Baltimore today joined a task force of federal, state and loca law enforcement authorities in an effort to make greater use of federal gun laws to help jail violent career criminals and drug offenders who use firearms.
Called Project Achilles, the effort will step up cooperation among all levels of law enforcement and prosecution to get the worst of Baltimore's offenders off the streets.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said the task force "will help stop crime by enforcing the mandatory prison sentence law for drug dealers and career criminals who use guns."
"We are going after the weapons to bring down the dealers and hardened criminals. This will continue our fight to reclaim our neighborhoods," she said.
Baltimore's involvement in Project Achilles was announced at city police headquarters today by Mikulski, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods and U.S. Attorney Richard Bennett.
Although the project was announced today, seven federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have had an office established at the city police headquarter since May 20. That number will increase by two in the coming weeks.
Mikulski said the federal agents will work closely with city and state police to quell drug trafficking and the accompanying violence.
"Like all other Baltimoreans I have been horrified by what has happened in our city," Mikulski said. We need some sort of arms agreement in our streets. I believe that criminals deserve prosecution. Criminals deserve punishment."
Mikulski also said that I-95 makes Baltimore a pivotal location for drug couriers who use the interstate highway as a major artery for drug trafficking. She referred to I-95 as the "highway to death."
Baltimore joins 16 other cities, including Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Washington, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Detroit, Boston and others that are already involved in the project.
The work will be an effort to take full advantage of the 1984 federal Armed Career Criminals Act, which targets violent career criminals, serious drug offenders and narcotic traffickers who use guns, and imposes mandatory federal prison terms that range from five years to life without probation or parole.
"These are tools . . . which we are prepared to use," said Bennett. "We recognize that the federal government cannot stand back and observe street crime."
Police Commissioner Woods said city police will work "work 110 percent" in this project and hope to end "the proliferation of guns in many of our neighborhoods."