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Keyword: prevention

Bill Protects Firearm Retail Establishment and Prevents Gun Burglaries

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Police Chief Melissa Hyatt, and other County officials today announced plans to introduce the Secure All Firearms Effectively (SAFE) Act, which would require firearm retail establishments in Baltimore County to install responsible security measures to protect their inventory from potential burglaries.

“We must do whatever we can to keep our communities safe, and that includes doing more to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals,” said County Executive Olszewski. “This bill is a straightforward solution to ensure that we keep stolen weapons off our streets and out of our communities.”

Firearm retail safety is an issue across Maryland and nationwide. Seven Baltimore County firearm retail establishments were burglarized 10 times in 2018 and 2019. In four of those incidents, burglars succeeded in stealing firearms, including one incident in which 51 weapons were stolen.

In June 2019, burglars attacked firearm retail establishments in Howard County and Montgomery County on successive nights, ramming each retailer with a car and stealing a total of 45 weapons. A suspect charged in those cases was also involved in one of Baltimore County’s attempted burglaries.

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a total of 5,652 firearms were stolen nationwide in burglaries from dealers in 2018. Weapons stolen from these burglaries are often sold and used to commit additional crimes.

“This bill will require appropriate security measures for firearm retail establishments and gun shows in Baltimore County,” said Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt. “The goal of this licensing is to avoid more preventable incidents in which multiple weapons are stolen, and then end up in the hands of violent criminals.” 

Many firearm retail establishments do not secure firearms in safes, vaults, shatterproof cases, or take other anti-theft measures after normal business hours, leaving retailers vulnerable to burglary. While some retailers utilize limited security measures, such as window bars, implementation is often not comprehensive, consistent, or effective.

Maryland law authorizes local jurisdictions to regulate the purchase, sale, transfer, ownership, possession, and transportation of firearms within 100 yards of or in a park, church, school, public building, and other place of public assembly. "Place of public assembly” means a location used for a gathering of 50 or more persons for deliberation, worship, entertainment, eating, drinking, amusement, shopping, awaiting transportation or similar uses.

The bill announced today would create a new county license for firearm retail establishments and temporary gun shows that fall under the county’s regulatory authority. In order to obtain a license, establishments and gun shows would have to implement a Baltimore County Police Department-approved safety plan.

Under the plan, a temporary gun show must have a security plan approved by the Chief of Police that includes an alarm system, video surveillance and live security guard coverage when the show is closed and establishments must:

  • Be monitored at all times by an alarm system registered with the county and a video system.
  • Include the following physical security elements:
    • Bollards or another physical barrier to prevent vehicle intrusion into the building; and
    • Security gates or security screens over windows; and
    • Either security gates or security screens over doors; or a secure vestibule for doors.
  • Secure all firearms in a safe, secure room, in a secured cage, or behind security shutters when the business is closed.
    • As an alternative to this requirement, the Chief of Police may authorize the dealer to provide live security guard coverage.
  • The Chief of Police can approve another combination of measures.

The legislation was developed in consultation with law enforcement officials and Baltimore County firearm retail establishment owners, and is based on more stringent state safety requirements for medical cannabis facilities.

The bill will be introduced in the County Council session scheduled for Monday, December 16.


Recommendations to Prevent Opioid Addiction, Expand Treatment and Reduce Overdose Deaths Released

The Opioid Response Working Group convened by Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski today released its final report (PDF), which includes 11 recommendations to prevent addiction, expand access to treatment and reduce overdose deaths.

The recommendations fall into seven categories, including stigma, prevention, treatment, recovery, family support, criminal justice, and harm reduction.

“Every overdose death means the loss of a son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, neighbor and friend. We must act strategically and decisively to address this devastating epidemic,” County Executive Olszewski said. “While we are proud of the tangible steps we are taking to address this epidemic, every death is preventable and we must continue to do more. I commend our working group for listening to people across the county and producing a set of specific recommendations to help us take immediate action and save lives.”

