Police Chief: ‘Silence Leads to Violence’
The New Bedford Police Department isn't waiting around for at-risk youth to start using guns before they confiscate them. Starting immediately, they're coming right for them, but they need the public's help in knowing where to look.
"This idea of us being in paralysis by fear is hurting us," Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro told WBSM News. "Silence is leading to violence."
The New Bedford Police Department will be reaching out to individuals at risk of gang involvement and their families in an effort to convince them to surrender their guns. They will be visited within the next few days by a team that includes a police officer and outreach worker.
The plan is for police to go out right to the homes of individuals they know are at risk of getting involved with gangs or violence, and get them to give up their guns. The chief calls it "direct marketing," reaching out right to the families and urging them to do the right thing.
"We're going to go to those houses before we get the call (that something bad has happened). We're going to urge these loved ones, if they know they have the guns, if the parent or family members knows, they should be calling us and letting us know," Cordeiro said.
Cordeiro said last year, police took 74 guns off the streets of New Bedford, and have already seized 38 guns so far this year.
"A total of 112 guns, that's an incredible amount of work, of good old-fashioned police work, but that's because some of the public is coming forward and giving us information," Cordeiro said. "We completely rely on the public, and the only way we're going to have a higher rater of success in minimizing and preventing violence, especially gun violence, is to get the information from the public to us so that we can get them off the street."
"We're hoping we're going to have a little more success, but our successes are completely dependent on the level of cooperation and information we get from the community. That's the piece of the equation we really need to expand," he said.
The chief said it's possible those who are in possession of the guns could face charges as a result of them being surrendered, but that shouldn't deter people from coming forward.
"If a person gives up their gun, will they be charged? Yes, potentially there will be charges," Cordeiro said. "But from a practical standpoint, would we rather see someone charged and go to jail for six to eight months, or be a victim of a fatal shooting, or be the shooter now facing life in jail? The short-term will at least get the gun off the street, make the neighborhood safer and give the person time to change their life around."
Cordeiro praised the work of the men and women of the police force, but said there's only so much they can do.
"If we had enough money to put cops on every corner, it still doesn't get those guns off the street," he said. "What gets the guns off the street is information, with collaboration."
The chief also said there is a long-term program being in put in place starting with the next school year, putting more focus on reaching out to children in alternative schools and younger children who are at high risk of getting involved in gangs. He said the school resource officers at the city's middle schools are already working toward building strong relationships with the kids.
"That's what changes lives out here," he said.
Cordeiro urged the public to forward any information immediately, utilizing any of the following methods. Information can be relayed anonymously by calling the anonymous tip line at (508) 992-7463, e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or writing a letter with no return address to police headquarters at 871 Rockdale Ave., New Bedford, MA 02740. Tips may also be submitted online through the New Bedford Police Department website at newbedfordpd.com. Members of the public can also contact an officer they are familiar with.
"We're all in this together," Cordeiro said.