City police turn up heat on violent offenders wanted on warrants

December 11, 2008|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,justin.fenton@baltsun.com

Amid a surge in homicides, Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said yesterday that police are turning up the pressure on violent offenders who have open warrants for minor violations.

Bealefeld said 50 officers, pulled from patrol and specialized units, have been assigned to serve 500 to 600 priority warrants during early-morning hours, which he hopes will help take troublemakers off the streets and reinforce a message that police are watching. Twenty people were arrested yesterday morning as part of the effort, he said.

"These folks are not sitting at home contemplating stock futures," Bealefeld said. "At a minimum, we'll be a nuisance, knocking on the door of their girlfriend, their grandmother, at early-morning hours to let them know we're out there."

With 31 killings, November was the deadliest month of the year, and Bealefeld said at least seven of the victims were being sought on open warrants.

City and police officials have pledged to stay the course with their crime-fighting strategy of "targeted enforcement." District and division commanders maintain "Top 10" lists of violent offenders who are closely watched by police. Bealefeld said officers are gathering good intelligence, and they want to catch criminals before they commit more violent acts.

Speeding up the process of serving warrants allows those offenders to be taken into custody on "minor" warrants for charges they have already racked up, such as failure to appear in court, parole and probation violations and misdemeanor crimes. The lists include people with prior convictions on gun charges or violent offenses, gang members and victims of nonfatal shootings.

The police union has criticized recent reductions in overtime, and Bealefeld said some overtime has been approved for the warrant initiative. Members of the violent crimes impact division and special operations are lending officers to the effort, with the bulk coming from patrol.

Police have made previous efforts to reduce a backlog of warrants, including the creation of a list of at-risk juveniles created by police in consultation with the Department of Juvenile Services and prosecutors. Periodic sweeps have helped round up dozens of juveniles. Domestic violence warrants have also been described as a priority.

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