Speaking from behind a display of handguns and mug shots of violent offenders, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake reiterated on Monday a desire to pursue legislation to strengthen penalties for people caught with illegal guns.
Police said surveillance operations, car stops and search warrants led to the arrest of several men over the weekend on gun charges. Among those arrested was 20-year-old Haymond Burton Jr., who in 2009 was charged with conspiracy to commit murder and handgun offenses, and was sentenced to five years in prison for conspiracy to commit second-degree assault, court records show.
Burton was found Friday afternoon in a house in the 700 block of Richwood Ave. with a 12-gauge shotgun and 43 plastic bags of cocaine, said Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who listed the criminal records of those charged.
Bealefeld said city police have made 850 gun arrests this year and have taken 1,600 guns off the street, slightly fewer than at this time last year. Rawlings-Blake said she will return to Annapolis for next year's legislative session to again push for tougher penalties for illegal gun possession.
"There's a culture that exists in our city — drugs and guns," Rawlings-Blake said. "We're doing everything we can to break up that culture.
"We know who's committing these crimes — the same people committing the shootings last year and the year before," she continued. "It's repeat violent offenders, and we're determined to make sure we're making it very difficult for them to continue to pursue those dangerous activities in Baltimore."
Those offenders are also at risk of becoming victims of violence. On Monday, police identified two men killed in recent shootings, both of whom had extensive arrest histories, according to court records.
Thomas Powell, 20, of the 5700 block of White St. was killed Sept. 19 after being shot several times in the 400 block of N. East Ave. in Ellwood Park. Records show Powell had been arrested in April and charged with possession of a handgun and drugs, and was awaiting trial at the time of his death.
Robert James, the 30-year-old fatally shot on Sept. 21 while sitting in his car at an intersection in Waverly, had been charged in October 2010 with armed robbery and kidnapping, charges that were dropped by prosecutors two months later. Police said James, of the 3400 block of Ravenwood Road, was at E. 34th Street and Ellerslie Ave. when a man approached his vehicle and shot him in the head. No one has been charged in either case.
Bealefeld said that while homicides and nonfatal shootings are down this year compared with the same time last year, overall gun crime is up.
"The fight is big, and we have a ton of work that remains to be done," Bealefeld said.
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