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To reduce homicides, offer cash for tips about illegal handguns

FirearmsHomicideBaltimore Police Department

Firearms, particularly handguns, drive violent crime in Baltimore, yet nowhere does the word handgun appear in your recent editorial on this year's uptick in Baltimore homicides ("Troubling homicide rise," Dec. 28).

Obviously, whatever the Baltimore Police Department is doing to get illegal guns off the streets isn't working as long as the city remains among the top 10 most dangerous cities in America.

Here is a suggestion that can't seem to get any traction in this town: An bounty for anonymous tips about people carrying illegal handguns. It worked before in Baltimore — as attested to by a 1992 Sun editorial succinctly entitled "Money for guns" — and it could work again.

Institutional memory must be on the wane at The Sun. The 1992 editorial referred to an earlier bounty program for anonymous tips initiated by then Commissioner Donald Pomerleau in 1974.

"Police want citizens to report illegal weapons," The Sun wrote of that program. "But they are hoping that people will call out of an altruistic drive to stop the slaughter. Certainly, there are some people who will report neighbors with illegal guns, but the numbers would increase exponentially if they were rewarded with $200 for each confiscated gun."

Why not kick the amount up a couple of clicks to $400 or $500 a tip and see what happens? That is cheap compared to other bounty programs across the country that offer a cool $1,000 for a thug with a gun.

On the other hand, the old standby of indiscriminately stopping and frisking any black person who happens to be walking around gets counterproductive real fast.

Jim Giza, Baltimore

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