Winston-Salem authorities say they have strived in recent weeks to get a handle on the criminal gun violence that has plagued the city in 2019.
Gun-related crimes are up 36.5% from the same time in 2018, according to Lt. Amy Gauldin of the Winston-Salem Police Department. That includes misdemeanors, such as carrying a concealed weapon, as well as more serious crimes, up to and including homicide.
In response, the police department initiated the Violent Firearms Task Force, headed by Gauldin, to get a better grip on violent crime and getting guns off the streets.
The task force is comprised of members from the department’s gang unit and the violent firearms investigation team. Gauldin said it has seen success in its first two weeks of action.
The task force seized 37 guns and arrested 27 people on gun-related charges in the previous two weeks, Gauldin said. Confiscating 37 guns in such a short period is significant and more than what police would normally seize in a similar time frame, she said.
“A lot of times there’s a few offenders responsible for a large amount of crime,” Gauldin said. “Hopefully by identifying those offenders and getting them in custody, we can get those guns off the street and get those numbers back down.”
Gauldin said some of this year’s gun violence is gang-related but she stopped short of delving into specific instances.
“There is some gang correlation with a small number of incidents, and there’s also some that are isolated incidents that stem from an argument that’s not related to gangs at all,” Gauldin said.
The task force patrols in areas that Gauldin describes as “high crime,” chosen by examining crime trends in the area.
Those areas are subject to change, she said, based on where gun crimes are taking place.
Part of the task force policing involves the use of the National Integrated Ballistics Network, a database of ballistic information that can link shootings by comparing recovered shell casings from one shooting with shell casings in other shootings in order to find any possible link.
As of Gauldin’s interview Tuesday morning, there had been no homicides in the city over the previous two weeks.
However, one person was killed and two other were injured in a robbery turned shooting Tuesday night.
Gauldin did not directly attribute the lack of homicides to the police department’s increased focus on removing guns from city streets. But she said that one focus of the task force is to reduce gun-related deaths.
“The task force is working these high-crime areas, and we’re hoping to reduce death and crime simultaneously,” she said.