NYPD Recovers Fewer Guns on the Street as Shootings Rise

By Murray Weiss on February 10, 2011 6:33pm 

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during a news conference with local mayors on joining together against illegal guns, in Cincinnati in this April 12, 2007 file photo.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during a news conference with local mayors on joining together against illegal guns, in Cincinnati in this April 12, 2007 file photo.
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AP Photo/Al Behrman, File

By Murray Weiss

DNAinfo Contributing Columnist

There is an unnerving statistic buried in the NYPD crime books.

In a city where the mayor pays for private investigators to buy guns at Arizona gun shows and hits national talk shows to portray himself as the champion of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, the number of guns police have taken off the streets here by has declined, while "shooting incidents" and "shooting victims" numbers are on the rise.

Last year, 3,648 guns were grabbed by the police, NYPD data show. That’s 259 fewer revolvers, automatics and shotguns taken away from criminals and destroyed by the NYPD compared to the 3,907 recovered the previous year, a decline of 6.6 percent.

Forty-three fewer guns were seized in Manhattan last year when 438 weapons were recovered compared to 481.

Brooklyn is in even worse shape. Nearly 100 fewer weapons were recovered by cops in Brooklyn North. “One hundred guns on the streets are very, very bad for us,” a Brooklyn law enforcement official observed.

Southern Queens fared little better with 134 fewer guns recovered by police.

What could explain such a performance?

Police officials have talked about successful initiatives by local police and federal agents that slowed the pipeline of weapons into the city as a possible reason.

They also say NYPD street pressure on criminals has forced them to stop packing heat until the very moment they needed a gun. Presumably, they race home, get a gun, use it and ditch it, making it harder for street cops to find the weapons.

The full answer is more complicated, if you listen to officials who deal with crime fighting every day.

"I honestly believe that when the department sends out new cops from the academy they are not getting the kind of training at the beginning to know who to stop, the types of people and signs to look for that lead to the recovery of a weapon," said a veteran police official.

"The department sends cops out on Impact Zones to stand somewhere, and their visibility deters crime and can be effective ….but they do not learn that a larger part of policing has nothing to do with just standing somewhere and crime goes away," the veteran said. "That does not help get a single gun off the street, and when those Impact cops move on into radio cars, they get partnered with other young cops who see policing the same way."

But the NYPD is also stopping and frisking people at record levels, and at five times the rate of just a decade ago.  Why is that kind of intrusive police behavior not finding more weapons?

Police are not stopping the right people for the right reasons, sources say.  How else could 500,000 people be stopped by cops, but gun seizures slide?

Perhaps the mayor should give up a golf game or two in Bermuda and a TV appearance and figure this out if he wants to have a real impact on the worsening problems of guns and gun violence here in New York.

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