Baltimore, MD (May 7, 2020) – The Maryland Violence Prevention Coalition is deeply disappointed by Governor Hogan’s decision to veto Senate Bill 708, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill modestly funds community-based violence reduction strategies like Baltimore’s Safe Streets program, ROCA and Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs (HVIPs). These are essential programs during ordinary times, and even more so during these extraordinary times.
We recognize that the COVID-19 epidemic has strained state resources. However, violence remains a significant problem for Marylanders. Senate Bill 708 was specifically designed to support the continuation and expansion of evidence-based public health strategies to address the epidemic of violence. The Hogan Administration’s decision to veto these proven methods of violence reduction is shortsighted and will only serve to exacerbate violence in communities, at a time when these communities are already battered by a global pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for more robust public health strategies to effectively address public health crises in our communities. The people leading violence intervention teams throughout Maryland are working around the clock to both keep the peace and prevent the spread of coronavirus in some of Maryland’s most vulnerable communities. In addition to spreading anti-violence messages, the staff and volunteers of local violence intervention programs are trusted messengers, communicating public health information about the virus, encouraging social distancing, and connecting those at the greatest risk of both violence and COVID-19 to critical resources. They perform a role that cannot easily be replicated by more traditional public health sources.
We know Maryland is facing difficult financial circumstances, but vetoing Senate Bill 708 is not the answer. It is vital that we protect our communities by supporting proven public health approaches to reducing violence. Local violence interruption programs are a proven and cost-effective approach to reducing violence and saving lives. We urge legislators to work with us to help protect our most vulnerable neighbors with a veto override when session resumes.