- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 10, 2009

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Baltimore police are adjusting their tactics in a bid to lock up more violent criminals and confiscate more guns as the city endures a “rash of homicides,” chief of detectives John Bevilacqua said.

There were 11 slayings in Baltimore in the first seven days of this year, and police made six homicide arrests from Jan. 5-7, he said Thursday. Five of those were for slayings committed last year.

Baltimore’s homicide total for 2008 was 234, the lowest since 1988 and a 17 percent drop from the previous year. However, the drop would have been more impressive if not for a violent end to the year. Fifty-two people were slain in November and December.

Of the totals, Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said, “We counted that as an accomplishment, but not as a victory.”

The department has started using new tactics to flush out violent criminals and is now targeting armed robbers, not just suspects in shootings, Commissioner Bealefeld said. Still focused on “bad guys with guns,” he said he doesn’t expect a significant shift in crime patterns.

The department is analyzing trends from the last three months to better target violent criminals. More officers from the Violent Crime Impact Team have been assigned where killings and armed robberies historically happen.

Further, 352 suspects wanted on 550 priority warrants have been arrested, the commissioner said. Warrants for minor charges, including traffic offenses, are placed on the priority list when offenders have a “horrendous” background.

Since Jan. 1, Commissioner Bealefeld said police have confiscated 87 guns and charged 37 people with weapons offenses.

“There’s too many guns on the streets of this city,” he said Thursday.

The commissioner himself helped make two arrests and confiscated guns just after midnight on Jan. 1. He was on patrol in West Baltimore, near the scene of a recent quintuple shooting, when he saw two men firing sawed-off shotguns into the air. Commissioner Bealefeld and a detective ran into a house and held several people at gunpoint until backup arrived. They arrested the suspects and confiscated the weapons.

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