AKRON, Ohio (WJW) — Through the end of October, Akron police have responded to an average of nearly six gun-related calls for service every day.
Bullets have flown into random houses and cars. In October, a 14-year-old boy was shot in front of his home. A 12-year-old boy was shot and killed while walking through his University Park neighborhood in August.
There may be no more important issue to many in Akron than the frequent, sometimes random shootings; and residents want to know what the city is doing to combat it.
“We have gone through a bad period. We are seeing a lot younger offenders committing violent crimes so it’s kind of what’s brought this thing together was we needed to address it,” said Lt. Jason Malick of the Akron Police Department’s Gun Violence Reduction Tactical Unit.
The special detail is made possible by a grant that pays for officers’ overtime through the end of next year or when the money runs out.
The detectives who work the unit are all hand picked experienced officers.
FOX 8 News was able to shadow the unit one night in November to document what they do.
Malick says the majority of the gun violence is the result of a small number of young offenders.
The unit works to target the worst of the worst and the more information and evidence they collect the better they feel they are able to get the criminals and their guns off the streets.
“We have done some things in the past like saturation points in these areas. They didn’t work. What this does is actually target known offenders who are committing crimes and we are actually targeting going after them specifically,” said Malick.
Members of the Gun Violence Reduction Tactical Unit work closely with officers and investigators with the departments SNUD, or Street Narcotics Uniform Detail, unit to help them with additional manpower and because where there are drugs there usually are guns.
On the night FOX 8 shadowed them nothing was random.
“Sometimes you get fortunate and you are able to seize a lot of guns, and times you get out there and shake the bushes and nothing comes out; but since the grant started we have been very fortunate as far as the gun seizures,” said Malick.
On the night FOX 8 shadowed the team, officers used a confidential informant to lure a suspected drug dealer away from a home for which they already had a signed search warrant.
A deal was made to buy fentanyl and after the suspect left the home he was stopped and detained before arriving at an agreed meeting location.
Officers then executed the search warrant at the home finding suspected drugs and confiscating a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic handgun from the residence.
“We get guys in here working overtime, more manpower, more detectives working cases. The more cases we are putting together the more guns we are getting.” said Malick.
“Gun seizures are up and it’s kind of correlating with the violence going down now. Can I attribute it to that? I can’t, you know; I’m not an analytics guy but, you know, I think it’s having an effect,” he added.
Statistics released to FOX 8 News show a 10% decrease in shooting-related calls for service for the months of August, September and October as compared with the same months in 2018.
Incidents, including discharging firearms, felonious assaults with a firearm, and murders with a firearm are down more than 25% over the same period.
The count of weapons recovered during those months increased nearly 28%.
Overall, the numbers of incidents from January through July seem to have increased from 2015 through 2019.
Police in recent weeks have confiscated a dozen guns including a sawed-off shotgun, semi-automatic rifles and miscellaneous handguns in a single raid.
Five more guns were confiscated during five traffic stops just this week.
The guns are test fired and the ballistic information is entered into a national database, which can help tie guns to other offenders and to crimes in which they were used.
“You know, we get guns that are related to homicides, to shootings; we might not realize that for a month or two until some of the testing comes back so now all of a sudden we solved a lot of other crimes in a wave,” said Sgt. Dale Dorn.
“Say we get a gun and it comes back that it has been involved in three or four shootings, well, those are all of a sudden totals that accelerate the curve, so to speak,” he added.
Police are not trying to remove guns from law-abiding owners.
“The majority of them, 99% of them, are probably prohibited from having a firearm,” said Detective Heath Smith.
“They are probably stolen from burglaries or acquired illegally through like what they call a straw purchase, where somebody purchases them that is allowed to buy the gun, but then they hand it over to somebody that is prohibited from having the firearm; and that’s the kind of guns that we need to get off the street. Those are the ones that are harming people,” said Smith.
“These are individuals that we are looking at because they are known to carry guns or have shot or have criminal records or drug trafficking, so we are actually targeting those people because, as the sergeant said, they are the worst of the 10% who are causing all of the problems in the city for us,” he concluded.