Lawyer Russell (Tim) Baker officially opened his campaign for attorney general of Maryland today by calling for an extensive law enforcement package aimed at fighting narcotics in the state, including elimination of parole for drug dealers and creation of a statewide narcotics strike force.
Baker, one of four Democratic candidates in the race, said the legislature should spend up to $5 million annually for the law enforcement package, which would require hiring more than 20 new detectives, investigators and attorneys.
"What we have now is not working, by any test, by any measure," Baker said at a news conference shortly after he filed for the election in Annapolis. He called his program a "compendium of the best ideas" in law enforcement and said the current "piecemeal" system has failed to stem the state's most serious crime problem.
Baker, 43, is a former assistant U.S. attorney who participated in the successful prosecution of former vice president Spiro Agnew and other elected officials. Baker is now in private practice. Also seeking the Democratic nomination in the Sept. 9 primary are Eleanor Carey, the state's senior deputy attorney general; former attorney general Francis (Bill) Burch, who served from 1966 to 1978, and Lt. Gov. J. Joseph Curran Jr.
Carey said she already has spoken out in favor of several of the proposals in Baker's 20-page document, including prosecution of major drug dealers for tax evasion and a statewide grand jury for narcotics cases.
Burch and Curran could not be reached for comment.
In his proposal, Baker advocated severe restrictions on bail and lengthy mandatory sentences without possibility of suspension or parole for major narcotics dealers, as well as first offenders found guilty of selling drugs to children.
"We will never get anywhere if we keep releasing the drug dealers we've caught," he said.
The narcotics strike force proposed in the package would be run by the attorney general's office and would include a team of prosecutors and investigators to battle major drug rings. Investigators would target the hidden financiers operating the rings, Baker said, and operate with the help of a statewide narcotics grand jury.
The package also calls for a forfeiture program aimed at confiscating the assets and profits of drug dealers. This component would be implemented by a team of 10 "financial detectives," assigned to trace the holdings of convicted narcotics traffickers, according to Baker.
The forfeiture program could eventually cover the $5 million annual cost of the narcotics law enforcement effort, he predicted.