A new collaborative crackdown on gun violence in northern Jersey has netted 405 arrests and taken 76 weapons off streets since May, authorities announced Wednesday in Newark.
The Passaic River Corridor Initiative, an effort between New Jersey State Police and law enforcement agencies in Essex, Hudson, Bergen and Passaic counties, has also helped the Division of Criminal Justice obtain 18 indictments charging 28 people with various weapons charges, including illegal gun trafficking and possession.
"Each gun we see as a result of this initiative is potentially a lifesaver," said Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa. "Each serious repeat offender we take off the street is one less criminal who might pull the trigger."
The various agencies involved, including 18 local police departments from Paterson to Newark, are fighting gun violence through sharing intelligence and combining crime-solving efforts, since some offenders and weapons are related.
The initiative, which kicked off in May, also puts more state troopers in Passaic River corridor municipalities to make arrests and obtain intelligence of gun crimes.
Guns taken off the streets in the corridor area include an AK-47-style assault rifle with a large capacity magazine in Paterson, a .38-caliber revolver found in a black sock underneath a light post in Clifton, and a .22-caliber revolver hidden near a utility pole in Irvington.
Many guns seized in this area are from North and South Carolina and Pennsylvania, said Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio.
Authorities said firearms are hidden in easy-to-access locations because of severe penalties associated with being arrested while carrying an illegal weapon. A "community firearm" may be used in different shooting incidents.
Most guns seized through the initiative are taken for analysis to the Newark Police Department Ballistics Lab, which officials toured Wednesday following a press conference. At the lab, striations on bullets and shell casings are examined and then that information is stored in a database so connections between crimes can be made.
Ninety percent of the time, the lab is able to recover defaced serial numbers, said Firearms Examiner Sgt. Luke Laterza.
The initiative has already helped link gun crimes in corridor towns. An 18-year-old man was arrested Oct. 1 after brandishing a 9mm semiautomatic gun in front of a man and woman during a dispute. After his arrest, the gun was taken to the lab and test fired, which helped connect it to a Newark shooting on Garside Street, authorities said. That investigation is ongoing.
This year, the State Police Intelligence Section, which formed the Weapons Trafficking Units and more than doubled detectives handling those cases, has seized 323 guns statewide, compared to just 110 seized in 2011.
"It's a battle we need to spend our resources on because we have a very concentrated population in the state and we have places where these guns end up and they cause problems," said Chiesa. "We're going to continue to aggressively identify these places, continue to allocate resources and then once we get these cases, we're going to seek significant penalties."
In Newark this year, police have recovered more than 800 guns, representing a 37 percent increase over the past two years.
"Through the sharing of resources and intelligence, the entire region has benefited from our collective efforts which are demonstrated by today's display of weaponry and history of arrests," said DeMaio in a statement. "These weapons seizures are not just a victory for the communities where they were recovered but anywhere these illegal weapons may have been transported."
Police departments involved in the Passaic River Corridor Initiative:
- Elmwood Park
- East Rutherford
- North Arlington
- East Newark