GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s been a busy couple of days for the Grand Rapids Police. They have been seizing a gun off the streets every four hours on average for the past two days.
“We’re rocking and rolling,” said Grand Rapids Police Lt. Pat Merrill Tuesday morning.
As the weather warms, violence typically goes up. Merrill says getting ahead of it is key.
“It sets a good tone for the year that you’re going to get locked up [if you're illegally carrying a handgun],” Merrill said. “The word is out there.”
Normally, Grand Rapids officers collectively seize “a gun or two a week,” Merrill said anecdotally.
Of the twelve guns taken off the streets Sunday and Monday, two of them were involved in shootings.
Several arrests have also been made in connection to the weapons.
“We’re not just getting guns, we’re getting people tied to them,” Merrill said.
Police don’t get to add more patrols as the summer rolls in, but they do change what they do with the ones they have.
“It’s just how you’re using them,” Merrill said. “It’s a matter of concentrating your personnel.”
The guns police collected were all on the city’s southeast side, Merrill said. Five of the guns were seized in a single incident as officers responded to a shots fired call at a house party over the weekend.
The group scattered as officers arrived and some dropped their weapons. In instances like that, officers are looking to DNA and fingerprint evidence to determine who had the weapons before they were ditched.
Merrill says most shootings are not planned but happen in the heat of an argument or fight. The real solution to much of the gun violence has to come from a shift in the mindset that so often leads to shootings.
“It’s too instinctive,” Merrill said. “If we can curtail the carrying of the handgun,” the shootings will drop off, he explained.
As an attest to the effectiveness of police getting the word out, Merrill pointed to a post detectives noticed on social media in the midst of an investigation.
“Man, they’re locking everybody up. Wonder who’s gonna be next,” Merrill described a Facebook post as saying.
“Two hours later, we locked him up,” Merrill said.
The suspect had an outstanding warrant for aggravated assault.
Getting the guns off the streets is only half the battle in sending the message that police are serious about this issue. Merrill says they also depend on the Kent County Prosecutor’s office to hold those arrested on weapons offenses accountable.
“They’re bringing down the hammer pretty good,” Merrill said, adding that most of the people they arrest are repeat offenders and face more serious penalties.
Police never know what they may have prevented when they get a gun off the streets. It’s one of the realities in what can so often be thankless work for the officers on the streets. Experience shows that the work makes a difference, as we enter the summer season, Merrill said.
“We’re geared up for that,” he said. “Otherwise, summer will get out of hand.”