By Rocco Parascandola, Staff Writer
Copyright 2006 Newsday, Inc.
Narcotics cops investigating a drug crew in the Bronx made a startling discovery - a gun disguised as a flashlight, law enforcement sources said.
The recent find is the latest example of homemade weapons popping up on city streets, Newsday has learned.
Several police sources noted that the attention law enforcement pays to removing illegal guns from the streets has forced criminals to improvise and find ways to conceal weapons.
The disguised weapons, sources said, allow criminals, particularly drug dealers, to stay armed without raising much suspicion.
The one-shot flashlight gun, as Police Commissioner Ray Kelly noted in a departmental order issued last week to each NYPD command, "has the appearance of a flashlight but is capable of firing a round."
"Officers should be cautioned to use extreme vigilance and remain alert for dangerous weapons that may be disguised as ordinary items," Kelly's order stated.
The flashlight gun was seized during a recent narcotics raid in the Bronx. The NYPD would not provide more details about the seized weapon because of the pending investigation. It was not clear if the flashlight gun fires its bullet by flicking the on/off switch or by some other means.
The Pennsylvania Municipal Police Officers' Education & Training Commission issued a similar alert recently about flashlight guns, though the ones they warned about are slightly different than the ones the NYPD highlighted. On its Web site, the commission warned of a working flashlight capable of firing a .410 round as well as a miniature version, which fires a .380 round.
Police routinely update members of the force about new developments on the streets in New York City and elsewhere, including disguised weapons and tricks used by drug dealers to hide their product.
A recent missive described a rapid-fire pistol disguised as a cell phone.
The shooter, the order noted, could fire up to four rounds by pressing the numbers 5, 6, 7 or 8. So far, this type of weapon has been found only overseas.
Other items turned from the pedestrian into the deadly, not necessarily as guns, include combs and lipstick holders, all of which have turned up in the city.
One NYPD officer, Sgt. Craig Meissner, in 2002 detailed in a book about hidden contraband numerous other makeshift weapons that look like something out of a James Bond movie.
The weapons, recovered by police in cities here and abroad, include guns fashioned out of beepers and bike pumps.
Those are fairly ordinary compared to other items Meissner discovered in his research. His list included cane guns and umbrella guns, the latter of which could fire pellets dabbed with ricin, a lethal toxin.
Weapons in disguise
Other instances of weapons made to look like something else.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled legislation on June 5 that would ban the use or sale of gun-coloration kits used to make real guns look like toys.
The NYPD told its officers this year to be on the lookout for guns disguised as cell phones. The guns, heavier than normal cell phones, can fire four rounds in rapid succession by pushing number buttons on the face of the phone.
Police in Canada reportedly found a single-shot .22-caliber gun disguised as a pen while searching a woman suspected of drug trafficking. A pen can also conceal a 2 1/2-inch knife blade.
Steering wheel security device
Newsday recently reported the city Police Department had been tipped to a new trick among criminals - the ability to convert "The Club," a steering wheel security device, into a crude but effective shotgun.
A lipstick container can hold a 1 1/2-inch blade.
Canes, tire irons, umbrellas, tire gauges, motorcycle handlebars and cigarette lighters
All may be converted to guns.
Officer Safety Alerts: Hidden gun in mag-light
N.Y. narc officers uncover gun disguised as flashlight