Anti-gun initiative is in the mail Mayor wants residents to turn in those with concealed weapons

Program to start in March

Envelopes, forms to be handed out at community meetings

February 07, 1997|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's latest effort to get guns off the street comes in an envelope delivered by the police: Send it back with the name of someone carrying a concealed weapon.

And police say that if you tell all you know, they will keep it a secret.

It is an unusually aggressive move that Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke says will help rid the city of gun violence and, he hopes, bring the homicide rate down.

Police will compile the names, look for the people mentioned most and log them into a computerized tracking system. "We will give that person special attention," Schmoke said yesterday. "If we see him on the street, one false move and we pounce."

The program, scheduled to begin in March, comes on the heels of a gun buyback program that has retrieved more than 1,100 firearms.

The prospect of police going through neighborhoods and soliciting anonymous tips stirs concern for some and draws relief from others.

"The danger is someone is going to misuse this program to take care of private disputes," said Dwight Sullivan, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. "It will be very interesting to see what the police do with this information. We will be very interested in monitoring what happens to people whose names are turned in."

The mayor anticipated criticism of his newest program yesterday.

"Don't tell me about violating anybody's rights, because nobody has a right in Baltimore to carry a concealed weapon on the

street," Schmoke said. "Doing it this way will allow people to protect their own identity and gives us some more information."

Florine V. Robinson, president of the Pimlico Good Neighbors Association, said the mayor was on the right track.

"If they passed out the envelopes and I could mail it in, then that would be best," Robinson said. "That way I couldn't be linked."

The envelopes will be handed out during nine community meetings that will begin in late March. In them will be forms that will ask, among other things, the name, age, address and description of the person suspected of criminal activity and a detailed account of why the person is suspected.

"When the names are received, they will be passed to the district commanders and to district personnel," said Agent Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a police spokesman.

Police will then determine whether to investigate, set up an undercover sting or show up on the alleged offender's doorstep. But Weinhold said police would not rely solely on information provided by citizens.

"Simply because someone's name appears on a form obviously is not probable cause to make an arrest," Weinhold said.

Crime in Baltimore has preoccupied city leaders for several months.

Police officials have been particularly concerned with trying to explain how shootings could drop 37 percent -- from 2,488 in 1993 to 1,542 last year -- while homicides attributed to gunfire have increased slightly.

Recently, Schmoke has intensified his efforts to get guns off the streets.

He has used public forums -- from news conferences to community events -- to speak out forcefully against the grip violent crime has on Baltimore. And he has promised to spend more money on drug treatment and has urged the city prosecutor to take a hard line against negotiating away gun charges in violent crimes.

When he offered to pay $100 a gun with the hope of collecting 1,000 guns in a month, the goal was exceeded in a little more than eight hours.

Now he is appealing to residents to help.

"We get a lot of law-abiding citizens coming to these forums who are kind of fed up with things and want to help in some way," Schmoke said.

Edna Manns, president of Fayette Street Outreach Inc., a neighborhood association in West Baltimore, said Schmoke's intentions were good but that she doubted the mayor's program would work. There is scant participation in similar programs aimed at illicit drugs, she said.

"I think people are fed up, but again we don't have enough people coming forth sharing information about people doing drugs," Manns said.

Pub Date: 2/07/97

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