Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Police focus on illegal gun sales

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A new Cincinnati police team will focus on black-market gun dealers, a growing problem that detectives directly relate to the recent rash of shootings.

        Chief Tom Streicher has set the gun issue as the new Special Investigation Unit's top priority, said Lt. Kim Frey, who will supervise it. Late last month in Over-the-Rhine, officers arrested a convicted felon and confiscated eight rifles and semiautomatic handguns, and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.

        Investigators think there are plenty of illegal gun dealers out there.

        “I can remember when I came on 20 years ago, it was rare to find a gun,” Lt. Frey said. “Lately, everybody's got a gun.”

        The unit also will work on tracking career criminals, looking for fugitives — “anything related to violent crime,” she said. Members likely will work with the Violent Crimes Task Force, the chief's team of officers expected to start work as early as this week in Over-the-Rhine and other neighborhoods wracked by shootings.

        The shootings tally as of Monday: 77 people shot in 59 separate incidents since the April 9-12 unrest.

        The new investigations team will also partly replace the division's involvement in the FBI's violent crimes task force. Chief Streicher removed his officers from that unit in April, after the FBI began its investigation into the six Cincinnati officers accused of firing beanbags, without provocation, into a crowd.

        He said he did not want any perception of impropriety having his officers working with an agency investigating the police division.

        “With this, we'll be able to concentrate just on things in the city,” said Spec. Roger Robbins, a team member.

        The rest of the team: Sgt. Jeff Hunt, now in the robbery squad; Spec. Donald Brichler from the personal crimes unit; Officer Jenni Ernst from District 1's Criminal Apprehension Team and Officer Matt Martin.

        Three of the officers make up the unit now; two more will join later this month.


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