Police in Pennsylvania’s capital city say that aggressive seizure of illegal firearms has contributed to a decrease in violent crime rates over the last three years.
The Harrisburg Police Bureau took almost 200 illegally possessed guns off the streets in 2018 alone, chief information officer Gabriel Olivera said Friday.
In all, officers have removed more than 600 illegally possessed firearms since they began an aggressive campaign in 2016 to get guns off city streets.
“We can’t say that each of these guns would have been used in a shooting, a robbery, or even a homicide,” Olivera said. “But our department has taken [away] 646 opportunities to injure citizens of this city with some kind of violence.”
Police officials say they’re seeing a decrease in violent crime rates. Violent crimes in Harrisburg decreased almost 10 percent from 2017 to 2018, Olivera said.
Olivera could not say if all types of violent crime have decreased equally. In past years, Harrisburg has seen its murder rate hold steady as other types of violent crimes — such as assault and property crimes — diminished.
That trend reversed in 2017, when the city reported slight increases in assaults and burglaries. The figures Olivera reported Friday, however, suggest Harrisburg is back on its downward crime trend.
Police officials said that most illegal guns they seize are taken during arrests, traffic stops, or probation visits.
Any firearm recovered during an arrest or vehicle search is scanned through the state’s firearm database to determine its ownership, Olivera said.
If an individual is found to possess a gun that’s reported missing, or one that’s registered in another person’s name, police can file charges of illegally possessing a handgun.
Police can also charge any felon who possesses a firearm, or anyone who holds a gun without a valid license.
Illegal possession of a firearm is a felony offense, Olivera said.
The vast majority of guns that Harrisburg police seize are handguns or pistols, but officers have taken almost four dozen rifles and shotguns from offenders in the past three years.
Officers will return guns to their legal owners if they can identify one. Those that can’t be traced back to a legal owner are destroyed.