WASHINGTON POST: Maryland U.S. Attorney Erek Barron told his prosecutors Wednesday that each of them will be expected to take on at least one gun case in the coming months to help tackle the crush of weapons-related charges coming into the office.
Barron, who has been in the job for about a year and a half, said he hopes the new initiative will address two challenges the office is facing — an overburdened violent crime unit and a greater urgency from law enforcement officials seeking to stop gun-related violence.
“We all gotta step up,” Barron said in an interview.
Barron made the announcement during an annual awards ceremony for the office and told his prosecutors that he, too, would be taking on a gun case alongside them.
Barron said the effort was part of the office’s continued expansion of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program the Justice Department updated in 2021 with new strategies for prevention and prosecution of gun crime. The priorities include proactively investigating gangs, violent crime organizations and community gun violence; coordinating law enforcement training at the local, state and federal level; and prioritizing community outreach, including reentry resources for people leaving prison.
Standing before his dozens of prosecutors Wednesday morning at the U.S. District Courthouse in Baltimore, Barron recounted an incident from a few weeks ago, when a staffer came to work at the U.S. attorney’s office and found a bullet shot through their office window. It was not a targeted shooting, Barron said, but it also wasn’t the first time their Baltimore office had been shot at.
“It should be a powerful reminder of communities here in Baltimore, what they go through, here and throughout Maryland,” Barron said. “That mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers and young children have to fear random bullets and other acts of violence as they live in their homes.”
A 13-year-old girl died this week after someone shot into a car in the parking lot of a liquor store in East Baltimore and hit her instead. A 13-year-old boy in Prince George’s County was shot and killed while raking leaves in his family’s front yard last week.
“We can, and must, do more,” he said.
Prosecutors who don’t usually take on gun cases will get proper training beforehand, Barron said. A spokesperson said it was the most expansive allocation of prosecutorial resources for gun cases in the office’s history.
Before his announcement, Barron had spent the morning honoring members of the staff with service awards, many of them named for previous employees of the office, including former U.S. deputy attorney general and former U.S. attorney for Maryland Rod Rosenstein.
The awards recognized the prosecutorial and investigative work of federal prosecutors, police and support staff for cases that included a cross-state burglary spree, internet crimes, immigration cases and MS-13 gang convictions.
One prosecutor, Thomas Sullivan, was recognized for his work on the case of former Prince George’s County police officer Edward “Scott” Finn. Finn, who will be sentenced in the coming weeks, pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion after authorities said he failed to disclose over $1.1 million in taxable income from his company, Edward Finn Inc., which employed off-duty police officers as security guards.
The investigation into Finn later led to the indictments of 14 more Prince George’s County police officers who were accused of partaking in an elaborate double-dipping scheme to make money as private security officers while on the clock for their regular department shifts.
Family members of a gang violence victim were also honored for their help with the investigation, which led to a conviction in the case.
“Thank you … for helping achieve justice,” Barron told them during the ceremony.