Schenectady County

Schenectady police, clergy battle illegal guns

When Schenectady police investigated a 2004 killing, they soon learned that two 15-year-olds were re

When Schenectady police investigated a 2004 killing, they soon learned that two 15-year-olds were responsible.

They also learned that a woman who cared for one of them knew a gun was in the house, but didn’t think the boy would use it.

On Monday, local law enforcement and clergy spoke about a program they hope will eliminate guns just like that one.

Beginning today, residents will be able to turn in illegal weapons and they won’t face charges for possessing the weapons. Residents can contact police or their clergy to arrange to turn in a firearm.

“This program is aimed directly at that woman,” District Attorney Robert Carney said, after relating the story of the 15-year-olds. “We want to tell her, reach out to your clergyman, deal with somebody who you turn to for your spiritual life. They will arrange to get those guns out of your house and nobody will be hurt.”

Police and district attorney’s officials announced the program with members of local clergy, saying the idea came from the clergy themselves.

The gun problem the city faces was illustrated on Monday morning after a call of shots fired on Frank Street led to a brief standoff that went on simultaneously with the news conference. It was at least the third report of shots fired in the previous 24 hours.

Officials said they weren’t sure how many weapons they might recover, but they hope for as many as possible.

They hope family members who may not trust police will contact their pastor to rid their homes and the streets of the weapons.

“If we only get one gun off the street, that may save the life of a kid somewhere,” the Rev. David Heise, of the Albany Street United Methodist Church, said, “and not only that, but the kid that pulled the trigger.”

Officials are looking for illegal weapons, including pistols, revolvers, sawed-off shotguns or rifles.

Amnesty will be granted for possessing the weapons, but no immunity will be given for other crimes that might have been committed with the weapon. Police are asking for photo ID and help in documenting the weapon’s past. Officials, however, said they would work with the goal of getting the weapon out of circulation.

Weapons can be surrendered by contacting the Schenectady Police Office of Field Intelligence at 788-6566, which is a dedicated line for the duration of the program. The dispatch center can also be contacted at 382-5263 or clergy members. Officials want contact to be made first — weapons should not be brought without first making arrangements.

The program follows one about 10 years ago that resulted in 100 guns surrendered. That program included the promise of a gift certificate.

The guns received will be tested to determine if they match any unsolved crimes. If results are negative, they will be destroyed.

Monday’s announcement was made at the Duryee Memorial AME Zion Church, 307 Hulett St., whose pastor, the Rev. James D. McCathan, helped spark the program. It will be publicized through fliers and sermons.

Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett gave credit for the program to local clergy. He called it important to get the guns off the street by whatever means available.

“We’re pleading with people on a personal basis of what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s good for you and what isn’t good for you,” he said.

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