Proliferation of guns - Success of buyback highlights problem

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News that more and more guns are being pulled off the streets of Coney Island comes with an ammunition magazine filled with mixed emotions for the cops of the 60th Precinct.

While they’re gratified with the knowledge that gun arrests are up in the command, the fact that 130 firearms could be collected in the neighborhood in one day through a special “buy back” initiative may be a cause of concern.

“I noted it,” Deputy Inspector Robert Johnsen, the commanding officer of the 60th Precinct told this paper Tuesday when asked if he was surprised by the amount of firearms that were recovered at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Solace, 1717 Mermaid Avenue, last Saturday.

At the time, Our Lady of Solace was participating in the Kings County District Attorney’s Gun Buy Back program, in which people were allowed to hand over of their firearms for a $200 bank card – no questions asked.

Six churches in total were involved in the one day event, in which 411 guns, rifles, shotguns and sawed-off shotguns were collected.

Prosecutors said that 130 of the weapons – about one third of the haul – were collected at Our Lady of Solace.

“I’m happy that 411 guns were collected and was even happier to learn that over 100 guns were taken off our streets,” he said. “But this shows that we have to continue to be vigilant.”

“The moment you blink, the guns come back,” he said. “Getting rid of guns is one of our goals in ridding street crime from our area.”

Johnsen said that so far this year, cops from the 60th Precinct have made 28 gun arrests.

By mid-September, 2007, 21 gun arrests had been logged with the West 8th Street precinct, Johnsen said.

The officers who had made nine of these gun arrests were honored at Tuesday’s 60th Precinct Community Council as Cops of the Month.

Johnsen said that Police Officers Adam Torres, Anthony Maida, Richard Vargas, Michelle Gangi and Sergeant Anthony Guadagno – all members of the 60th Precinct’s plain clothes Anti-Crime team – were responsible for taking four guns off the street during one bust back in August. Nine suspects were arrested.

“These guys combat violent street crime every day,” Johnsen told council members. “The guns they take off the street could have been used for numerous other crimes and other robberies that would have put a drain on city resources.”

“It may sound exciting, but being in an anti-crime unit is probably one of the most dangerous jobs we have,” Johnsen said. “They’re the ones who have to confront criminals and see that split second of doubt in the perp’s eyes, knowing that the wrong move could put you and your fellow officers in danger.”

Since they work “plain clothes,” the officers are never in the public eye, he said.

“Besides, they make better arrests than they do pictures,” Johnsen joked.

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