HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Police removed dozens of guns from city streets over the last few months as part of a renewed campaign to eliminate illegal guns and make the city safer.
Harrisburg Police Department leaders covered two tables with confiscated weapons Thursday morning during a news conference announcing the initiative.
But how much of an impact will that really have?
Lamont Jones is skeptical.
“If there’s no hope, it’s like, what do you do?” he said, referring to the kids and young adults who turn to crime and gun violence in the first place. “I’m just going to make it any way that I can.”
Jones grew up in the city. He believes the crime he sees now comes from the same circumstances that led him down the wrong path.
“We lived the life of the streets, and we happened to make it through it,” he said. “There wasn’t the job training, you know, the things of that nature that help you focus on providing for your family, simple as that.”
That’s where the guns come in, he said: A firearm is protection for those making money off of other crimes. For some, the weapon is a moneymaker in itself.
“Each weapon tells its own story,” Capt. Deric Moody said.
Police have collected a lot of stories, more than 80 in the first quarter of this year. “This one could have been a very bad story for the officers responding to the scene,” he said, pointing out a rifle in the style of an AK-47.
Moody said all the guns on display Thursday morning were illegal, used illegally, found, or confiscated, though some of the weapons on the table were used as stand-ins for similar weapons that were being used for evidence in current trials.
About a dozen of the 80 they collected were turned in by community members. That’s where Moody said they could use more help.
“Don’t shrug it off and make it someone else’s problem,” he said. “Do something about it. You see an unsafe act, give us a call. We’re not asking you to pick up a weapon and disarm it. You see a weapon somewhere, call us. We will come. We will take that weapon.”
“We just have to just go after them,” Chief Thomas Carter said at the news conference.
It’s part of a renewed effort by the department, at Carter’s direction, to target illegal guns. He told the mayor at the beginning of the year, he said, they needed a different approach to find and confiscate the weapons.
For the last few months, officers have been talking to people more, following up on suspicions, and actively chasing down illegal gun users.
“Those are opportunities where things can go sour with my police officers,” Carter said.
Jones appreciates the police effort, but he’s not convinced some limited success will hold up in the long run. “Once the guns are taken off the streets,” he said, “they’re replaced.”
Lamont is now part of the group Breaking the Chainz, an organization formed to teach young Harrisburg residents about why they shouldn’t take the path he and others did, and trying to give kids opportunities beyond the streets.
That’s what he thinks gets guns out of the wrong hands.
“Once you pull drugs away from them and the gang life away from them,” he said, “what do you replace it with? There needs to be a way that they can feed their family economically.”
“We just cry out again, not only for [the police] but for our own community to step up, some more of the men to step up.”