Gun Violence Task Force
Started in December 2006 as a joint effort by the District Attorney's Office and the Office of the Attorney General. This task force is comprised of veteran police officers and assistant district attorneys with the primary goal of aggressively investigating and prosecuting the sources of illegal firearms used in crimes throughout Philadelphia. To report an illegal handgun, or to have a firearm removed from a property, call the Gun Violence Task Force Hotline at (215) 686-9585.
The Philadelphia Gun Removal Program
The Philadelphia Gun Removal Program is a resource to which family and neighbors can turn for assistance in taking guns out of our homes and neighborhoods.
The Origin of the Program
The Gun Removal Program is modeled after the highly successful "Consent to Search" program which originated in St. Louis, Missouri. At a community meeting there in 1993, a woman complained to a police supervisor about a problem house in her neighborhood where juveniles were repeatedly seen with guns while the mother was out. When the police supervisor tried to explain how a full investigation would have to be undertaken to obtain a search warrant for the property, the woman replied "Why don't you just go knock on the door and ask the mother if you can search the house?" The Consent to Search program was born.
Its purpose was to remove illegal firearms, particularly those possessed by juveniles, without seeking criminal prosecution. Residents were informed that by providing a written consent to search, no one in the household would be charged with illegal possession of the firearm.
Police began to knock on doors identified by the community and ask parental permission to search for illegal weapons. Community response was overwhelming, especially in neighborhoods with high levels of gun violence. 98% of those approached consented to a search of their premises, and guns were found in half of the homes searched. One parent even offered to sign several predated permission forms so that the police could return at random. Another mom wanted to give police a key so that could search while she was at work. The Program was subsequently nominated for a federal award.
How It Works in Philadelphia
The Philadelphia program operates in much the same way as its precursor in St. Louis. Citizens who would like to report a property where illegal guns are believed to be kept should call the Gun Violence Task Force at (215) 686-9585. Experienced officers, trained to take a "low-key" approach, will then visit the property, speak to an adult resident, and request permission to search for illegal weapons. In exchange for such permission, the District Attorney's Office will promise in writing that should any illegal firearms be located in the premises, no one will be charged with illegal possession of the firearms. Should any located firearms be traced to prior crimes, charges may be filed against the individuals who committed those prior crimes. To record this agreement, a written consent form signed by the District Attorney's Office will be provided to the adult resident.