About a block from Monday’s shooting near Jerry Burrell Park, community and public officials gathered Saturday to aid in the city’s battle against gun violence.
From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Hamilton Hill Arts Center was the site of a gun buy-back program organized by law enforcement, local government, religious and community officials. The effort, which offered gift cards up to $100, depending on the type of weapon turned in, netted 10 weapons in the first hour, but Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association President Marva Isaacs stressed the event was about more than just collecting guns.
She said the Hamilton Hill community and the city as a whole have seen too much gun violence and a way to solve that problem is by strengthening relationships with the local and county police departments. Noting the handful of officers at the arts center taking part in the buy-back, she said people in the neighborhood would appreciate the effort.
“This is a very good thing, even if not a lot of guns are turned in,” Isaacs said.
This sentiment was echoed by Schenectady County Sheriff Dominic Dagostino, who described the event as the “first piece in the puzzle” toward winning the city’s battle against gun and gang violence. He said it fit well with ongoing policing efforts and promised buy-back programs once a month in the future at different locations.
At this first buy-back, Dagostino said officials anticipated only receiving weapons that were essentially out of circulation. In the future, after better relationships are established, he said, “What I hope is that we graduate to guns that are still affecting the communities out there.”
City Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said the event showed the city’s commitment. She added that once people in the community realize the sustained nature of that commitment, they would become even more receptive to the program.
Porterfield also noted the diverse makeup of the coalition trying to quell gun violence in the city.
“Different people can reach different populations, so it’s necessary that we come from all different angles to support this effort,” she said.
Robert Sanders, who is challenging Porterfield in a primary election for her council seat, described the event as a step in the right direction and said it should be used in communities throughout the city.
In it first hour, the program netted three shotguns, one .22 caliber rifle, two .22 caliber revolvers, one .32 caliber revolver, one .25 caliber automatic, and two pellet guns.
Officials gave $25 gift cards for non-working guns, BB guns and pellet guns; $50 gift cards for an anonymous surrender; $100 gift cards for rifles or shotguns; $200 gift cards for handguns; and $250 gift cards for assault weapons.
Also on hand on Saturday were Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney, city Police Chief Mark Chaires and a local representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam.