Police focus on guns to curb violence

With New Haven well into its deadliest year since 1994, the past week saw four shootings and a spike in gun-related arrests.

The New Haven Police Department arrested at least three people last week for illegal possession of a firearm as the city steps up efforts to crack down on illegal guns, which city and police officials say underlie New Haven’s violent crime. Indeed, even as police upped vigilance of firearms and swept up several weapons in a Fair Haven raid, four people were shot.

“We’re aggressively pursuing gun prosecutions,” City Hall spokesman Adam Joseph said.

Joseph said the NHPD had seized 92 guns from January through the start of May, adding that more have been collected since then as part of the department’s ongoing gun control efforts.

“Clearly, there are far too many guns, they’re too readily available, and so long as they are, you have shootings,” said Richard Epstein, the chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners. “Guns are too readily accessible not only in New Haven but in the United States.”

There has been discussion in the NHPD about a potential gun buyback program that would work with owners of illegal guns to remove them from circulation without prosecution, Joseph said. Epstein added the city has conducted three gun buybacks over the last five years, removing “300 or so” guns off the streets.

But Ward 12 Alderman Gerald Antunes, the vice-chair of the Board of Alderman’s public safety committee, said he thought gun buybacks were a “waste of time and resources.”

“It doesn’t work,” he said. “What a gun buyback does is bring back all the guns that honest people have, which is not the issue with violent crime.”

When police officers work to remove firearms from circulation, there is a reduced risk they will fall into the wrong hands and lead to violent crime, NHPD spokesman David Hartman said.

Those efforts have been visible this past week. The NHPD’s Tactical Narcotics Unit conducted a raid at 79 Pardee St. on Nov. 1, seizing a .45 caliber “Thompson”-style assault rifle, a Ruger .9mm handgun, a stolen .40 caliber handgun and 10 grams of crack cocaine. As a result of the raid, five New Haven residents were arrested with various charges of possession of firearms and narcotics.

Two more arrests resulted from officers on patrol in local neighborhoods, which Hartman said was part of the NHPD’s renewed focus on community policing.

An officer on patrol at George Street and Sherman Avenue the evening of Oct. 31 nabbed a man he noticed driving off in a stolen vehicle; the man was charged with nine violations, including two gun crimes for the possessions of a Ruger .45 caliber, semi-automatic pistol. That same evening, two officers on patrol on Congress Avenue and Arch Street arrested a convicted felon and charged him with several motor vehicle violations and gun crimes, including the illegal possession of a loaded Glock 17 hand gun.

Five robberies also took place in the city this past week.

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