How Phoenix police plan to reduce gun violence

Published: Thursday, January 19, 2023 - 4:52pm
Updated: Friday, January 20, 2023 - 5:00pm

A pilot program to address rising gun violence in Phoenix revealed some gaps in police efforts — gaps the department is now addressing.

Last summer, two house parties ended in gunfire and murder. Two people were killed, 13 hurt and 39 guns used. For the pilot program, Assistant Police Chief Anthony Vasquez said ten detectives focused on ballistic evidence and databases to track guns.

“The idea is to identify the links to the crime, to identify the suspects and hopefully in the process stop them from committing additional crimes,” he said.

Cmdr. Warren Brewer said best practices call for non-fatal shootings to be investigated the same way as homicides. In 2022, Phoenix had more than 500 non-fatal shootings. Detectives responded directly to about a hundred.

“That left over 400 that were not — did not have a detective response,” Brewer said. “Now those cases still went to the assaults unit but without a detective response we lose victim cooperation, witness cooperation and potentially evidence at the scene.”

Phoenix will create a permanent unit to investigate non-fatal shootings similar to Denver where police increased their clearance rate from 39% to 65% in the first seven months.

Between July and November 2022, Phoenix police impounded 1,980 guns. During the same period in 2021, the department impounded 1,948. Brewer told a council subcommittee that the department will leverage technology and intelligence to focus on the most active gun crimes. 

“We recently hired a criminal analyst in our crime gun intelligence unit so we do have one there,” he said. “That will help us to drive this intelligence led policing to address the most prolific trigger pullers.”

Phoenix, like many law enforcement agencies, believes most violent crimes are committed by a small fraction of the community and the goal is to identify, locate and arrest the offenders as quickly as possible and seize guns used to commit crimes.

As of early January, Phoenix had nearly 2,600 sworn officers. The City Council has approved funding for 3,125. Last June, leaders raised salaries to make Phoenix the highest-paid law enforcement agency in Arizona.

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