Police arrested 13 people Friday, including a 64-year-old East Harlem man, on charges they were part of large-scale gun trafficking rings that brought scores of firearms into New York City.
The suspects were rounded up as part of two separate undercover probes that lasted for about two years, including one investigation dubbed "Mickey Mouse Trap" after key suspect Mitchell "Mickey" Collins, 64, who had done prison time for attempted murder, said NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.
"Take it easy, I've got a pacemaker," Collins told detectives as they arrested him Friday, a law enforcement official said. Collins was the oldest of the defendants nabbed by police and investigators with the Manhattan district attorney's office in a case that netted 110 illegal guns, including assault weapons and machine guns, and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition.
With scores of seized firearms arrayed before him at a news conference at police headquarters, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, long an advocate for stricter gun control, wasted no time in remarking about the dangers of the continual flood of illegal weapons into the city.
"There is an awful lot of firepower here and you can kill an awful lot of people with these weapons," said Bloomberg. "Many, if not most, were purchased in South Carolina and found their way here and many were in the hands of teenagers."
Collins, who Kelly said would be eligible for Social Security benefits next month, had an arrest history that went back to 1968 and had done prison time for attempted murder and drug charges. As of late Friday he hadn't been arraigned.
"Getting close to the wily Mickey Collins was no easy matter," explained Kelly. "He appeared to be waiting to see if police were tracking his gun sales."
Collins and three other defendants were charged with selling 88 firearms to undercover detectives. Guns were often resold by the ring on the streets of East Harlem for 100 percent profit, noted Kelly.
A second probe dubbed "Operation Carver" targeted younger suspects who lived in and around the Carver Houses in East Harlem and sold 41 guns and a bullet resistant vest to undercover officers, Kelly said. Two of those guns were used in shootings as far back as 2003, said Kelly, adding that the victims wouldn't cooperate with police.
"The common thread between these two groups is that they are bringing guns into our community which are killing people too often," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
Bloomberg exhorted both presidential candidates to start talking about gun control in the campaign.
"This is one of the burning issues domestically," said Bloomberg.