuse

Originally published in the Baltimore Sun

Many thanks to Justin Fenton and his colleagues for their coverage of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s decision to stop prosecuting various “low-level” crimes and her declaration that the war on drugs is over in the city (”Can Baltimore end the War on Drugs? With move to decriminalize, Marilyn Mosby leads way while going out on a limb,” May 1). The data they provide clearly show that, what Ms. Mosby claims is a departure from what has not been working is really just a continuation of a sharp trend of de-policing and non-prosecution of drug laws in the city.

Drug arrests fell 67% over 2011 to 2015, when Ms. Mosby took office. They fell another 52% by 2019. And that policy has been a tragic failure, with the city’s homicide rate nearly doubling from 31 (per 100,000 residents) to 59 over 2011-19.

Reasonable people may differ about the wisdom of ending the war on drugs at the federal level, and I have suggested doing so in these pages. But when local officials choose not to enforce certain federal and state laws, they invite a world of trouble. By eliminating the risk of prosecution for drug possession and attempted distribution in the city, but not in the rest of Maryland (where drug arrests have remained roughly stable over the last decade, along with homicides), Ms. Mosby is increasing the profitability of the drug trade and inviting more of it to relocate here. Since competition for “turf” and profits in this trade frequently takes violent forms, this is very likely to lead to “high-level” crimes and loss of life.

Indeed, the rising bloodshed since we embarked on this dangerous experiment in 2011 makes this clear. If Ms. Mosby truly wishes to end “what has not been working,” she needs to do her job and enforce state and federal law.

Steve Walters, Baltimore

The writer is chief economist for the Maryland Public Policy Institute.