Inside the Baltimore Police Department's War Room

BALTIMORE - Baltimore’s violent crime this summer is dizzying.

The sheer amount of shell casings on city streets and the now scary round number of 200 killings reached much earlier than in recent years, there is a battle on our streets and now a war for them.

"The war room, that collaboration of you and I sitting across a desk from one another and looking each other in the eye and figuring out a case, that is the new normal in Baltimore."

Interim Police Commissioner Kevin Davis is hoping the crime doesn't define the fight, but that the fight defines crime.

He started what he called the war room a month ago, an effort to not just say different agencies are working together but forcing them to belly up at the same table to figure it all out.

"My analogy for the war room is if I had a puzzle to put together and I had 1,500 puzzle pieces and I needed to put the puzzle together right now, I can't do that on the telephone. I can't do that with a text message. I can't do that with an email. I can't do that with a conference call," Davis said.

If the post Freddie Gray crime surge is a puzzle, then it is Col. Sean Miller who already laid out the border working inward to piece it together.

"We have taken what took weeks, if not months before and have built something that takes days," Miller said.

The Colonel is the commander of the war room and runs the briefings between city police, federal agents and prosecutors.

ABC2 News is the first news organization allowed to witness a war room briefing.

We agreed to disconnect our audio, blur faces of undercover agents and shoot around sensitive case material as the group literally compared notes on violent crimes, threads, trends and most importantly, tried to build prosecutable cases against a list of those worst of the worst criminals.

From there the colonel says, it is simple math.

"The small group of bad guys in the city are the one's doing all the violent crime and once they are identified or their associates are identified, that subtraction will see that lower level of homicides and nonfatal shootings coming…It is just that simple."

And while the formula is drawn up on the seventh floor of Baltimore Police Headquarters, it is carried out on the street.

Federal agents are working with city police on the ground to execute the warrants, seize the guns and arrest the targets they believe are responsible for the crime.

Baltimore Police now have the expertise and resources of the FBI, DEA, Marshals, Secret Service and ATF by their side and immediately available to arrest and build cases.

We were on hand as a war room team paired with ATF served a warrant in Northeast Baltimore as a war room team served a warrant on a drug case with an assist from a rather cute federal resource, an explosives sniffing ATF dog named Cacao.

But it's not just the pooch, ATF for its part dedicated 10 of its agents from Charlotte to Boston to work with city police.

"We didn't bring these agents in from other field divisions to sit in our office and sit behind a computer all day. So they will physically be out there every day, during this detail working with Baltimore city to actively target those individuals," ATF Special Agent in Charge Bill McMullan said.

It is no longer just cooperation with federal partners in theory or spirit; the feds now have skin in the game so to speak, a vested interest pulling out some of Baltimore's violence at the root.

But crime fighting is a results oriented business.

While police say it is too early to talk stats, the war room is boasting some homicide closures, increase in seized guns and the rapid arrest for a triple shooting of three teens late last month.

"We have four violent crime strands going on in Baltimore right now and what the war room has been able to do is put pieces together, connect bad guys from one strand to another and we have made some positive results," Davis said.

Time will tell if the war room and immediate federal resources will make a dent in Baltimore's violent crime surge, the feds have committed their agents to the cause for 60 days to start.

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