Across the nation it appears that shootings are up. If you listen to
some talking heads on TV, you will hear several theories on why this is
so. I recently heard COVID get blamed in a roundabout way. They said
that was because people have been cooped up for so long. First, the
“cooping up” that came on last year at this time has slowly eroded away
since at least the autumn of 2020, thus that excuse doesn’t hold water.
Also, the vast, vast majority of people who have been “cooped up”
during COVID are not, repeat, are not going out there and shooting people.
When I mention shootings I’m not just talking about “mass” shootings
where four or more people are shot and/or killed in one incident. That
is horrific enough. Under that definition there have been 147 mass
shootings in this nation through mid-April. I am also talking the many
incidents that do not rise to the level of four or more shot/killed.
It’s the one or two shot on a street corner, the shots fired in a
crowded mall, the neighborhood party that is suddenly overtaken with
gunfire. It is the instance when an innocent child is caught in a
crossfire and their life is tragically snuffed out.
In 2003, I commanded the Miami Police Crime Suppression Unit, which
served as a jump out unit, in many of the gun-crime ridden parts of the
city. After a sharp uptick in shootings where people got gunned down in
cross fires, an operation was formed to stop this out-of-control
violence. It ran for a total of about four months. In that time 80
guns were seized. Here is the kicker though; of those 80 guns, 50 were
seized in the first ten days.
I recall making my analysis of the entire operation. The residual
effect was profound. Shootings and crimes in general decreased by
double digits and remained that way for four to five months after the
operation. The one point I spoke of endlessly, and it fits like a glove
today, was the fact that 50 of 80 recovered firearms were recovered
right off the bat. In other words, the word had not gotten out yet that
the police had a massive operation going and if you are walking around
with a concealed firearm there is a pretty darn good chance you would be
going to jail.
That was my theory to my superiors once “Operation Relentless”
concluded. Prior to the operation, people felt safe enough to walk
around with handguns concealed on their person. They felt comfortable
doing that, not concerned that they would get caught. They did not feel
they were going to be challenged on the street by law enforcement.
During the operation we had no firearm discharges and thankfully, there
were no instances of anyone pointing a weapon and/or firing at us. I
would say we were quite fortunate. But I would also say that it was a
very well-thought-out operation utilizing a massive number of undercover
officers. It was a logical response to a rising trend that was getting
Are we looking at the same scenario now in 2021? Have people gotten
smug enough to carry concealed guns on them with impunity, believing
that they will not be challenged by police? If so, it is equally
important to learn why they would feel that way? What are we doing
wrong? Or perhaps more importantly, what are we not doing?
Without casting my own theories, it is probably imperative that we
collectively, as law enforcement professionals, look carefully and
wisely into why a new comfort zone exists for the illegal gun-toting
populace. Once we can define that, we need to quickly find a way to
change that perception.
It is not going to get better on its own.