08/21/2007

To target crime, Mesa, Ariz. targets guns

By Faye Bowers
The Christian Science Monitor
 
MESA, Ariz. When the speeding Chevrolet Tracker came to a screeching halt in a quiet cul de sac, two men jumped out and leapt over a cement wall. The driver, a woman, backed up nearly hitting a police car then sped off.

A simple joy ride? That's what officers in hot pursuit thought until they found a homemade bomb in the street near where the Tracker stopped and a handgun in the yard by the wall that the two men jumped. The high-speed chase turned into a months-long investigation that has led to the arrests of three gang members, the possibility of more arrests, and the prospect of a federal trial with stiffer penalties than state charges.

Welcome to Mesa, a fast-growing Arizona city that faces so much gun-related violent crime that it has brought in the federal government to help. The Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT) of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is working with Mesa and 28 other cities to reduce gun-related crime. Here in Mesa, as elsewhere, there are early signs of success.

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