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City to fight illegal guns with $500 rewards

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City to fight illegal guns with $500 rewards

August 26, 2004

BY MARISOL BELLO

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

First, Detroit's law enforcement officials tried to stop gun violence with free trigger locks and community rallies.

Then Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick tried the power of prayer.

Now, the city is turning to cold hard cash.

Kilpatrick, Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings and a host of business and community leaders announced a gun program on Wednesday that offers a $500 reward to citizens who turn in anyone they know with illegal guns.

Dubbed "Operation Gun Stop," the program is completely anonymous, but in order to get the cash, the caller's tip must lead to the arrest and prosecution of a person with an illegal gun.

"We've confiscated 2,600 weapons so far this year," Bully-Cummings said. "We would like to triple that number. Hopefully, with Operation Gun Stop, we'll do that."

Operation Gun Stop is modeled after one created by the New York Police Department. Bully-Cummings said that from April 2002 to December 2003, the New York department received 1,234 tips that led to the confiscation of 455 illegal guns and 757 arrests.

Alfred Blumstein, a nationally known criminologist with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, said it doesn't hurt the city to try such reward programs, but aggressive policing and neighborhood patrols are the best way to stop the shootings.

"They need to try something more proactive than depending on people to report on their colleagues," Blumstein said.

Here's how the gun program works: A tipster calls the Crime Stoppers hotline at 800-773-2587 and asks for Operation Gun Stop. Each caller receives an ID number. No names are exchanged. If the information leads to a conviction, the tipster can then set up a location to pick up their $500 in cash.

It's the second antigun violence effort announced in the city in the last two days. On Tuesday, State Attorney General Mike Cox, the mayor and police chief announced that prosecutors from Cox's office would be placed in Detroit's police precincts to investigate and prosecute nonfatal shootings and weapons offenses.

The efforts are part of the city's response to a spike in shootings this year. From Jan. 1 to Sunday, Detroit had 900 shootings, a 23-percent increase from the same period last year, according to Detroit police statistics.

Last year, 361 people were killed in the city, the fewest in almost four decades. Police statistics show that there was a 9- percent increase from Jan. 1 through Sunday of this year compared to the same period last year.

The gun reward program will start with a $25,000 grant from the Detroit Police Foundation, a nonprofit group made up of city business leaders.

If the program is successful, the foundation may donate more money and enlist other businesses to pitch in, said John Rakolta, the foundation's chairman and head of the Walbridge Aldinger contracting company.

Contact MARISOL BELLO at 313-222-6678 or [email protected]

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