May 19, 2007
By TINA A. BROWN, Courant Staff Writer
The acting head of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives applauded Hartford's efforts Friday to track down illegal gun dealers on the street.
Michael J. Sullivan, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts who is awaiting U.S. Senate confirmation for his new position, said he came to Hartford Friday to get acquainted with the work his ATF agents are doing with the city police department and other law enforcement agencies.
Hartford is one of 25 cities that have received funding over the past two years for the federal government's anti-gun program, the Violent Crime Impact Team initiative.
Sixteen ATF agents are assigned to four neighborhoods. Their primary goal is to track guns being sold illegally, confiscate the weapons, and prosecute the sellers and buyers, Sullivan said.
"This is one part of the solution to the problem," Sullivan said during a press conference at the Hartford Police Department. "These folks are going out there to trace every single weapon and to debrief every single offender."
Many of the criminal cases are transferred to the U.S. attorney's office for prosecution after an arrest is made in Hartford.
In one of the most celebrated cases, David Muska, an East Windsor chiropractor, and his wife, Cheryl, were convicted last year of selling guns in Hartford in exchange for heroin and cocaine. They forfeited 88 guns, several thousand rounds of ammunition and other gun parts that they owned.
They are both serving time in a federal prison.
U.S. Attorney for Connecticut Kevin O'Connor, who is also chief of staff for U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, said Friday the case was possible because the violent-crime team works seven days a week to interview people caught in Hartford with guns. The people charged with buying were pressed during interviews with the federal officers until they gave up the names of those who sold them the guns, he said.
The federal government claims that the violent-crime team has seized 240 guns that were used in crimes in Hartford from June 2005 to May 15 of this year. The team has made 258 felony arrests and has interviewed 272 people who were found illegally possessing guns in the city, authorities said.
Hartford Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts said young people 13 to 25 are buying the guns and using them in gun-related incidents. He said gun crimes are down compared with last year.
Roberts said that as of March, overall crime in Hartford was reduced by 23.7 percent over last year. According to the police department's website, that percentage was 19 percent as of May 5. The year-to-date crime statistics for the city and the violent crime impact team's neighborhoods were not available for this story.
All officials said the anti-gun program has helped reduce violent crime in Hartford over the past two years.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at