PHOENIX — The Phoenix Police Department is partnering with county and federal agencies to combat gun violence as part of a new program called Operation Gun Crime Crackdown.
"As I testified before Congress last week in Washington D.C., we must do something to protect our children - and my officers - from gun violence,” Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said at the announcement of the program on Wednesday.
The answer they've developed will strengthen ties between the Phoenix Police Department and agencies involved in tracing and prosecuting gun crimes.
This includes things like sending detectives to parts of Phoenix with high rates of gun crime, working with federal partners like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to process evidence, as well as communicating with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and U.S. Attorney's Office on prosecution.
Williams said building these relationships will be beneficial.
"Phoenix police officers can go out and make an arrest," she explained, "But it's really the tracking of the gun and the ballistics, [it's] the prosecution and if we can have federal charges… having all those pieces come together is a force multiplier."
She acknowledged this is especially important as the Phoenix Police Department deals with staffing shortages.
Williams also stressed that the community is a necessary part of Operation Gun Crime Crackdown.
"Too many times, our communities have become immune to hearing gunfire in their neighborhoods and don't do anything," she said. "If you hear gunfire in your neighborhood, we need you to call 911."
With all the measures being taken, Williams also stressed the program is about getting guns out of the hands of criminals, not taking guns from everyday citizens.
Interim Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell explained how her office will play a part in the initiative.
"I have dedicated resources to ensure violent offenders who are arrested receive appropriate release conditions," she said. "To ensure those who threaten public safety are held accountable by courts."
Some cases may be referred to the U.S. Attorney - who is also supporting the program - if federal charges are a possibility.
Mitchell believes smart, targeted enforcement will keep the community safer.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego agrees and said Operation Gun Crime Crackdown solidifies fighting gun violence as a top priority for the city.
"We want you to be able to drop your kids off at school and not feel scared or afraid," Gallego said. "We want you to know that this community is doing everything we can to keep our kids and families safe."
Operation Gun Crime Crackdown will launch on July 5.