Pennsylvania Is Tracking a Record Number of Crime Guns

gun violence
Track+Trace shows increased data sharing in first year

HARRISBURG, PA — Attorney General Josh Shapiro this week released the first annual report card on the Office’s Track + Trace initiative. Track + Trace, launched in July 2019, is a collaborative, data-driven approach to decreasing gun trafficking and illegal transfers and ensuring illegal and crime guns are taken out of neighborhoods across Pennsylvania.

“The scourge of gun violence in Pennsylvania is unacceptable, and we’re going to keep pushing for new ways to stop crime guns from getting into our neighborhoods and prevent shootings until the violence ends,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

“A year after we launched, local police are able to identify a record number of crime guns, allowing investigators to go after the source and help prevent shootings. It is my office’s responsibility to enforce the laws on the books—and that is exactly what we are doing through Track + Trace.”

In the year since the Track + Trace launch, the Office of Attorney General has seen success in its efforts to combat gun trafficking in Pennsylvania. This initiative focuses on enforcing established Pennsylvania state laws and increasing awareness surrounding gun trafficking and its implications.

The core areas of Track + Trace include law enforcement logging and sharing information on gun recoveries, moving gun retailers to use eRecord of sale instead of paper records, and educating people on the dangers of engaging in straw purchases.

  • The number of gun purchases being run through eRecord of sale has increased 600%;
  • The number of law enforcement agencies sharing crime gun data has increased 68%;
  • The number of gun trace reports shared in law enforcement between July 2019 and July 2020 has increased 824%.
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Law enforcement collaboration is crucial to getting crime guns off our streets and addressing gun trafficking in our Commonwealth. When Track + Trace launched, 70 police departments were sharing data, now that number is 117. Earlier this year, the data sharing and law enforcement partnerships Track + Trace has built led our office and the New Jersey Attorney General’s office to gun traffickers selling the firearm used to kill 2-year-old Nikolette Rivera in Philadelphia.

“Tracing firearms is an essential part of our ATF mission and eTrace is just one of the unique capabilities we use to accomplish this,” said acting Special Agent in Charge John Schmidt, ATF Philadelphia Field Division. “We are very pleased to see such a proactive use of the program and we encourage other law enforcement agencies across the country to take advantage of eTrace. By using eTrace, the National Tracing Center and our expertise in ballistics through NIBIN, we work closely with our local partners on apprehending those responsible for gun crimes and ensuring no further harm comes to members of our community.”

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“The Track + Trace initiative is all about preventing firearms from reaching the street and being used in crimes,” said Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele. “By working with firearms dealers, the program allows for intelligence-driven policing to target firearms trafficking on different levels and to identify patterns, techniques and methods used by gun traffickers. It’s a big step in the right direction.”

For investigators and law enforcement agencies across Pennsylvania, it is imperative when recovering a crime gun to have easy access to the information on the firearm’s original purchaser. This process is made cumbersome by gun retailers across Pennsylvania still using dated paper records of sale which need to be submitted to the Pennsylvania State Police by mail. Track + Trace works with gun dealers to update technology and move to paperless eRecord of sale to ensure accurate and instant data.

Since the launch, we have partnered with Pennsylvania’s top gun retailers to implement eRecord of sale, decreasing the backlog of paper records by 9 months.

As a part of Track + Trace, the Office of Attorney General provided a grant to Operation LIPSTICK to educate women in Philadelphia, in collaboration with the local nonprofit Mothers In Charge, about the dangers of making gun purchases on behalf of prohibited purchasers.

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This organization launched efforts in November 2019 and partnered with the School District of Philadelphia to implement intimate workshops for young people to discuss issues in their communities that could lead them to criminal activity such as straw purchasing or gun trafficking.

“As a result of participating in the LIPSTICK, I have seen a noticeable increase in the self-confidence and leadership of our female participants,” said Dr. Toni Damon, Principal of Dobbins CTE High School. “The girls who participated in this program have not only began to advocate for themselves, they have become leaders, organizers, and are sharing this news with other students. I am forever grateful to Mothers In Charge and Attorney General Josh Shapiro for bringing this program to Dobbins.”

More information about Track + Trace can be found at www.attorneygeneral.gov/gunviolence/.

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