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SDPD Announces Crackdown On Violent Crime, 'Ghost Guns'

Police cars parked in the Gaslamp District following a fatal shooting, April 22, 2021.
Jared Aarons/10 News
Police cars parked in the Gaslamp District following a fatal shooting, April 22, 2021.

City officials in San Diego Wednesday announced a new slate of law enforcement strategies designed to curb a recent surge in local violent crime, and address a worrisome proliferation of unregistered "ghost guns."

"Our city is experiencing an increase in violent crime — specifically gun violence — that has to be addressed," Mayor Todd Gloria said. "This plan is a commonsense approach to reduce crime and protect San Diegans in every neighborhood."

SDPD Announces Crackdown On Violent Crime, ‘Ghost Guns’
Listen to this story by Melissa Mae.

RELATED: San Diego Takes Initiatives Against Gun Violence


Spurring the changes in San Diego Police Department policy, according to SDPD officials, is a rash of violent crime that has plagued the city this year, a series of offenses that include:

— Seven gang-related homicides, compared with four in 2020;

— Three attempted-homicide cases, compared with one at this time last year;

— A total of 34 assaults with a deadly weapon, compared with 19 in 2020; and

— Nine drive-by shootings, compared with two in 2020.


"The increased violence our communities are experiencing is cause for new measures to address it," Police Chief David Nisleit said. "Our Violence Reduction Plan and new Ghost Gun Team will combine proactive policing with special investigations to use knowledge and expertise to find those who are causing this violence and stop it before it happens. Every San Diegan deserves to feel safe, and we believe these efforts will help us in reaching that goal."

The new policing measures, according to Nisleit, include:

— Assigning additional investigative personnel and specialized teams to violent and firearm-related crimes;

— Gathering information and performing "intelligence-led" enforcement of suspected problem areas;

— Sharing intelligence and maintaining contact with outside agencies; and

— Utilizing added investigative techniques to monitor, locate and arrest wanted suspects and those illegally possessing firearms.

RELATED: San Diego Police Grapple With Six-Month Surge Of Violent Crime

The plan, which officially went into effect last Friday, will be reassessed monthly, according to police.

San Diego Police Captain Matt Novak says this team will conduct proactive ghost gun investigations and assist other departments as well.

“We will work as a resource to kind of handle the ghost gun angle of it and make sure that that is taken care of efficiently and we get as many ghost guns as we can off the street,” Novak said.

City Councilman Raul Campillo praised the SDPD for its upgraded and targeted enforcement plans.

"I have personally seen the lifesaving effects that commonsense firearm-safety measures can have as a former member of City Attorney's Gun Violence Response Unit," Campillo said. "We urgently need to take action to protect our neighborhoods from untraceable ghost guns, which have sadly been used in numerous homicides in San Diego."

Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert asserted that city officials "must do everything possible to protect our neighborhoods from rising gun violence."

"In San Diego and around the country, gun violence is fueled by the spread of non-serialized, untraceable ghost guns, and San Diego must do everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals," she said. "Now is the time to act to protect our communities, and I commend the San Diego Police Department for their efforts to combat gun violence with the creation of the newly established Ghost Gun Team."

Video: San Diego police create team solely focused on rapid spread of ghost guns

RELATED: San Diego Police Department Sees Rise In ‘Ghost Guns’

The specialized firearm unit will serve as a resource to patrol officers, detectives and specialized policing units when ghost guns — homemade, kit-built firearms that lack serial numbers — are discovered during an arrest or investigation, according to SDPD officials.

The department has already recovered more ghost guns in the first half of this year than it did in all of 2020, police said. The vast majority of the weapons are seized from people who cannot pass state or federal background checks because of a criminal conviction involving a felony or violent misdemeanor.

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