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N.Y. Gov. Hochul praises state police after record illegal gun seizures, violent crime drop outside NYC

The governor also announced a $50 million investment into police equipment, including license plate readers, drones and helicopters to fight auto theft

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“This is not just a one off,” Hochul said. “This is the type of aggressive policing that our state police have been engaged in every single day, and it’s borne out the numbers.” (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

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By Alex Gault
Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul on Monday announced that the New York State Police have been seizing record numbers of illegal firearms since she took office, and said that major crime reports are significantly down.

According to the governor, state police have been seizing 160% more illegal guns since she took office in August 2021.

In part, that’s thanks to a series of new gun laws the governor signed in 2022, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned New York’s more than 100-year-old prior gun control laws.

In the Concealed Carry Improvement Act of 2022, New York implemented a strong red flag law that allows concerned family, friends or care providers to raise concerns about an individual’s state of mind with the state court system, which can issue an extreme-risk order of protection, barring that person from purchasing weapons and allowing state police to seize all the guns they own.

While some gun rights advocates, including Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R- Willsboro, have criticized red flag laws as a violation of the 2nd Amendment, gun safety advocates including Hochul have said it’s a meaningful way to ensure average people can still purchase weapons while targeting gun removal to people who are at risk of misusing their firearms.

On Monday, Hochul said those court orders to remove an individual’s weapons and bar them from purchasing more have become much more widely used in the last year, up 1,300% in 2023 compared to 2022. In 2023, 1,385 red flag filings resulted in state police seizing 2,500 guns.

In 2024 so far, there have been 290 red flag filings resulting in the seizure of 590 guns.

There have been more extreme-risk orders of protection issued in the last two months than were issued in 2019, 2020 and 2021 combined.

Hochul spoke from the Latham headquarters of the New York State Police Troop G on Monday, to look at the results of a major illegal gun bust.

On a table near where she spoke, nearly a dozen rifles and gun components, some illegal military-style assault weapons, sat along with counterfeit money and 3D printers. They were seized Friday by the Troop G Special Investigations Unit in Rensselaer County, with the help of Department of Environmental Conservation rangers who had discovered the illegal items and called in the state police.

“This is not just a one off,” Hochul said. “This is the type of aggressive policing that our state police have been engaged in every single day, and it’s borne out the numbers.”

She said shootings are down by 36% from two years ago in the state excluding New York City, where the state police do not operate widely. Murder rates outside NYC are down 30% from two years ago, and major crime reports have decreased to the same historically low levels seen in 2017 and 2019.

Hochul also referenced the rash of car thefts seen post-pandemic across upstate New York; a social media trend had shown how Kia and Hyundai vehicles could be easily broken into and hot-wired, and a “challenge” emerged where young people were encouraged to attempt to steal as many of these vehicles as possible, posting the details on social media.

Vehicle thefts in Rochester reached an all-time peak in 2023, increasing more than 350% in the first half of 2023 compared to the first half of 2022. Buffalo saw a similar peak.

Hochul said she started looking at the problem last September, and thought about applying the same gun violence prevention model to car theft, joyriding and similar crimes in that realm.

“We call it the CARS strategy,” Hochul said. “Coincidentally, the comprehensive auto theft reduction strategy. It actually worked out like that.”

That strategy includes a $50 million investment into police equipment, including license plate readers, drones and helicopters to find and follow stolen cars, as well as stationing more state police troopers in cities and neighborhoods with especially egregious rates of auto theft.

“Many of these car thefts were being committed by teenagers, so at the same time we said let’s get these young people in a different direction and we put $5 million toward youth intervention programs,” she said.

Hochul said state data indicates that car theft reports are down 55% in Rochester, 45% in Buffalo, and 25% in Albany. Statewide, she said car impounds related to auto theft are up 20%.

Up next, Hochul said she plans to bring a similar focus to retail theft. Business trade groups have raised concerns about high rates of theft in urban and suburban stores following the pandemic, and Hochul has made retain theft a headline piece of her budget negotiations and agenda for this year.

“I’m putting these retail theft rings on notice,” she said. “You see how we go after the illegal gun traffickers. You saw how we went after the car thieves. Well guess what? You’re next.”


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