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Baltimore Police Chief Says City Has Seen Rise In “Ghost Guns”

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Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison speaks at a Wednesday news conference.

Baltimore City, state and federal officials announced Wednesday the arrest of four people on gun charges and drug possession, after a holiday weekend that saw more than a dozen shootings and four homicides.

“Not only were these individuals engaged in manufacturing and distributing illegal and dangerous drugs to include fentanyl, they were also making privately owned firearms known as ghost guns,” Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said at a news conference.

The police official said that investigators seized 1,900 pills of suspected fentanyl, cocaine and heroin and about 1,200 grams of suspected ecstasy from a home in North Baltimore, following a three-month investigation of an alleged drug and gun trafficking gang.

He said officials also recovered 15 guns as well as parts to manufacture 40 additional “ghost guns” — unregistered firearms that are built part by part and difficult to trace. BPD has recovered 140 such guns this year, a number greater than all ghost guns seized in 2020, Harrison said.

“These firearms have increasingly found themselves in the hands of criminals, prohibited convicted felons, and even gun traffickers because they know we cannot track them back to their origins,” he said.

Of the 2,543 weapons seized in 2020, 82% originated from outside Baltimore and 63% from outside the state, according to Mayor Brandon Scott’s office. The Democrat launched a new program to track the flow of illegal guns into the city in March. Baltimore’s infamous Gun Trace Task Force, a so-called elite unit of plainclothes officers that in practice robbed and extorted residents, was meant to get illegal guns off city streets.

Scott, who has touted the disruption of illegal gun trafficking as a primary policy in his effort to lower violent crime since he took office last year, said the arrests demonstrated the power of collaboration between local, state and federal partners.

“We must work together to send a clear message that gun violence and trafficking will not be tolerated. We will find you — and I'll say it again — we will find you and we will bring you to justice and hold you accountable,” he said.

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.