Photo Gallery: 07/03: Law enforcment collaboration
V.C.I.T. press conference 7/03
Mayor Pat Morris
D.A. Michael Ramos
Special Agent John Torres
SB Police Chief Michael Bildt

SAN BERNARDINO - Remnants of robberies, murders and assaults were strewn across a table Tuesday: 10 handguns, three shotguns and a rifle.

Once, the weapons were loaded and in the hands of criminals who struck fear in the hearts of San Bernardino residents.

It is a fierce drive to build the stockpile of illegal firearms taken off the streets that called six Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents to the city on Sunday.

Mayor Pat Morris, surrounded by 11 men in dark suits and two in California Highway Patrol uniforms, stepped to the podium and lifted a silver handgun with one finger, gazing at it disdainfully.

"These guns on this table were picked up from the streets of our city," he told a small crowd of reporters, politicians and law-enforcement agents gathered inside police headquarters.

"These guns are the cancer of America's urban society," he added.

Morris lauded the massive collaboration that has allowed federal, state, county and local agencies to pool resources in hope of cutting down on violent crime.

San Bernardino was one of four cities nationwide named last month as new target cities for ATF's Violent Crime Impact Team. There are 29 cities total.

It's more important to focus on solutions to crime than lament being labeled as a high-crime area, said Rep. Joe Baca, D-Rialto.

"It's not a label we want, but it's a label we need to change," he said after the news conference. "At least we're going to clear it up and make it safer, that's what's important."

Statistics from other cities with Violent Crime Impact teams give a preview of what San Bernardino might expect.

In a two-year span from 2004 to 2006, ATF agents took 11,100 guns off the streets in 25 cities and arrested 10,000 gang members, drug dealers and other felons.

A six-month pilot program in 15 cities showed a 17 percent decline in homicides committed with guns.

"We're here to take back the streets of San Bernardino. We want to ensure that San Bernardino residents have the quality of life they deserve," said John Torres, the ATF's special agent in charge.

Although gangsters may have a gun-toting advantage here, he said, law enforcement wants to "put the advantage back in the hands of the citizens."

That includes a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest of anyone who possesses an illegal firearm.

Callers, who can remain anonymous, will receive $500 within 72 hours. The rest comes upon conviction. Call (800) ATF-GUNS.

Police Chief Michael Billdt said Operation Phoenix has shown success in reducing gun violence in the city.

"However, we have more work to do," he said, adding that police will concentrate on the most at-risk areas of the city.

Authorities declined to list the areas for fear it would interfere with surveillance or investigations.

Six male field agents, and four administrative workers, will operate out of a satellite office in San Bernardino. Riverside agents, who have an established office, will assist in certain operations.

The ATF has pledged to stay a minimum of 120 days. But spokeswoman Susan Raichel couldn't recall a single team that has left a targeted city since the initiative kicked off in 2004.

Top technology will help trace weapons and determine where guns are coming from and how they're reaching San Bernardino streets.

The Comprehensive Crime Gun Tracing Initiative, touted by the ATF as the largest in the world, stores information on firearms sales, suspect guns and federal firearms licensees that have gone out of business. In 2005, the tracing center processed 265,800 trace requests of crime guns.

Acting U.S. Attorney George Cardona said he is happy to add "another tool" - federal prosecutions - to the arsenal against gangs.

Mandatory federal sentences will be slapped on anyone carrying an illegal firearm, officials said. Penalties can include a 10- to 20-year prison term in federal pens like Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Gang members are purposely exiled from the community to prevent them from remaining in touch with fellow criminals.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos, after reminding the crowd of his war on gangs launched two years ago, laughingly said he sometimes feels like Batman guarding Gotham City.

"This place is going to be, and is, America's city," Ramos said.


BS Ranch Perspective

The move from the Federal Goverment to finally Recognize that there is a need for an ATF Office here in the Inland Empire as there is in any large Metropolitin City, espeically one that has grown to such heights as this one with the Gang problems, NOT JUST IN THE CITY OF SAN BERNARDINO, BUT THE CITIES OF THE INLAND EMPIRE AS A WHOLE!!

Rialto it started with the Gang Memebers from LA that were Paroled to serve out the remainder of their sentences, but were not allowed to go to their old neighborhoods, and be around their old Gang Members, so what they did was started their own, Gangs here in Rialto, back in the 80's Gangs like the Rollings 60's, the Hoover's the Bloods, and well the Crip's Long before they were known to be a problem in any other city they were known in Rialto.

ATF helped many times back then but they didn't have a field office in which to work from to help us at a minutes notice they were only called in when we were doing Speicial Events to Serve Search Warrants and collected a great number of guns.

ATF's Help was appreceated back then and it is wonderful that they found a need to finally open a field office here to help the local agencies and do their own enforcement as well.

BS Ranch