PALMER PARK, Md. - The Prince George's County police department says it's launching a bold new initiative aimed at stripping the streets of illegal guns. Officers will go beyond just confiscating them to ultimately tracking down the traffickers.
"If you're illegally trafficking firearms in Prince George's County today, you can either stop or you can be in jail by the end of the year," says Deputy Chief Hank Stawinski matter-of-factly.
He and his team's message is clear: Break the law and you'll pay the price.
"Right now we're down 17 percent in violent crime so far this year [and] we're down 25 percent in shootings," says Police Chief Mark Magaw.
As crime continues to tumble in Prince George's County, police are trying something new to push those numbers even lower. They're partnering with the ATF and launching a summer strategy called "Follow the Firearm." It's a major gun trafficking crackdown.
The police department will take each gun and track its life story. Investigators will trace how many different hands it passed through and hopefully discover the supplier.
"We're committed to go after traffickers and I believe it will make a difference," says Magaw.
That's welcome news to 14-year resident Yael Fischman who recalls a frightening experience. "We heard a gunshot," she remembers.
A few years back, she and her husband were walking with their daughters when gunfire sent them hiding behind a tree. "We heard later that there had been a shooting and somebody ran off through a neighbor's yard," she says.
That's one more reason why she and others want those dealing guns illegally out of their neighborhood.
"Younger kids are getting to these guns and using them to commit violent crimes and sometimes it might not be violent crimes," says former Prince George's County resident Tasha Powell. "It's probably just show and tell, but I do feel it's a problem."
Prince George's County police have made great strides in keeping guns off the street. The "Gift Cards for Guns" program brought in 800 firearms. Officers hope this new effort, which runs throughout the month of August, will bring in even more illegal weapons.