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Police vow to continue making guns priority

The Baltimore Sun

After Baltimore police officers seized 53 guns in one week, a top police commander said yesterday the department would "reaffirm" its commitment to pulling illegal weapons off the streets and work to ensure that repeat offenders are held on high bails after their arrests.

"We're not here today to claim any sort of victory," Deputy Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, the head of operations, said at a news conference at police headquarters, where many of the guns were displayed.

"We're here to reaffirm our commitment to do our part to make this city safer," Bealefeld said. "There are some very encouraging signs associated with these guns."

Shootings and homicides have continued at the same high pace as last year, though violent crime overall is down about 18 percent. Baltimore has had 48 homicides this year, a per-capita rate that far exceeds that of other more-populous cities, such as New York and Philadelphia.

Bealefeld said that police -- from SWAT team members to drug enforcement detectives to patrol officers -- are being told to focus on seizing guns. Bealefeld, who ascended to the department's No. 2 post earlier this year, said police have seized about 100 fewer guns this year than last year at this time.

More than 35 people were arrested and charged in connection with the 53 guns seized last week, Bealefeld said. Some of the worst offenders, with prior criminal records, are being held on bails as high as $500,000.

Daniel Webster, an associate professor and co-director for Johns Hopkins University's Center for Gun Policy and Research, said he was encouraged that police are focusing on guns and trying to get public attention for their efforts.

Webster said that law enforcement's focus on offenders who are most likely to commit violent crimes is good, but research shows that "place-based" enforcement, where police focus on neighborhoods, often yields better results.

"A lot of offending goes beyond these guys with particularly long rap sheets, and there are things a police department can do to send the message that [if] anyone out there is carrying an illegal gun, you're at risk," Webster said.

Last week, officers spotted a suspected gang member in a car in an East Baltimore neighborhood hit by two recent shootings and a killing, and tried to pull the vehicle over. A man jumped out of the car, ran and was caught. Bealefeld said officers found him with a handgun and found another gun in the car.

Police charged 19-year-old Donatello Fenner of the 2200 block of Guilford Ave. with multiple gun offenses. His cousin, Vic Fenner, 17, was killed last week in the 2100 block of Guilford Ave., police said.


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