Four people have been charged after a three-month joint investigation by the Baltimore Police Department and federal agents led to the seizure of 15 guns, material to make an additional 40 untraceable guns and large quantities of pills, cocaine, heroin and other drugs, police said Wednesday.
The partnership between BPD and the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations unit uncovered the contraband late last month after serving a search warrant in Northwest Baltimore, Police Commission Michael Harrison said Wednesday.
Harrison said that so far this year the department has seized over 140 untraceable weapons, known as “ghost guns,” that don’t have serial numbers and evade federal and state gun laws. That’s a 400% increase from just two years ago, Harrison said.
“These firearms have increasingly found themselves in the hands of criminals, prohibited convicted felons and gun traffickers because they know we cannot track them back to their origin,” Harrison said.
Among the drugs seized were 3,200 narcotic pills and 1,200 grams of ecstasy, police said.
Jordan Jones, 19, Edward Miles, 29, Latoya McCoy, 39, and Norman Forrest, 39, were all arrested and charged with drug possession, possession of stolen firearms and use of firearms with intent to commit a felony. They do not have attorneys listed in online court records.
Federal investigators have played a part in several recent high-profile drug and gang arrests as the city grapples with an onslaught of violence and gun crimes.
“This operation showcases what law enforcement agencies are capable of achieving when we work together,” said James Mancuso, the special agent in Charge for Homeland Security’s Baltimore field office. “Criminals and those who refuse to obey the laws don’t stand a chance against a unified team of dedicated officers and agents working toward a common goal,”
Homeland Security Investigations “will continue to partner with our law enforcement friends to keep our communities safe and bring those who violate that safety to justice,” Mancuso said.
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Over one-fourth of all ghost guns recovered last year came from people under the age of 21, including one person only 14 years old, Harrison said Wednesday.
Gun arrests are up 11% this year, according to Harrison.
So far this year 175 people have been killed in the city, eight more than last year at this time. There have also been 354 nonfatal shootings, up more than 10% from a year ago.
“We know that real consequences are needed for gun offenders and those illegally possessing firearms within our city,” Harrison said. “Without the certainty of consequences in illegally possessing firearms, our criminal justice [system] continues to enable a culture of tolerance for those carrying and using illegal guns in our city.”
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott also spoke, offering congratulations on the drug bust but emphasizing that ridding the city’s streets of guns is critical.
“It is no secret that violent crime is Baltimore’s most pressing issue and tackling it is of course, my top priority as mayor,” Scott said. “If we are serious about building a safer Baltimore, we must work together to send a clear message that gun violence and trafficking will not be tolerated.”