City / County Digest


May 10, 2007

Professor tells group of gun program successes

A gathering of Baltimore lawyers, judges and politicians listened to a Johns Hopkins University professor explain ways to reduce illegal guns at yesterday's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council meeting.

About a week after Mayor Sheila Dixon announced that tracking guns would be a priority for her administration, Daniel M. Webster, associate professor at Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health, explained some of the programs that have worked in other cities.

He said programs in Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Kansas City had been particularly successful. But, he added, when those efforts ended, handgun crime often bounced back to its previous levels.

Webster said he has been meeting with Dixon as she establishes "GunStat," which will analyze the histories of weapons used in violent crimes.

Also yesterday, Donald W. DeVore, the new secretary of the Department of Juvenile Services, introduced himself and said he planned to attend the monthly CJCC meetings. Circuit Judge John M. Glynn, chairman of the council, pointed out that many who need juvenile services later enter the adult court system.

"We wish you luck," Glynn told DeVore, "for all of our sakes."

Julie Bykowicz

Harford County

: Aberdeen

Small mercury leak at water facility

A pressure switch weighted with mercury broke and leaked the chemical onto the floor of a little-used building at the Aberdeen Water Treatment Plant.

Although plant employees discovered the leak last week, city officials did not follow established procedure and did not notify the Harford County hazardous materials team until Tuesday, county officials said.

The spill, which covered a 3-by-3-foot area, posed no threat to the water supply, said Larry Mabe, deputy manager of Harford's emergency operations center.

Globules of mercury were found in a building that houses equipment used only occasionally, and it is located away from the water supply, said Mabe, adding that no injuries occurred.

"Workers were in the building for less than an hour after the spill," he said. "They were aware of the spill and stayed out of the product."

Harford County responders notified the Maryland Department of the Environment on Tuesday. State investigators detected mercury on one employee's shoe and vapors in his hair. The department is testing the worker's vehicle and home.

The city of Aberdeen will hire a contractor to remove the contaminant. An industrial hygienist then will inspect the site to certify that the mercury is gone from the building, Mabe said.

Mary Gail Hare


Burns' lawyers seek new trial

Attorneys for a Harford County man who was convicted last month of killing an Elkton woman, one of four whose bodies were found in remote areas last year, have requested a new trial.

A jury of 10 women and two men deliberated for about three hours before convicting Charles Eugene Burns, a 35-year-old laborer, of first-degree murder in the death of Lillian Abramowicz Phelps, who prosecutors said was attacked and run over by a car. Burns' sentencing is scheduled May 29.

Burns also faces charges related to attacks and sexual assaults of six women in the weeks before Phelps' body was found. Authorities have said they believe the deaths of the three other women are linked to Phelps' killing.

Justin Fenton

Baltimore: Interstate 95

Exit ramp to Russell Street closed

The exit ramp from northbound Interstate 95 to Russell Street will be closed today from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Maryland Transportation Authority announced. Officials said the closure is part of work being done on the Russell Street Bridge. Motorists will be detoured from I-95 to Interstate 395 (Exit 53), onto Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, east to Pratt Street and onto Russell Street. Work will be done weather-permitting. For more information on the bridge project, go to

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