EPD’s gun-focused initiative recovers 15 firearms in two months

Jerry Lee, Copy Chief

Evanston police have recovered a total of 15 guns as part of an initiative to reduce violence in the city that began about two months ago.

The program began after two fatal shootings occurred within a block of each other on Aug. 31 and Sep. 15. Following the homicides and a rash of shots fired incidents, the Evanston Police Department now assigns two detectives every night to give specific attention to gun-related crimes, said Evanston police Cmdr. Joseph Dugan.

“Violent crime and guns are, of course, a priority for every officer,” Dugan said. “But we dedicate two per night, (and) that’s all they do. If they get something else, if it’s unrelated … they hand that off to another detective that can handle it.”

Dugan described the program as a two-pronged effort. Every night, two detectives well-versed in gang and drug activity in the area strictly focus on recovering guns off the street, using tools like a heat map that tracks gun activity throughout Evanston. At the same time, officers that regularly patrol the city during the day have been collecting information and gathering community perspectives on the recent trend of gun violence.

In addition to recovering guns, the program has yielded various drug retrievals and 21 gang member arrests as of Nov. 6, according to data from EPD.

Previously, EPD has allocated officers to certain offenses and areas based on recurring crime patterns but started the initiative following gun-related incidents in the fall, Dugan said.

“It’s something we’ve done before, but with everything that’s going on and the concerns of the community, we decided to try this initiative,” he said.

In addition to the initiative, EPD has been operating a gun buyback program that allows Evanston residents to receive a $100 voucher by requesting an officer over the phone to pick up an unwanted operational firearm at any time.

Despite these measures, gun control activist Carolyn Murray said EPD’s focus with these programs has been misplaced. Murray’s 19-year-old son was shot and killed nearly three years ago.

“There’s so many things they can do better,” Murray said. “We have problems with gun trafficking … those gang-related crimes all go back to major issues of larger gun dealers in the area.”

Murray said that EPD should focus more on larger players in violent criminal activity such as gun traffickers.

“Going after the smaller fish is not the way to go,” she said.

Murray also appeared before City Council last month, asking city officials to reinstate gun buyback programs that took place in public community centers. Dugan said these buyback events, which previously took place on specific days throughout the year, were replaced because the 24/7 program allowed residents to immediately get rid of unwanted guns, instead of waiting until an event took place.

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) said violence reduction strategies have been an ongoing process for years. Like those that came before it, this violence reduction program based out of the police department cannot solve all of Evanston’s crime issues.

“Hopefully there will be more initiatives to address and get control of the violence,” she said. “The violence is not acceptable, and the program is not enough, but it is a start.”

Elena Sucharetza contributed reporting.

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