Arrests in Baltimore for illegal guns often lead to dropped charges or little jail time

Tactical raids common in area

Heavily armed tactical police in Prince George's County raid more homes than any other law enforcement agency in the state, according to newly released data from the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

In the last six months of 2009, police there conducted 195 tactical entries, 105 involving crime deemed nonserious felonies and misdemeanors. That's compared with 84 such raids in Baltimore (at left, a scene from a barricade in East Baltimore in 2007) over the same time period, 63 in Baltimore County, 16 in Harford, 22 in Carroll and 27 in Howard.

Lawmakers in Annapolis required police accross Maryland to submit the data after a mayor of Berwyn Heights was hancuffed by sheriffs deputies who burst into his home with automatic weapons and shot his two dogs. Drug dealers had sent packages of marijuana to unsuspecting homeowners and waited until postal carriers left them on front porches, with the hopes of intercepting them before the owners came home. Police had intercepted the package sent to Mayor Cheye Calvo's house and suspected he was the actual recipient. He was cleared of any wrongdoing.

But police agencies steadfastly stood by their tactics. Calvo has sued Prince George's County, arguing that police there routinely use SWAT team tactics on even the most routine of raids, and that the raid on his house could've been avoided with a little prior investigation. Calvo told me he believes the numbers given to the state back his claim.

Unfortunately all we have are spreadsheets. There is no narrative, so what we don't know is even on routine raids whether police believe the targets had guns. For those interested in revewing some of the raw data:

Baltimore City; Baltimore County; Anne Arundel County; Howard County; Prince George's County

A Prince George's County police spokeswoman told me that even in cases where minor crimes are alleged, most are for drugs, and police assume there are weapons. That makes a tactical entry necessary.

But the argument still is that police, since the Sept. 11 attacks, have armed themselves like never before and are increasingly using military-style tactics that amount to paramilitary like operations to arrest people wanted on crimes that involve small amounts of drugs. Calvo said police last year raided a house in his neighborhood looking for someone wanted for writing bad checks.

The statistics compiled on police raids give a broad picture of how the tactic is used in Maryland. Of the 806 raids conducted in the six-month period, more than 94 percent stemmed from search or arrest warrants. Most of the others came as the result of a barricade situation.

Police forced their way into 545 houses, seized property in 633 of the raids, made arrests 485 times and discharged their weapons five times. In the six months studied, seven civilians were hurt but none killed, and two animals were injured and two killed.

Baltimore police listed raid sites by ZIP code, with the most, 22, in Northwest Baltimore, followed by 14 in parts of East and Northeast Baltimore. There were nine in Waverly, four in Govans and five in Highlandtown.

In Baltimore County, police conducted the most raids in Halethorpe (nine), Dundalk (eight) and seven each in Essex and Middle River. Howard County police conducted the most raids in Columbia, 13. Anne Arundel County authorities performed the most raids in Glen Burnie, 20, with eight in Brooklyn Park and six in Laurel.

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