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Chief of Police Larry Boone detailed the Norfolk Police Department’s ongoing efforts to stop the flow of illegal guns into Hampton Roads communities at a press conference Friday, encouraging community members to “be bold and speak up” about straw purchases.
“This is a public health crisis,” Boone said in reference to the 3,885 firearms recovered by NPD since 2017. In 2021 alone, NPD recovered 821 guns ― 116 of those were in the possession of convicted felons.
Statistics shared by Boone detailed 188 firearm-related homicides in the past five years, which he said disproportionately impact Norfolk’s Black communities.
“The hot spots have been the same hot spots for decades. Those hot spots have the same commonalities: under employment, under education, health issues, conflict resolution issues, lack of opportunities,” Boone said.
Boone was joined by Charlie Patterson, the special agent in charge of the Washington Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, who pledged ATF’s “continued support and resources” to help police combat straw purchases and gun violence.
A straw purchase is an illegal firearm purchase where the buyer of a gun, who is unable to pass the required background check or who does not want to be associated with the purchase, uses a proxy buyer to purchase the gun. Federal authorities have to crack down on straw purchasers as part of efforts to disrupt firearms trafficking up and down the East Coast.
“We will be steadfast in the pursuit of justice by lending our resources, such as utilizing the national integrated ballistic information network, to ascertain crime gun intelligence, as well as crime gun intelligence analysts, to locate our trigger pullers and sources of firearm supplies,” Patterson said.
The ATF Washington Field Division was designated as a firearm strike force jurisdiction by the U.S. Department of Justice to help reduce gun violence under the comprehensive violent crime reduction strategy.
“This means that we will be extremely vigilant in disrupting illegal firearms trafficking and stemming the supply of illegally trafficked firearms from source cities, such as Norfolk and other surrounding areas in the Virginia panhandle,” Patterson said.
Clayton Marquez of Stop the Violence Guns Down attended the press conference as a partner in support of NPD’s efforts to curb gun violence in area communities.
“What we are going to be doing is going out to the community. I just go out and talk to guys about getting rid of guns,” Marquez said. “The local police department working with the community and organizations on the ground is a great way to try to get the guns out of the community.”
Stolen guns have long been a focus for Boone. In 2016, he started tracking how many guns his officers seized each year, where they came from, who had them when they were seized and who originally bought them.
“I feel that collectively, we have had enough. You are going to see a ‘full-court press’ regarding this issue,” Boone said.
Authorities encouraged anyone with information regarding the illegal purchase of firearms to contact ATF at 888-AFT-TIPS (888-283-8477).
Caitlyn Burchett, firstname.lastname@example.org