PROVIDENCE, R.I (WPRI) — As the San Bernardino shooting massacre raises questions about gun violence in the United States, local city officials are working to make sure things stay safe here in Rhode Island.
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s Advisory Council to Reduce Gun Violence, formed just last month by the Mayor’s first executive order, held its first meeting Thursday afternoon.
Elorza said during the meeting he wants permanent and concrete solutions to the gun violence issue. To assist in finding those solutions, he organized the 11-person council.
“We’re here because we want to make a difference and so it’s not just about some feel-good initiative,” he said. “There has to be some concrete actions and results as a result of it.”
Using statistics, some as recent as Wednesday, the city is reporting the number of people shot in Providence has dropped by about 20-percent in comparison with last year.
“If we discuss it here and the recommendation is that we seek legislation at the state level or seek legislation by ordinance at the city level or take action by executive order, that’s what we are here to do,” Elorza said.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare was on hand for the meeting. He said the city is not looking to put more kids in jail.
“We’re not going to put more kids, particularly black kids, in jails here,” Pare said.
The council will report every year, giving recommendations to address illegal guns and gun violence.
“There are a number of ways we can work with our partners throughout New England because the truth is that guns and crime – they don’t respect municipal boundaries,” Elorza said. “They don’t respect state boundaries. And they’re coming back and forth with ease.”
According to Providence Police Chief Col. Hugh Clements, officers respond to at least 1,000 calls each year related to three situations – man with a gun, shots fired or a shooting.
“On certain nights, you’ll hear back to back to back calls – all sectors of the city and they’re real calls,” Clements said.
So far this year, 73 people have been shot in the capital city – a number which is down from last year.
Police said the majority of shootings happen on the West and South ends of the city, and they happen mostly on weekends.
So far this year, based on data that accounts for up until November 28:
- 192 guns have been seized by police, 32 of which were stolen
- 19 had obliterated serial numbers
In connection to the guns that were taken by police, 105 people have been arrested – 37 who are known gang members.
“It’s minorities that are getting shot and killed and it’s minorities, the black community, that are perpetrating these crimes and so it’s a waste of human life,” Pare said.
The mayor’s council, compromised of police officers and community leaders, is now facing the task of finding solutions to the city’s gun violence problems.