- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2008

BALTIMORE (AP) Creating a new weapon to fight urban crime, the mayors of cities on the upper East Coast will start a database that will allow them to share information on known gun offenders.

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon and other urban leaders said Wednesday that the first of its kind database will make it more difficult for illegal gun dealers to do business along the Interstate 95 corridor.

“Violent crime, particularly gun crime, is not just a local problem,” Mrs. Dixon said. “It’s a national problem.”

The database, expected to be operational later this year, will pool data from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives with information collected by local agencies, including ballistics information and intelligence gathered from debriefings of gun offenders.

Mrs. Dixon and Mr. Bloomberg made the announcement at a summit that brought together 11 mayors, plus police chiefs and other representatives from Boston; Philadelphia; Newark, N.J.; Richmond, and other cities.

The mayors are members of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, a group founded by Mr. Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino that includes D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.

“Every city here today, and many others, will have the opportunity to tap into this database and contribute to it,” Mr. Bloomberg said.

Mr. Bloomberg, a possible independent candidate for president, said Congress and the leading presidential candidates have not paid adequate attention to the need for new crime-fighting strategies. He noted that 34 Americans are slain with guns every day.

“This is exactly the kind of system, incidentally, that the federal government should be building for cities, but since they don’t seem to be doing it, we are doing it on our own. What they should do is do one for the entire country,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “Right now, cities are fighting largely in isolation.”

Mr. Bloomberg and Mrs. Dixon said the cost of developing the database would be negligible because their cities would not need to hire new police or number-crunchers to do the work.

David Kennedy, director of Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, called the database “a brilliant idea” because, he said, ATF trace information alone often does not identify possible gun traffickers. Traces from the ATF frequently go cold once a gun is legally sold for the first time, he said.

The combining of federal and local data, for example, could help authorities spot when certain illegal gun sources are working with a particular drug gang, he said.

However, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association said law enforcement already had more than enough tools to combat gun crimes and the project sounded more like a publicity stunt.

“All Mayor Bloomberg and his fellow mayors seem to do is hold press conferences,” said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam. Referring to former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, he added, “Mayor Bloomberg’s predecessor managed to cut crime in New York simply by enforcing the laws on the books without all these press availabilities.”

Mr. Bloomberg said the mayors’ coalition sent a questionnaire to presidential candidates asking what they would do to get illegal guns off the street, but only former North Carolina Democratic Sen. John Edwards and Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul responded.

After Wednesday’s announcement, the mayors held a summit to swap ideas and hear from authorities on crime. Also prominent in the talks was Mayor Douglas Palmer of Trenton, N.J.

Trenton, like Baltimore, saw an increase in homicides last year, while New York has seen significant decreases over the past several years. Baltimore’s 2007 homicide total of 282 was its highest since 1999.

However, the pace of homicides slowed during the second half of 2007, a development that criminologists attributed in part to the city’s renewed focus on illegal guns and repeat violent offenders.

Mrs. Dixon said she looked to New York to get the illegal gun effort off the ground. Baltimore has created a gun registry that tracks offenders and a task force to coordinate the enforcement of gun laws. She traveled to New York last fall to meet with Mr. Bloomberg.

As the mayors announced the database, they were flanked by two tables with 64 illegal guns that were seized over the weekend with information developed by the city’s gun task force.

According to police, an informant led task force officers to gun dealer Phillip Norman after he sold a handgun illegally, and a search of Mr. Norman’s home in Elkton just off Interstate 95 near the Delaware and Pennsylvania borders revealed 20 handguns, 48 shotguns and an assault rifle, nearly all of which were seized.

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