Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins holds briefing on warmer weather concerns
With warmer weather here, Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins briefed reporters today on the department's strategy to combat crime this summer.
At police headquarters on Henry Johnson Boulevard, Hawkins stressed a renewed focus on community engagement leading into warmer months. He says the most recent shootings have involved people who know each other and have resorted to gun violence to settle their differences.
"Most of the information that we have as anecdotal," said Hawkins. "But before we started to see this proliferation of guns in the streets, you know, we were seeing the same sorts in the same pace of conflicts between people, but do we just weren't seeing people shooting each other at the rate that we're seeing them shoot each other as a result of these conflicts. And so that's why it's been critically important for us to have the help and assistance of the members of our community. And in many of these cases where we've arrested these individuals for having these weapons, they've come in through tips. People are calling us, people are anonymously giving us information. They're networking through other various means to make sure that we get the information that we need to identify some of these people."
Hawkins says 60 guns have been taken off the streets. He says the line of communication to the community is a great asset to law enforcement.
“We've almost got double the weapons off the street as we had last year, a 50% increase in the number of gun arrests from last year," Hawkins said. "Our closure rate on a lot of these cases is in the 90’s plus. So in the vast majority of the cases of violence that we have in the city, we identify a suspect, and we arrest and charge those suspects.”
The rise in gun violence is part of a national trend since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan agrees shootings have decreased significantly so far this year. In an extended WAMC interview, the Democrat said help from the community is key to making the streets safer:
“It takes great detective work, it takes the community working with the police," said Sheehan. "That is key, building trust within the community and ensuring that we're doing all that we can to support those who are willing to come forward and say ‘I don't want this in my neighborhood.’”
Hawkins says APD is also monitoring the ATV and dirt bike problem, also relying on help from the community.
“We have a hotline now that allows us to get information from the community about where they're being stored. When are these events being scheduled?" Hawkins said "See, that's what's more important to us, because now we can take a more proactive approach in taking them off the street. We can catch them when they're unloading, for example, or if they're bringing in these trailers full of these ATVs and dirt bikes, we can intercept the trailer or catch the trailer when the trailer stops and then prevent this from happening. “
Hawkins says it's too dangerous to chase riders through city streets, but Sheehan says that does not mean they don’t try to stop them. She defended city police after a recent video showed a police vehicle running into a young rider on a dirt bike when it stopped short:
“And he became surrounded by other dirt bikers one of whom stopped short in front of the police vehicle so the police vehicle hit it. You know, these are people engaging in dangerous dangerous activity and somebody's gonna get killed. It's just, it's it's so frustrating to see,” said Sheehan.
The hotline to report dirt bikes on city streets is 518-462-1818