By Amanda Coscarelli
Anyone who lived to tell the story of 2020 knows it was not a normal year.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world, the United States was hit by another recession, and citizens across the country led a riotous fight for racial equality. These are causes, as William Grisafe, Pasadena Police Department’s special services lieutenant, stated of a steep rise in the number of guns collected throughout the city last year.
A record number of guns were seized as evidence of violent crimes among an increase in civil unrest. This upheaval threatens to jeopardize the power of the police force, as well as the overall safety of the city.
Of the many events that struck the country last year, the protests surrounding racial equality, namely due to the death of George Floyd, especially impacted police departments by lessening their authority.
As riots against law enforcement erupted throughout Los Angeles, police were stuck between a rock and a hard place. They were expected to maintain order and safety during the protests and riots, many of which were aiming hateful speech at the police system.
Numerous officers abused their power in retaliation, scarring their reputation. Grisafe blamed this as a core reason for an increase in gun violence.
“Many people think law enforcement officers are less willing to take enforcement action when a crime occurs because of the recent protests of police actions,” Grisafe said. “Without enforcement, there lacks a deterrent to commit crimes.”
In the city of Pasadena, statistics suggest that there is little to no deterrent.
According to Grisafe, based on the last community brief of the year, the city collected 288 guns in 2020. And almost 11% of firearms were unserialized.
“There was a 67% increase in guns that were seized as evidence,” Grisafe said.
The city also saw an 85% increase in crimes involving gun violence.
The department hopes to lower the number of guns collected in 2021. Gun violence can be prevented in a variety of ways, and it’s important to stop it at the source.
“The idea is to stop individuals from obtaining and using firearms before they use them,” Grisafe said. “Furthermore, the police department has the ability to take guns off of the streets through legal enforcement.”
The public also plays a large role in preventing gun violence, though.
“Intervention and prevention are also steps that can be done by the public; providing security, jobs and social programs that keep those who are susceptible to gang violence from turning to a gang lifestyle,” he said.
Organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club of Pasadena work to ensure a better future for youth who are susceptible to a gang lifestyle. They guide young men and women in making healthy decisions for academic success, character development and leadership. Their mission statement, “We enable children and youth in the community, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, healthy, and responsible citizens,” targets the kind of issues Grisafe and the rest of the Pasadena Police Department hope to resolve.
The goal is to limit the acquisition and use of guns throughout the city, however there is no plan to limit guns within the police force.
“Firearm discharges are very minimal in law enforcement and lethal force is only used when there is a danger to either a member of the public or the officers,” Grisafe said.
Though this may not be true for police departments around the country, the Pasadena Police Department intends to end violence caused by firearms for good. Their priority is to protect and maintain the safety of Pasadena — a responsibility they will continue to improve on as the public so entails.
In 2021, the Pasadena Police Department is hopeful that a decrease in gun violence and the number of guns in the city overall is in store. Grisafe said, “As we begin the new year, the police department will continue to work toward reducing the level of violence and minimize the number of guns on the street while addressing the other issues facing our country. It will definitely take the efforts of many in the community, to achieve these reductions.”