New anti-gun violence initiative in Elmira

ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – The Elmira Police Department’s Detective Bureau has two new, full-time Investigators focusing exclusively on shootings and gun cases. The positions were created after Elmira P.D. received a New York State grant to join the “Gun Involved Violence Elimination Initiative,” also known as “G.I.V.E.” Data shows reported gunshots in Elmira more than doubled from 2018 to 2023.

The City of Elmira received a $383,147 grant for the G.I.V.E. initiative in the summer of 2023. Former road patrol officers Tristan Hillman and his partner Timothy Murphy were hired in September. The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services says G.I.V.E. “provides state funding to local law enforcement agencies for equipment, overtime, personnel, as well as focused training and technical assistance.”

“Our day to day, we’re taking information that we get from shootings, we’re doing follow ups, watching video footage trying to identify the people that are doing the shootings,” said Investigator Hillman. “We’re talking with witnesses, trying to get cooperation, we’re working with our partner agencies. We have these things called hotspots, which are areas in the city that are historically known for gun violence and violent crimes and things like that. Those are the areas that we focus on. People that are carrying guns in those areas, we try to get out and intercept those people and take the guns off the streets.”

The hot spot map tracks all reported shootings in the City of Elmira since 2018. It was created by Acting Lt. William Goodwin.

Out of the 75 reported gun shots in 2023, 26 were confirmed to be gunfire. Not all of them involved shooting victims. In October of 2022, Detective Goodwin says the Police Department switched to a new reporting system. The old reporting system was not able to classify gunshots as “confirmed” or “unconfirmed.”

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The G.I.V.E. initiative is a partnership between Elmira P.D., the Chemung County Sheriff’s Office, Chemung County Probation, and New York State Parole. “We try to take these things further to court to get indictments, to hold people accountable for their actions,” said Investigator Hillman.

Mr. Hillman says Detectives are facing new challenges in combating gun-violence. They include so-called untraceable “ghost guns” made by 3D printers, and something called a “Glock switch.”

“It’s a little piece that goes into the back of the slide and that makes the Glock a fully automatic handgun, ” said Hillman. “In the eyes of the federal government, when we work with the ATF and stuff like that, it’s considered a machine gun. I believe this year we recovered quite a few “ghost guns.” I think this is the first year that we’ve recovered or took possession of guns with the Glock switches. So obviously, we’ve seen an uptick this year.”

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Investigator Hillman says most shootings involve people who know each other. “I think there are people who identify with certain gangs, but I wouldn’t say that we have, set-in stone, gang-related activities here,” said Hillman.

Acting Lieutenant Goodwin is currently in charge of the Detective Bureau, after Lieutenant Yuri Charlanow retired in December.

“The impact that we’re able to show to the community members here would not be possible without funding from the GIVE program,” said Detective Goodwin. “We anticipate continued funding for GIVE 11, which should be announced in the near future.”

“GIVE 11” means the initiative is in its 11th year.

“This is a busy place and we do try our best to give the community what it deserves,” said Investigator Hillman. We’re out there, we’re trying to help the people out and make the city a safer place.”

The Elmira Police Department is also asking for input from residents in a crime survey.

“The Elmira Police Department is conducting a short online community crime survey. Its purpose is to help determine where within the City of Elmira its citizens are observing criminal activity, what types of crimes its citizens are most concerned about, and the type of crime deterrence efforts its citizens would like to see going forward. This survey will also assist the Elmira Police Department G.I.V.E. program identify new areas for gun violence intervention. The survey will remain open for one month or until 1000 responses are received. Thank you for your participation.”

You can take the survey here.

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