Article Launched: 08/12/2005 12:00:00 AM
LAPD gun tracking effort will be tested in Valley
By Dan Laidman, Staff Writer
The Los Angeles Police Department's Devonshire division will become a testing ground for a new campaign to fight gun crime by prosecuting gun owners who improperly transfer their weapons, officials announced Thursday.
Local police and prosecutors are joining with the state attorney general to ramp up enforcement of existing laws aimed at keeping legal gun owners from turning over their firearms to those who would commit crimes.
In addition to more prosecutions, the officials plan to send letters to every new gun owner in the division's jurisdiction which covers Chatsworth and Northridge, as well as parts of Canoga Park, Granada Hills and Winnetka and another test area in South Los Angeles, warning of criminal penalties if gun transfers are not properly documented.
"Owning a firearm carries with it a great deal of responsibility," said City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. "This effort is intended to make sure gun owners live up to that responsibility."
When guns change hands, the law requires that a form be filled out that allows state authorities to conduct a background check on the new owner. However, officials say many criminals are receiving weapons informally from friends, family and other acquaintances.
Delgadillo and his partners in the campaign, the Los Angeles Police Department and the state attorney general, want to inform gun owners that bypassing the paperwork on such transfers could result in criminal consequences such as fines or a year in jail. The letters will be accompanied by billboards and radio advertisements.
The Devonshire division was chosen because police there recover the second largest number of guns used in crimes compared with other divisions, second only to South Los Angeles, officials said.
Between July 2003 and June 2004, authorities recovered 283 crime-related guns in the Devonshire division, according to the Attorney General's Office. Of those, 137 had been in the possession of someone other than the legal purchaser.
"Too many violent crimes in our communities are the result of guns falling into the wrong hands," said Attorney General Bill Lockyer in a prepared statement.
Delgadillo, who is running to succeed Lockyer next year, met with some skepticism Thursday while announcing the plan to a gathering of community group members and reporters at the LAPD's 77th Street station.
Hollis Dillon, who used to teach in the surrounding South Los Angeles neighborhood and still owns property there, was one of several attendees to question the city attorney. He appreciates the effort and supports law enforcement, he said, but doubts if threatening legal gun owners with jail will have much effect on crime.
"The guy who is a criminal, he believes he's beyond going to jail anyway," he said. "He doesn't have that fear."
Dan Laidman, (213) 978-0390