Guns con­trolled

Peters­burg po­lice dis­play por­tion of 283 firearms con­fis­cated in 2018

The Progress-Index Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Sean Jones Staff Writer

PETERS­BURG — The Peters­burg Bureau of Po­lice re­cently tal­lied the num­ber of firearms of­fi­cers con­fis­cated in 2018 at 283. This was an in­crease over the num­ber of guns seized in 2017, the year when Chief of Po­lice Ken­neth Miller took charge of Peters­burg.

“What we care about is safety in our com­mu­nity,” Miller said. “If we take guns

away from the sit­u­a­tion, it cre­ates an op­por­tu­nity for di­a­logue and a con­ver­sa­tion starts. Then maybe, just maybe, just maybe, a per­son won’t die.”

After the guns are cat­a­logued and their re­spec­tive court cases are de­cided, they will be de­stroyed. A com­mon prac­tice around the coun­try is to re­sell seized firearms to the com­mu­nity through gun shops or pawn shops, only to be found at an­other crime scene. The Peters­burg po­lice will over­see the weapons’ dis­man­tling to as­sure that all es­sen­tial weapon parts are no longer func­tional.

Miller ref­er­enced a re­cent in­ci­dent in which a do­mes­tic dis­pute es­ca­lated after one of the peo­ple in­volved called a fam­ily mem­ber for help. That fam­ily mem­ber ar­rived with a shot­gun. Miller said his of­fi­cers are forced to com­bat this weapon-ready cul­ture on a daily ba­sis and it is some­thing they are work­ing des­per­ately to change.

“What it’s telling is re­ally sad for our com­mu­nity,” Miller said. “It tells us that peo­ple are prey­ing on the com­mu­nity through fear by us­ing and sell­ing these firearms. Some­body has to stand up and say no.”

A large con­fer­ence ta­ble cov­ered in firearms on dis­play at the po­lice sta­tion was only a fourth of what the po­lice seized dur­ing the year. All of these guns were taken with­out a shot be­ing fired from ei­ther side of the al­ter­ca­tion.

“Some­thing that you can’t for­get is that they’re do­ing this with­out in­ci­dent,” Miller said. “These of­fi­cers are us­ing their skillset and their in­ge­nu­ity to legally get these things from of­fend­ers, of­ten con­victed felons, with­out in­jur­ing them­selves or that per­son. That’s the virtue of polic­ing and that’s why we’re here. I’ll take that kind of po­lice work ev­ery day of the week.”

Miller him­self is a gun owner but said he be­lieves in re­spon­si­ble gun own­er­ship.

“Own­ing a firearm is like own­ing a motor vehicle: it's not your right, it’s a priv­i­lege,” he said. “It’s your right to breathe, but not to own a gun. That is a priv­i­lege.”

Sargeant Robert Elkins has been work­ing in ev­i­dence for more than 30 years. He said the guns that have come in over the time he’s been work­ing have trended to­ward more ri­fles and ex­tended mag­a­zines, which can in­crease the num­ber of bul­lets in a firearm from 14 to 30.

He said cit­i­zens have a cru­cial role to play in mak­ing the city a safer place.

“A lot of those weapons would have never been taken if the com­mu­nity

didn’t tell us, ‘Hey, this is what’s go­ing on, you need to come deal with this,’” Elkins said. “There’s a lot more guns out there, even though 283 in a city this size is pretty over­whelm­ing.”

[SEAN JONES/PROGRESS-IN­DEX.COM]

Kim­berly Knauer and Bill Bergamini, of the Peters­burg Po­lice ev­i­dence team in charge of doc­u­ment­ing weapons, stand with about one­fourth of the weapons seized by the Po­lice De­part­ment in 2018.

[SEAN JONES/ PROGRESSINDEX.COM]

This shot­gun and scoped ri­fle were among the 283 weapons con­fis­cated in 2018 by Peters­burg Po­lice.

[SEAN JONES/PROGRESSINDEX.COM]

These four sidearms were among the guns con­fis­cated dur­ing 2018 by Peters­burg Po­lice.

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