Stanley Earl Jenkins Jr. thought he could go undetected, as he had for so long. He was a feared Boston gang leader who ran a conspiracy to smuggle guns from Maine and send crack cocaine back to customers in that state. He had so-called “straw purchasers” who bought guns for him, and “The Transporter,” who brought them back to Massachusetts.
Local law enforcement, with the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, ultimately determined that Jenkins, 31, had trafficked at least 40 illegal weapons into Boston, and he was suspected in a murder. In 2009, he was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison.
But his crimes, defining street-level gun trafficking, also became a teaching moment for law enforcement officials who had relied on old-fashioned detective work to solve his case, but who would have preferred to have arrested him before many of his weapons made their way to Boston’s streets.
Last month, the ATF, working with Boston and State Police and other local law enforcement officials, opened the region’s first Crime Gun Intelligence Center, a warehouse of gun-tracking technology that could help authorities more quickly identify such gun smuggling: A way to trace guns, who has them, how they got them, how many more are out there, and whether they were used in a crime.
“Having this center is going to give us a better opportunity to identify this quicker, more readily, than we ever have in the past,” Daniel Kumor, the special agent in charge of the ATF’s Boston office, said in an interview, adding that the Jenkins case “is the type of case they would be looking for.”
“This case just cascaded,” he said. “This is where the center would be looking at trying to establish sources of guns, methods, where they’re acquiring guns.”
Similar ATF centers that recently opened in Chicago, Denver, and New Orleans have already had success in helping authorities solve gun crimes. And the opening of the center in Boston, at ATF’s headquarters near North Station, comes as Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Police Commissioner William Evans have prioritized gun investigations, following a spike in murder at the start of 2014.
“For the longest time, the question has always been, ‘where do the guns come from?’ ” said Boston Police Superintendent Robert Merner, head of the department’s Bureau of Investigative Services, who recently toured the Denver ATF site with investigators.
He said police are seeing quicker “time to crime” periods, in which guns that are purchased in other states are being used in Boston crimes, and he said the Intelligence Center could help identify waves of gun smuggling.
“We start working on the gun right away, where did the gun come from,” he said. Typically, any law enforcement agency investigating a shooting is encouraged to cross-reference evidence with the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, a database of ballistics evidence, as part of the work to trace a gun.
But the Crime Gun Intelligence Center would serve as a warehouse of state-of-the-art databases that would allow investigators to not only determine the origins of a gun, but also proactively cross-reference that with other data: What other guns came from that source, whether they were used, and by whom.
The databases would allow investigators to determine whether a gun owner sought to buy guns elsewhere, or whether a licensed dealer sold more than one gun to a person. Or, if one specific type of gun is being used.
He said the Boston bureau of the ATF has reassigned agents and civilian analysts to the center, and sent out a notice to police departments offering assistance in shooting investigations.
Boston police, who already have a sergeant and two detectives assigned to an ATF task force, are considering adding another detective and civilian analysts.
“A lot of this [gun] activity, it comes back to Boston,” said Merner, the police superintendent.
More recently, Jenkins, known as Styx, was smuggling them from Northern states with loose gun laws such as Maine, where anyone without a felony can buy a gun within minutes.
By some law enforcement estimates, Jenkins brought more than 60 guns to Boston, one of which was suspected in a toddler’s shooting. He was also suspected of murder, and pleaded guilty last year to manslaughter.
“He was responsible, just one kid responsible, for the purchase of more than 50 firearms,” Merner said. “How many Stanley Jenkins are out there that are using straw purchases in Maine, New Hampshire, places like this?”