When he ran for Baltimore state’s attorney, Ivan Bates promised to rescind a policy from his predecessor, Marilyn Mosby, against prosecuting low-level, nonviolent crimes, including disorderly conduct, loitering and drug possession.

“Effective right now, this moment and second, I recall that policy,” said Bates, a Democrat, during his inaugural address at the Baltimore War Memorial.

Bates, in partnership with the Maryland Judiciary, in July launched the citation docket to address these quality-of-life crimes. He vowed to hold people accountable while at the same time offering them social services to improve their lives.

Here’s what you need to know about The Baltimore Banner’s look into the first six months of the citation docket:

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How the citation docket works

Police can write citations for two dozen offenses including drinking in public places, aggressive panhandling and loitering. Officers are supposed to list a courthouse and a court date on them, but that doesn’t always happen.

The citation docket is held on the third week of the month: Monday at Eastside District Court on North Avenue, Tuesday at the John R. Hargrove Sr. District Court Building on Patapsco Avenue and Wednesday at the Edward F. Borgerding Court Building on Wabash Avenue.

People eligible for the initiative are provided the chance to do community service if it’s their first or second offense in exchange for the dismissal of their case.

But there are several disqualifiers. Those who are facing other charges that are crimes of violence or handgun offenses, for instance, aren’t offered diversion.

The Maryland Office of the Public Defender is not participating in an advisory capacity. Assistant public defenders, though, will represent people if they go to a district court commissioner and are qualified to receive legal services.

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During the past three months, Banner reporters routinely observed sessions of the citation docket during which a handful of people showed up. Court almost always lasted less than one hour.

Police are issuing few citations — and even fewer are making it to court

The Banner analyzed 227 citations that appeared on the docket from July through December. The District Court of Maryland and the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office provided the citations.

The data is incomplete. A number of cases have been expunged, and court clerks could not find other ones. And because the citations are handwritten, it was not always possible to read information on them.

The Comptroller’s Field Enforcement Bureau, which focuses on motor fuels, business licenses and sales and use tax for people and businesses in the state, wrote 66 citations that appeared on the docket — or 29% of the total. Agent Joseph Poremski alone issued 59 citations.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Police Department wrote 28 citations that showed up on the docket.

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Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley, though, said officers have written 67 citations that received approval to move forward to court and 149 that the agency internally rejected as legally insufficient. The reason behind the discrepancy is unclear.

Worley said he believes that officers are resolving many quality-of-life issues with warnings without having to issue citations.

“I think overall it is actually working well. Obviously, I want it to be better,” Worley said. “But I think it’s had a really good effect on those quality-of-life issues.”

Social services are not a big part of the docket right now

The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office has a FAQ on its website that lists several groups providing “wrap-around services” at the citation docket. Some, including the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, though, are still working on a memorandum of understanding.

B-360, a nonprofit organization that employs dirt bike culture to end the cycle of poverty, interrupt the prison pipeline and build bridges in communities, reported that it’s received three referrals.

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HOPE, a wellness and recovery resource center in Baltimore that stands for Helping Other People through Empowerment Inc., sends representatives to the citation docket but does not have a formal agreement with the courts or state’s attorney’s office.

Bates emphasized that it’s going to take time to build up the initiative and stated that the process can’t be rushed.

“It’s like the developer that builds a mall and right now just has a couple tenants. The vision has many more tenants,” Bates said. “It just takes a little while for us to go ahead and complete the vision.”

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