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Springfield PD targets getting guns off the street after rise in violent crimes during first quarter of 2022

Published: May. 19, 2022 at 5:47 PM CDT|Updated: May. 19, 2022 at 7:29 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams reported to the city council this week that while crime is down overall, violent crime is up to seven percent so far this year while aggravated assaults are up 20 percent.

He attributed much of that to an increase in gun violence.

“This issue with gun violence is absolutely worse than it’s ever been,” Williams said. “But it’s not unique to us. We had a double-homicide last weekend, yet it was overshadowed by events in Buffalo (N.Y.), St. Louis, and Chicago, where they had dozens of people shot and killed. But people need to be aware it is an issue here. We’re a big city. I hate using the small town, big city comparison. But no, we’re a big city.”

Last weekend’s shooting in a parking lot just off the downtown square that killed two men in their 20′s is yet another reminder that Springfield is no longer what people once called “a big small town.”

“We’ve had multiple occasions of stuff like this,” said Austin Faust, who was walking home from work in the downtown area when he heard the gunshots late Friday night. “At this point, I’m pretty used to it.”

But businesses downtown don’t want that image of being an unsafe area.

“The Downtown Community Improvement District invests over $100,000 annually in supplemental police patrols,” explained Rusty Worley, the Executive Director of the Downtown Springfield Association. “We work to try to identify areas where we can enhance lighting and security cameras. The police can’t do this all on their own. That’s why business owners and residents all have to have a stake in taking ownership of safety and security.”

The police are putting more of an emphasis on getting guns off the street. So far, they’ve confiscated 92 illegal firearms over the first four months of 2022 compared to 150 all of last year.

“Those guns we’ve seized have all come from criminals,” Williams pointed out. “It’s during the course of an investigation, whether it’s a shooting or narcotics investigation, a search warrant, or a traffic stop. I don’t want people to think that we’re seeking to take guns away from people. That is not the case. We seek to take guns away from criminals. Responsible, legal gun owners have nothing to fear.”

Williams is also concerned about more drive-by and shots-fired incidents like an alleged road rage event earlier this week that started at a Braum’s in west Springfield and ended up in the arrest of a woman on Glenstone Avenue. According to police, a handgun was used to shoot at another car after an argument over cigarettes at a convenience store.

Williams says a state law passed in 2016 that allows residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit, criminal background check, or firearms training has contributed to the problem.

“It’s put guns in the hands of people who normally wouldn’t carry one, and they carry it because it’s cool,” he said. “And it’s not. We’ve had this increase in irresponsible gun use by irresponsible gun owners that use them to settle disputes because they lose a fight or argument. They never would have thought about it before, but it just injects a firearm into a situation where normally it wouldn’t be, and that results in more aggravated assaults, more shots fired, and more people being hurt and injured.”

Williams also pointed out a notable drop in respect for law enforcement officers.

“There’s less respect for authority, and I’ve been preaching that for ten years,” Williams said. “It starts with schools and families. The police are the tip of the spear for government and authority, so we get a lot of that and have put up with it for a long time. But there is absolutely less respect for authority and law enforcement all across the country. Here in Springfield, we’re still blessed with a hugely supportive community when it comes to 90-95 percent of the people we come across. But it’s that small percentage that seems to get more angry and more confrontational and make our job more difficult.”

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