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Mitch Blacher


  • Mitch Blacher

Here's Where Illicit Guns Are

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

By Mitch Blacher and NBC10 InvestigatorsPublished February 6, 2020 Updated on February 8, 2020 at 12:41 am

Plastic bags covered the rifle as the federal agent got into the car.

He was there to make a buy but also to gain trust from the illegal seller and parse some information. As the number of gun crimes in Philadelphia soar, where are the guns coming from?

In 2018, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms traced and recovered more than 11,000 guns throughout Pennsylvania. Of those, agents found nearly 4,000 in Philadelphia.

The undercover officer had done this before. Once, he recalled, he bought an Uzi in Germantown. In a recent operation, he worked carefully over the course of two months. In that time, court records showed he bought a number of illegal handguns and an assault rifle. Two of the weapons were traced back to shootings in Philadelphia.

“When I gained his confidence, he talked to me about a lot of different things as far as where he was getting the guns and how he was getting the guns,” the officer said of the seller.

A police supervisor in the Philadelphia Police Department's traffic division died over the weekend after becoming infected by the coronavirus, city officials said Monday.

Lt. James Walker is the first known Philadelphia cop to succumb to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Mayor Jim Kenney said he is the first city employee to die from the virus.

The total confirmed cases for all citizens in Philadelphia was 3,728 as of Monday afternoon. Forty-five people, including Walker, have died.

Walker was 59 years old and worked as a police officer for 33 years. He died Sunday. City officials did not know when his last shift in active duty was.

According to the ATF, the sting yielded guns coming in from the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.

The biggest flow is close to home, however. Most of the weapons recovered in Pennsylvania in 2018 were traced back to legal purchases in the state. Other times, they were stolen during one of the many gun shop robberies in the state, ATF data shows.

Illegal firearms in Philadelphia have been a problem for decades. But city homicides have increased, and a public perception that gun crimes are making the city more dangerous has accompanied the rising murder rate.

An open-air squabble between the city's two most powerful law enforcement officials, District Attorney Larry Krasner and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Williams McSwain, has not halted the rising violence.

Here are the blocks in Philadelphia where at least three alleged incidents of illegal gun possession have been reported since 2015, according to data obtained by NBC10 Investigators.

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Mitch Blacher

Journalist. Storyteller.