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HOT LINE SET TO REEL IN ILLEGAL ARMS GENESEE STATION PRECINCT IS TARGET OF NEW GUN PROGRAM

Standing in the middle of a precinct where 24 people were shot to death last year, Mayor Masiello and Police Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske today will announce a new Gun Interdiction Program targeting the Genesee Station precinct.

The program will be based on the assumption that the public can do more to help police confiscate illegal guns, thus reducing the number of homicides, assaults and drive-by shootings.

At an 11 a.m. press conference in the Genesee Station, Masiello and Kerlikowske will announce the new gun hot line, 854-GUNS (4867). This will be a confidential number that does not pass through the "911" system, thus allowing callers to remain anonymous.

The program also will include a new police patrol headed by Lt. Thomas Smith, with two to four precinct officers each night following up the phone tips, stopping suspicious vehicles, when warranted, and compiling evidence to obtain search warrants.

"We feel that with direct police patrols in these high-crime areas, we should be able to effectively reduce the gun crimes," Deputy Commissioner Rocco J. Diina said late Friday.

Police hope that the new tip line -- not to be used for emergency "911" situations -- will encourage people who have been reluctant to call police, thinking that they would be targeted for becoming involved.

"No one will know where they're calling from or what their address is," Genesee Station Capt. Martin Jurewicz said.

Top police brass realize that neighbors often know which people are cruising a neighborhood, carrying illegal guns and dealing drugs. Armed with tips about those individuals, officers will have a better chance to investigate them.

"These are seasoned officers who have a good knowledge of who the (crime) players are in that area," Diina said.

Police picked the Genesee Station because the precinct logged 30 homicides last year, 24 of them involving guns. Police officials believe that taking illegal weapons off those streets will help reduce the number of shootings.

People may use the hot line from any area of the city. Police officials hope that the tip line will help the city surpass last year's record of 1,341 guns seized throughout the city.

The new program is similar to one already operating successfully in Indianapolis. Smith visited Indianapolis to study that program before he and other police officials revised it to meet the precinct's needs.

If the program works well in the Genesee Station precinct, city officials hope to expand it to other areas.

"It's been successful in other cities, and we want to try it here," Jurewicz said.

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