Hoping to reduce city gun violence, the Schenectady Police Department is offering to buy back guns or pay a reward for information leading to the arrest of people with illegal guns, officials announced Monday.
The effort is part of Operation IMPACT, a state effort to combat violent and gun crime in 17 counties including Schenectady, which account for 80 percent of the crime outside of New York City. Schenectady is receiving $900,000 through the program, now its fifth year, a portion of which is going to the gun buyback and reward program.
Under the program, police will offer $100 for every illegal gun turned in whether it is a handgun or sawed-off shotgun. Rifles and other legal weapons are excluded. They also will offer $500 for information that results in the arrest of a person with an illegal gun.
Officials talked about the program during a news conference at Jerry Burrell Park. The grant is going to city police, the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Department, the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office and the Schenectady County Probation Department.
District Attorney Robert Carney called the buyback and reward program Phase 2. “You can turn in your gun for $100 or run the risk that a friend will turn you in for $500. Nothing is more important than curbing gun violence,” he said.
Phase 1 involved an amnesty program, launched in April, that netted seven weapons, all from the same person and all legal. Local law enforcement worked with the clergy to develop and offer the program. “Working together, I think, is the only way to solve this problem,” said the Rev. David Heise of the Albany Street United Methodist Church.
A hotline is available to receive tips: 788-6566. A public relations campaign also will be launched.
According to state crime statistics, Schenectady saw a 3.1 percent increase in overall crime between January and May, driven primarily by an increase in burglaries and larcenies. Firearm robberies, for example, are up approximately 25 percent for this period. Violent crime — murder, rape aggravated assaults — is down 5.7 percent for this period, however.
State officials said crime in the other IMPACT counties is up 5.3 percent.
The local agencies will use the latest Operation IMPACT money to fund initiatives already in place. City police will use $130,000 of the $457,000 it received to pay overtime to officers performing enhanced patrols. It will use the remainder to pay salary and benefits of staff manning the Office of Field Intelligence. Officials attribute the office for helping reduce major crime activity in the county between 2006 and 2007, when violent crime dropped 15 percent.
The sheriff’s office will use the $82,274 it received to pay for an officer as part of the intelligence office. The officer is charged with collecting information from jail inmates, which is entered into an extensive data base. Sheriff Harry Buffardi said jail-based information includes data such as street nicknames and is used in conjunction with other intelligence.
“The state comes in with a checkbook, but the state allows local leadership to develop partnerships and to customize its crime strategies to suit community needs,” Buffardi said.
Carney said the $260,000 his office is receiving will pay the salaries of two bureau chiefs and overtime for investigations. County probation is using its $102,000 for overtime, to allow probation officers to participate with city and state police in joint patrols and investigations.
Carney said officials held the press conference at Jerry Burrell Park to show they are taking serious community concerns to make the playground safer. The park has for years been the scene of drug-related and violent crime, including the 2007 murder of Xavier McDaniel Jr.
Carney said cameras at the park, installed as part of Operation IMPACT, helped convicted Omari Lee for McDaniel’s murder. Xavier McDaniel Sr., father of the murder victim, said Monday at the news conference the cameras are important but Lee’s conviction would not have occurred without participation of the community. “We as a community need to stand up and do what we need to do,” he said.
More from The Daily Gazette: