The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Hogan offers reward in Baltimore homicide. Some city leaders say he isn’t doing enough to stem violence.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at a news conference on Oct. 25 in Annapolis. Hogan, a Republican, has clashed often with leaders in Baltimore, a heavily Democratic city and the biggest city in Maryland.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at a news conference on Oct. 25 in Annapolis. Hogan, a Republican, has clashed often with leaders in Baltimore, a heavily Democratic city and the biggest city in Maryland. (Brian Witte/AP)

A day after a 69-year-old woman was found stabbed to death in a Baltimore City church, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) offered a $100,000 reward from the state and called on Mayor Brandon Scott (D) to match it.

Some have called it a gimmick and labeled it as grandstanding. Others — including a former mayor — say the money could be a necessary step in bringing a conviction in the death of Evelyn Player, the city’s 298th homicide of the year.

But the governor’s reward and his response to the city’s escalating violence have also laid bare the continued fraught relationship between Hogan, who has taken a law-and-order stance, and liberal-leaning city leaders as they struggle to put an end to violent crime.

As Hogan continues to field questions about his national ambitions, public scrutiny will intensify around his administration’s response to problems in the state’s largest and most troubled city.

“It will be taken out of the Maryland context and put in a national context” if he runs for higher office, said Mileah Kromer, an associate professor of political science and director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College. “This is a city that has all the problems that activists and policymakers are trying to address nationwide, including the problems of criminal justice in this country.”

Kromer traced the tension between Hogan and city leaders to his first few months in office when unrest erupted following the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year old Black man from West Baltimore. Gray died after being in police custody.

Hogan sent in the National Guard to quell the violence.

“You have some people who were supportive of the National Guard coming in, and then on the other hand you have a lot of people who believe . . . sending in a military force into a city that is erupting because of overpolicing” was not the right move, she said. “That tension has been there since the beginning.”

Years before Trump’s attacks, Freddie Gray’s death sparked a huge effort to heal Baltimore. It wasn’t enough.

Months later, Hogan canceled the $2.9 billion Red Line light rail project that many saw as a way to connect residents in long-neglected neighborhoods to jobs.

The clashes have continued through four mayors, stretching from former mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to Scott, who is soon to finish his first year in office.

Opinions about Hogan’s response to the crime range from appreciation to disdain in the heavily Democratic city, where Hogan’s support among voters in 2018 was 10 percent higher than in 2014.

City council member Zeke Cohen (D) criticized Hogan’s offer of a reward.

“Gimmicks like offering a reward for a specific murder, while nice on the surface, don’t solve any of the underlying issues impacting Baltimore,” he said.

Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, said rewards — particularly large ones — are “far from gimmicks.” Ricci also forwarded a news report of another Baltimore City Council member who proposed legislation last month to create a fund to beef up rewards.

“What casts a negative light on the city are its politicians gratuitously trying to point fingers when the focus should be on a community that is hurting, grieving, and searching for answers,” he said in a statement.

Hogan has an unlikely ally in former mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D).

Young commended the governor’s offer of the state reward and said he is frustrated with the rampant violence.

“There is no consequence for crime,” Young said. “The criminals are running the city and it’s got to stop.”

Young said the killing of Player, who he knew, was devastating for the city.

Young said he agrees with the governor that the police need more resources to do their jobs. But he also said that the state needs to require more oversight over those who are on state-run parole and probation. About a third of the shootings in the city tie back to those under the state agency’s scrutiny, according to lawmakers.

“Everybody needs to stop pointing fingers and do something about the crime,” he said.

State Sen. Antonio L. Hayes (D-Baltimore City), who served as an assistant deputy mayor from 2007 to 2010 when Martin O’Malley was governor, said the partnership that was there during O’Malley’s administration, which led to a decrease in crime, has not existed under Hogan’s administration.

“The state hasn’t really been a partner in addressing the crime issue that we have here in Baltimore,” he said.

Ricci said the state has made strong financial commitments to the city’s crime fighting efforts “but focus right now should be on the community, not years-old
political battles rehashed in the media.”

Hayes said Hogan’s recent announcement to “re-fund the police” doesn’t help in those efforts. He said it was admirable to include additional funds providing resources for victims services but added that “there are other ways the state can be a true partner in Baltimore.”

Hayes sponsored a bill in 2020 that would create 10 high-crime micro-zones that would receive extra law enforcement resources and require increased oversight of offenders on parole or probation.

The governor vetoed an amended version of the bill after the Democratic-controlled General Assembly failed to pass his crime-fighting measures that included tougher penalties for violent repeat gun offenders. The legislature overrode the veto of Hayes’s bill during its regular 2021 session earlier this year.

“We’ve tried to do everything we possibly can to fix the problem,” said Hogan said earlier this week when asked about Baltimore moving toward its 300th homicide for the
seventh year in a row, a benchmark it has reached since. “But it really is going to take some immediate action by the leaders in Baltimore to try to address the problem. The basic problem is . . . we’re not arresting enough people. We’re not prosecuting them. We’re not taking them off the streets.”

At a news conference this week, Hogan expressed frustration over the House of Delegates refusing to approve one of his top legislative priorities, the Repeat Violent Offenders Act.

“We have repeatedly over and over again introduced legislation to try to do something about that,” Hogan said of the crime. “We’ve continually tried to press the leaders in Baltimore City to take more action. We’ve invested money from the state. We’ve sent state resources in to assist.”

Sen. Cory V. McCray (D-
Baltimore City) said there has to be collaboration for Baltimore to stem the violence.

“We don’t have time to keep going back and forth,” he said.

On Thursday night, the city recorded its 302nd homicide with the shooting death of a 13-year-old girl near a recreation center in West Baltimore. The killing was the ninth in a week.

Years before Trump’s attacks, Freddie Gray’s death sparked a huge effort to heal Baltimore. It wasn’t enough.

‘I don’t know if people understand what is happening in Baltimore’