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Bill Protects Firearm Retail Establishment and Prevents Gun Burglaries

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Police Chief Melissa Hyatt, and other County officials today announced plans to introduce the Secure All Firearms Effectively (SAFE) Act, which would require firearm retail establishments in Baltimore County to install responsible security measures to protect their inventory from potential burglaries.

“We must do whatever we can to keep our communities safe, and that includes doing more to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals,” said County Executive Olszewski. “This bill is a straightforward solution to ensure that we keep stolen weapons off our streets and out of our communities.”

Firearm retail safety is an issue across Maryland and nationwide. Seven Baltimore County firearm retail establishments were burglarized 10 times in 2018 and 2019. In four of those incidents, burglars succeeded in stealing firearms, including one incident in which 51 weapons were stolen.

In June 2019, burglars attacked firearm retail establishments in Howard County and Montgomery County on successive nights, ramming each retailer with a car and stealing a total of 45 weapons. A suspect charged in those cases was also involved in one of Baltimore County’s attempted burglaries.

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a total of 5,652 firearms were stolen nationwide in burglaries from dealers in 2018. Weapons stolen from these burglaries are often sold and used to commit additional crimes.

“This bill will require appropriate security measures for firearm retail establishments and gun shows in Baltimore County,” said Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt. “The goal of this licensing is to avoid more preventable incidents in which multiple weapons are stolen, and then end up in the hands of violent criminals.” 

Many firearm retail establishments do not secure firearms in safes, vaults, shatterproof cases, or take other anti-theft measures after normal business hours, leaving retailers vulnerable to burglary. While some retailers utilize limited security measures, such as window bars, implementation is often not comprehensive, consistent, or effective.

Maryland law authorizes local jurisdictions to regulate the purchase, sale, transfer, ownership, possession, and transportation of firearms within 100 yards of or in a park, church, school, public building, and other place of public assembly. "Place of public assembly” means a location used for a gathering of 50 or more persons for deliberation, worship, entertainment, eating, drinking, amusement, shopping, awaiting transportation or similar uses.

The bill announced today would create a new county license for firearm retail establishments and temporary gun shows that fall under the county’s regulatory authority. In order to obtain a license, establishments and gun shows would have to implement a Baltimore County Police Department-approved safety plan.

Under the plan, a temporary gun show must have a security plan approved by the Chief of Police that includes an alarm system, video surveillance and live security guard coverage when the show is closed and establishments must:

  • Be monitored at all times by an alarm system registered with the county and a video system.
  • Include the following physical security elements:
    • Bollards or another physical barrier to prevent vehicle intrusion into the building; and
    • Security gates or security screens over windows; and
    • Either security gates or security screens over doors; or a secure vestibule for doors.
  • Secure all firearms in a safe, secure room, in a secured cage, or behind security shutters when the business is closed.
    • As an alternative to this requirement, the Chief of Police may authorize the dealer to provide live security guard coverage.
  • The Chief of Police can approve another combination of measures.

The legislation was developed in consultation with law enforcement officials and Baltimore County firearm retail establishment owners, and is based on more stringent state safety requirements for medical cannabis facilities.

The bill will be introduced in the County Council session scheduled for Monday, December 16.


Grant Will Improve the County's System for Investigating Sexual Assaults

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski today announced that the Hackerman Foundation has awarded $300,000 in grant funding to Baltimore County and the Baltimore County Police Department to support cold case sexual assault investigations and improve current and future investigations.

This new funding will support key recommendations from the Baltimore County Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force’s recently released final report to make improvements in several areas of sexual assault investigations.

“We commit to doing everything we can to seek justice for survivors of sexual assault. This grant provides critical support for investigators as they work to secure justice and closure for victims who have been waiting years, or even longer,” said County Executive Olszewski. “I am grateful to the Hackerman Foundation for their generous support, which will help implement the recommendations made by our Task Force and provide resources to analyze cases, identify offenders, and make our communities safer.”

“Upon approval of this funding, the Baltimore County Police Department will be provided with the resources to implement several recommendations made by the Baltimore County Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force," said Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt. "Our victims deserve a complete and thorough investigation in every case. This funding will support this initiative.”

The advancement of technology has led to substantial value in evaluating old cases for testing or renewed testing. The grant funding will support critical areas of need for cold cases, including:

  • Testing of GBMC slides. In the 1970s, GBMC emergency room physician Dr. Rudiger Breitenecker recognized the value of evidence from sexual assault survivors and preserved evidence on microscope slides. Dr. Breitenecker continued this collection practice into the early 1990s when the standardized SAFE exam emerged. These slides are maintained at GBMC and previous testing have proven viable for DNA testing which have led to the conviction of several offenders for decades-old crimes. This new funding will support testing of slides in order to attempt to further identify DNA and FBI profiles.
  • Applying modern DNA analysis procedures on cases that have been entered into the FBI CODIS.
  • Funding to test SAFE Kits from prior to April 30, 2018 to expand efforts to test every eligible kit.
  • Staffing, travel, and training for Special Victims staff personnel skilled in the area of investigations to manage increased workload and expedite processing of cases.
  • Technology and other department equipment

This is the latest effort from the Olszewski Administration to improve Baltimore County’s system for investigating sexual assaults.

In February 2019, County Executive Olszewski formed the Sexual Assault Investigations Task Force to examine current investigation and prosecution policies. Earlier this month, the Task Force issued their final recommendations, including to increase capacity to test SAFE kits, establish cold case investigations, develop and implement a comprehensive training plan, and to seek funding sources to assist in these endeavors.

Maryland State Delegate Shelly Hettleman, representing District 11 in Baltimore County, has been a dedicated advocate for several legislative initiatives to positively impact sexual assault investigations. Delegate Hettleman, aware of funding limitations, was critical in orchestrating discussions with the Hackerman Foundation regarding this project.

“Survivors of sexual assault deserve to know that their stories will be taken seriously and that their rapists will be held accountable. We’ve made real progress at the state level to make sure there will be thorough, consistent investigations of sexual assault, and I’m heartened to see the County making progress as well. Even decades old trauma needs closure, and with this support from the Hackerman Foundation, Baltimore County will be able to help some survivors get closure.”

The Hackerman Foundation was established in honor and memory of Nancy Hackerman’s father, Willard Hackerman. Mr. Hackerman was the CEO and longtime President of Whiting-Turner Contracting Company. Mr. Hackerman and his wife, Lillian Patz Hackerman, were generous supporters of many universities and hospitals throughout Maryland, as well as national institutions. They also established scholarship funds for local students. The Hackerman Foundation was established in order to continue in their legacy of generous giving.

The grant will go before the Baltimore County Council on November 4, 2019.


 
 
Revised September 11, 2017