GREENSBORO, NC – The Greensboro Police Department wants to implement a program to help prevent and possibly solve gun related crimes.
Similar to CrimeStoppers, GunStoppers would allow people to remain anonymous while reporting illegal guns or illegal gun activity to the police for a reward. The reward amount has not yet been set, but would depend on if information provided led to the recovery of an illegal weapon and/or an arrest. Rewards could also increase if the gun was involved in any illegal activity, such as a homicide.
Chief Wayne Scott discussed the idea for the program during a Safer City Summit at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex on Tuesday evening.
“I’m a strong supporter of the second amendment. I believe in the right for people to bear arms. I have no issue with that. But, these illegal guns on the streets, we are seeing them turn up in the hands of the victims and we are seeing them turn up in the hands of the perpetrators and they are just not good for this community,” Scott explained.
Durham and Raleigh already have GunStoppers programs. Scott spoke with police chiefs in those cities, who saw a reduction in violent crime involving a gun after the program began.
For Greensboro, violent crime rose for the second year in a row in 2016. Violent crime increased 11 percent overall, with homicides up 33 percent, from 27 in 2015 to 36 the following year. Assault with a deadly weapon increased 26 percent while violent crimes involving a firearm were up 73 percent since 2014.
Ironically, 60 guns were stolen from the Gun and Knife Show at the Coliseum on Sunday morning, two days before Scott began his discussion on illegal guns and the new program.
“It scares me to know that they were taken illegally and I’m fearful they are going to be used illegally,” Scott said of the theft.
Currently, police don't have a suspect but they're looking at security footage.
The police department moved money into the CrimeStoppers program in order to fund GunStoppers. If all goes as planned, the program would be implemented at the end of February or mid-March.
In the past, the department tried to obtain unwanted guns through a weapons surrender program.
“When we initially tried the program a couple of years ago it was moderately successful. We tried one last year, it wasn’t successful at all but those are really targeting guns in general,” said Scott.
The chief said GunStoppers is not for legal guns that a person no longer wants.
“Either the guns themselves are illegal or it’s illegal for the individual to possess them. Those are the ones that concern me.”
Scott said many factors play into the increase in violent crime, including poverty, unemployment, gangs, drugs, poor parenting, distrust of the police, media, mental illness, the legal system and the availability of guns.
GunStoppers is just one initiative Scott discussed during the summit where city council members, Mayor Nancy Vaughan as well as non-profit and community leaders were in attendance. The goal of the summit was to divide the crowd, with close to 100 attendees, into five groups who will focus on youth, employment, housing, legal concerns and public safety. The groups are tasked with coming up with concrete action plans to work on, implement then over the next two years.