– The following article was submitted by Delegates Ryan Nawrocki & Kathy Szeliga (District 7A) and Lauren Arikan (District 7B)-
In a recent survey by Delegates Nawrocki and Szeliga, crime was by and far the top concern for citizens. And juvenile crime tops that category. We must go back to holding juveniles accountable for their dangerous and illegal behaviors. Delegate Szeliga sponsored House Bill 698 in an effort to curb the destruction after juvenile justice“reform” measures passed last year. Juveniles under 13 are no longer being held or charged for dangerous crimes frustrating victims and law enforcement over the last 9 months. The crimes going unreported and unaddressed include gun crimes, carjacking, assault, robbery, rape, and other heinous crimes.
Protecting the public and ensuring that children get the help they need to change their delinquent behavior should be the focus of lawmakers today. Unfortunately, we are seeing soft-on-crime bills that will excuse criminal behavior instead of protecting future victims. Public safety is the government’s number one job. We must stand up for innocent victims of crime and stop criminals before they victimize others.
The juvenile crime crisis is fueled by a lack of consequences. To date, nine kids under 18 years old have been killed in Baltimore City. Two juveniles have been killed in Baltimore County, one tragically over the weekend. There have been students shot and
killed near schools, and one of the first homicide victims in Baltimore City in 2023 was a young girl.
Sean Kennedy, a visiting fellow at the Maryland Public Policy Institute and policy director for the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, wrote in favor of HB698. He said, “Delegate Szeliga’s legislation is a necessary step to rebalance Maryland’s
criminal justice system toward appropriate accountability, justice, and safety for all offenders – including juveniles.” Scott Shellenberger, the Baltimore County State’s Attorney, joined Delegate Szeliga on her panel to testify in favor of HB698.
He was questioned by many legislators during the hearing on his experiences since the Juvenile Justice Reform was passed in 2022. He made it clear that services offered by the Department of Social Services and CINA (Child in Need of Assistance) are not as robust as what is available through the Juvenile Justice System. Social workers are not able to hold juveniles and their families accountable if they fail to follow a treatment and behavioral therapy plan. A judge can ensure juveniles get the services they need.
Unfortunately, the bill did not make it out of committee.
The argument to coddle young criminals is wrong. During opportunities for teachable moments, young people need exactly what a consequence does – it teaches them to not commit that crime again. Cosponsor of HB698 and member of the Judiciary
Committee, Delegate Arikan, also sponsored legislation this session that did not make its way out of committee. Arikan’s bill, HB937, was supported by Gavin Patashnick, Tony Gioia, and Steven Kroll who all work as State Attorneys across Maryland.
The bill would have altered, from 30 to 40 years, the maximum term of imprisonment that may be imposed for the offense of attempted second-degree murder. The State Attornies testified in front of the Judiciary Committee and made it clear that this bill was simply a parity with all other attempted crimes in the state of Maryland. The Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) of 2017 made an oversight and HB937 is simply a clean-up bill that remedies what was not done before. All other attempted crimes in Maryland have the same maximum penalties whether the crime was a completed offense or not. For once, It would be helpful if lawmakers in Annapolis acknowledged the sharp rise in homicides across Maryland's inner cities and answered why there is an apparent lack of consideration for crime bills such as HB698 and HB937.
What is most frustrating for our constituents that we hear time and again is that no meaningful legislation was passed to STOP crime, rather bills that take away the 2nd amendment rights of law-abiding citizens are always the focus in Annapolis. A very bad
bill, SB1, passed this year which is unconstitutional and will severely limit law-abiding wear and carry permit holders. It will be challenged in court and will certainly be found unconstitutional. We voted no.
Legislation was introduced to bring mandatory sentences to repeat violent offenders using illegal firearms. The liberals in Annapolis refused even to give that bill a vote. Every year for at least a decade, the Republicans introduce a bill to make stealing a gun a felony. It’s only a misdemeanor. The bill dies on a party-line vote every year. We will keep trying.
The leadership in Annapolis also refuses to close the drug dealer loophole that says if someone is dealing drugs and has an illegal firearm, they cannot be charged with the firearm crime.
In the closing moments of Sine Die on April 10th, Republicans stopped the “Drug King Pin” Bill. Astonishingly, liberals were attempting to reduce criminal punishments for traffickers distributing heroin, fentanyl, and other deadly narcotics that are leading Marylanders to their untimely deaths by the thousands – not to mention how these substances have also resulted in an increase in violent crime and homelessness across communities.
We are heartbroken to watch crime continue to fester in our state and our communities. Unfortunately, not much was done again during this legislative session to curb the crime crisis. We will not stop fighting to make you and your families safe in Maryland.