PHOENIX — Gun violence is rising in the City of Phoenix, as in much of the country.
That’s why the Phoenix Police Department is partnering with local and federal agencies to respond quicker to the crimes in hopes of addressing the violence.
Gun violence up
Phoenix police said murders involving guns are up 45% this year compared to 2021. Over the same time, aggravated assaults are also up 23%.
“We must do something,” Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said.
It’s for people like 14-year-old Emma Morgan, who was killed earlier this month at a strip mall party.
“We always told her to be safe, and my daughter always told me, ‘Mom that’s never going to happen to me,'” Jen Keely, Morgan’s mom said.
Morgan’s family laid her to rest two weeks ago.
Others include Torry Taylor, who walked to a Denny’s near I-17 and Bell Road; he was shot after an argument and died.
On June 14, a Phoenix police detective was shot near 35th Avenue and Baseline Road while following up on a gun crime. Thankfully, she’s expected to survive.
Operation Gun Crime Crackdown
On Wednesday, Phoenix police announced "Operation Gun Crime Crackdown."
The operation will partner with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona in hopes of responding to gun crimes quicker, tracing evidence faster, and making sure those believed to be responsible are held accountable.
“It’s about getting guns out of the hands of criminals and those who are not supposed to have them,” Williams said.
The ATF will have agents embedded with the Phoenix Police Department’s Gun Crime Intelligence Unit, allowing knife and gun evidence to be traced faster.
“Every crime gun in the city is now being further examined by both agencies for ways to exploit crime gun intelligence and hold criminals accountable,” Special Agent in Charge Brendan Iber with the ATF Phoenix Field Division said.
Staff with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office will also be assigned to work directly with police precincts to review gun cases and ‘ensure appropriate release conditions’ for those arrested for the crimes.
Both the ATF and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona will also be working to review cases for any federal charges.
“Prosecution can help to address the problems of gun crimes. But it's not going to mill mitigate and reduce the number of crime guns that are out there,” Gary Restaino, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona said.
Ten Phoenix police detectives will also be assigned to precincts where the most gun violence happens in the city.
Williams said those precincts include South Mountain, Maryvale, Cactus Park, Mountain View and Desert Horizon.
“We do have a staffing challenge. We did have to move detectives to patrol but because of efforts like this, we’re realizing where we need to be laser-focused,” Williams said. “That’s what this effort is.”
The department believes it's this operation that’s going to help them be more efficient.
“We’re trying to identify these individuals and stop them from what they’re doing,” Sgt. Philip Krynsky, a public information officer with Phoenix Police Department said.
Help needed from the public
The leaders repeatedly emphasized how public help is also needed to help address gun violence.
“We can’t fix what we don’t know,” Williams said. “And I think a lot of us in the community have grown a little numb to the gunfire. We're asking that to flip and change. We're asking for a paradigm shift because we really didn't want to make an impact, not just for us, but for our victims.”
Police are asking anyone who hears gunfire in their neighborhood to call 911 so officers can respond.
With the operation launching in about two weeks on July 5, the department is also setting up a tip line for the public to report information about people who have guns illegally.
To reach the tip line call 602 644-5805 or email here azactic.gov.
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