Yonkers cops tackle ‘community guns’ with unique approach

Posted at 7:44 PM, Jun 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-13 19:44:15-04

Yonkers, NEW YORK (PIX11) — Is an ideal place to hide a shared burner in the weeds of an empty lot?  Also known as a hammer, could it be found inside a discreet garbage can?  Or can the biscuit, as others have called it, be discovered inside of construction pylon?

They may have a variety of names attached to them, but law enforcement knows them as community guns. These are shared firearms that can be accessed by several members of a neighborhood.  In most cases, they are teens who are on the verge of committing a crime.

Yonkers Police Commissioner Charles Gardner knows these illegal weapons and their history all too well, “We have found that one firearm, once we recovered it and did the ballistics, was responsible for 8 separate shootings here in the City of Yonkers.”

On Thursday, the Police Commissioner along with Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano touted the city’s highly successful anonymous tip line as well as the safety of the city. Shootings are down by 80% and Yonkers is the fourth safest city in America according to the FBI’s Uniformed Crime Report.

There are two reasons for this. One is a joint-task force initiative with the FBI that Mayor Spano describes as, “fantastic.”

And the city implementing technology like Shot Spotter to track down illegal guns as well as perps. The system detects gun shots and it comes up on a map actually and pinpoint the exact location of the shot within fifteen feet,” said Commissioner Gardner, before quickly adding, “It has fixed sensors and it also has video that turns in the direction of the gun shots.”

PIX11 News turned its cameras in the direction of residents, where the unwritten rule of the streets quickly emerged: don’t talk about the neighborhood.

Most residents approached refused to talk to PIX11 News on camera.

Not Laura Silva. The 47-year-old had no issues sharing her thoughts on crime in Yonkers, “It has improved, a lot.”

PIX11 News chatted with her in the section of Elm and Oak Streets.  This was once the turf of the Elm Street Wolves, the type of place to be avoided at night as well as during the day.

A few years back, buying a gun on the streets could be done in an instant according to Silva, “No time, five minutes.”

The lifelong resident said those days are now gone.  As for community guns? Silva knows all about them, but says their presence is diminishing, “It goes from one person to another, to another, not uncommon at all.  Well it used to be, now I don’t hear anything.”