Statistics

Baltimore County has the second highest number of overdose deaths in the state – in 2018, 348 people died from opioid-related overdoses, up from 323 in 2017. In the first six months of 2019, the county saw a small decline in the number of overdose deaths, but there were still 187 drug and alcohol overdose deaths in the county in that period.

Olszewski named an Opioid Strategy Coordinator and in May, he created the Opioid Response Working Group. The Working Group gathered public input through an online survey and two public meetings, as well as information from experts and stakeholders. A draft report was released in September with an opportunity for public comment.

“We appreciate the engagement of so many people across the county sharing their knowledge and experience on the opioid crisis,” said working group chair and President and CEO of GBMC HealthCare System Dr. John Chessare. “These recommendations reflect this input and will set the County on a path for further progress.”

The Recommendations

The working group recommendations released today are:

  1. The Department of Health should develop and launch an expanded campaign to reduce stigma against people who use drugs and medication-based treatment for opioid use disorder.
  2. Baltimore County Public Schools should implement programs that build resilience among and support for youth.
  3. The Department of Health should build partnerships with government and community organizations to prevent opioid misuse by addressing social determinants of substance use.
  4. The Department of Health should set standards for providing addiction treatment in hospitals, primary care clinics, mental health programs, and addiction treatment programs. These standards should include offering individuals with opioid use disorder treatment with FDA-approved medications.
  5. The County should revise zoning restrictions to permit more opioid treatment programs that meet standards for high quality to serve county residents.
  6. The Department of Health should consider hub and spoke or similar models that support patients with different levels of complexity and changing needs over the course of treatment.
  7. The Department of Planning should develop a proposal to address barriers to the opening of recovery housing in Baltimore County. The proposal should receive public comment and be considered for adoption by the Planning Board, County Council, and County Executive..  
  8. The Department of Health and Human Services should strengthen family support in two high-priority areas: for pregnant and parenting individuals and their families, and for family members of individuals affected by addiction.
  9. Baltimore County should make treatment with all three FDA-approved medications available to all individuals with opioid use disorder in the County correctional system.
  10. The Police Department should develop a plan to adopt a formal program that diverts individuals with a substance use disorder to treatment services instead of incarceration.
  11. The Department of Health should expand access to harm reduction programs based in evidence for populations at risk of overdose.

The working group today also released responses (PDF) to the online survey and comments received about the draft report.

The full Report of Findings and Recommendations (PDF) is available for downloading and on the County's webpage for the Opioid Response Working Group.


"Just in Time" Database to Be Used by the Departments of Health, Police, Fire and Corrections.

The Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) received a $2.6 million federal grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to address the opioid epidemic in Baltimore County, with the possibility to receive subsequent funding. Initial grant funds will support the development of a “Just In Time” database to be used by the Departments of Health, Police, Fire and Corrections, who are on the frontlines of responding to substance abuse disorders and fatal and nonfatal opioid overdoses.

“The opioid epidemic affects every corner of our county, and an effective response requires all of our agencies to work together. This generous grant from the CDC elevates countywide coordination and response regarding prevention, intervention, enforcement and protection efforts,” said Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, Jr.

“These funds will help Baltimore fight against the opioid epidemic, providing the County with crucial data to help monitor its efforts and improve their response. Combating this scourge requires an all-hands-on-deck approach – we must keep working together at the local, state and federal level to address this public health crisis,” said U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md).

The “Just In Time” database, the project’s centerpiece, supports surveillance and prevention efforts of Health and Human Services and public safety agencies. “This CDC grant is vital in affording the availability of real-time data such as location and demographics, resulting in lifesaving outcomes for Baltimore County residents,” said Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch, Director and Health Officer.

Information in the database will be used to increase provider knowledge of safe opioid prescribing practices and increase linkage to care for individuals at-risk, including targeting high-risk populations such as substance exposed newborns. Data analysis will help to identify trends and areas of greatest need; recommend prevention activities and enable multi-agency first responders to more efficiently determine necessary steps, including automatic referral for peer services.

The Baltimore County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) promotes well-being among individuals and families by providing quality health, housing and social services. Along with an administrative unit, HHS is comprised of the Departments of Health and Social Services.


 
 
Revised September 11, 2017