“We are seeing way more firearms and guns in the community than we’ve ever seen. We are seizing them with an arrest, and these are not easy arrests, at record clips.”

On Pulse of Providence, with reporter Steph Machado, Chief Clements discussed the ongoing surge in gun violence in our capital city.

Below is an excerpt from the video interview. You can watch the interview here. 

Chief Clements on Surge in Gun Violence Nov 2021

On the number of guns and gun violence:

“To date we have 183 guns taken off the streets which I believe is the highest number in my recollection in years, with 164 arrests. In the month of November we made 19 gun arrests – that’s staggering, that’s a staggering number. And all these firearms are real nice weapons, they’re .40 calibers, 9 millimeters, 357 pythons, many of them have extended clips … more deadly force being used in particular shooting incidents.”

On where the guns are coming from: 

“In Rhode Island most of them will be bought locally, many make the streets in the black market … somebody with a clean record buy[s] it locally or out of state and start[s] bringing guns into a certain group or a certain set of individuals because they can’t legally buy nor possess so that’s how they get them in their hands … straw purchases is a big avenue for those possessions.”

On prevention vs. enforcement:

Prevention is “a huge part of our recipe for success. This is a huge responsibility, a public health responsibility for the community. It can’t just be the police department dealing with gun violence, we know we can’t arrest our way out of this alone.  There has to be a multi-disciplinary approach to attacking gun violence. And that has been part of our success over the year along with our true partners in the community, in particular the Nonviolence Institute. But enforcement is a huge piece, so when we’re taking 19 guns off the street from November 1st alone, that is huge. You think about the lives we’ve saved or the non-fatal injuries – each one of those guns could have shot several people … we’ve saved countless injuries, if not lives.

On shootings getting deadlier and diverting calls to social agencies so police can focus on crime and violence:

“We were one of the first in the region to have clinicians ride in a patrol car; they stand rollcall, ride in a police car and they evaluate those in the community in the midst of a crisis. We’ve known for a very long time that we need to expand that diversionary approach.

“Year to date we’ve seized 1,190 shell casings in this city, that’s an incredible number … and there are many more shots fired that come from a revolver that don’t leave a shell casing. It’s important to note that through our training and probably more so our experience with the 183 guns we’ve taken off the street, not easy arrests, we haven’t fired one bullet this year. We didn’t fire one bullet in 2020, we fired one bullet in 2019, and zero in 2018. In the last four years, one shell casing has come from a Providence Police firearm – that’s incredible restraint, that’s incredible training … this year alone there have been a half dozen incidents, maybe more, where it could have gone bad.”

**End of excerpt. Watch the full interview here.

Many More Gun Arrests With No Shots Fired

Below are just a few samples of the gun arrests in Rhode Island that do not involve the discharge of a weapon, many very serious and often involving trafficking:

October 2021 – Warwick man convicted of illegally selling 16 guns, including at least five that were recovered by law enforcement – three in Rhode Island, one in Georgia, and one in New York; read full story – https://apnews.com/article/rhode-island-providence-e0b751d164a388f0b5f6c39d5c96672a

November 2021 – Two Pawtucket residents face multiple weapons charges; including illegally selling guns and high capacity magazines; read full story – https://apnews.com/article/crime-rhode-island-pawtucket-9281fbc473505fe4f1daa070409bc4bf

December 4, 2021 – Providence woman faces firearms charge after being found with loaded weapon; read full story –  https://www.providencejournal.com/story/news/courts/2021/12/04/woman-faces-charge-after-being-found-loaded-weapon-providence/8866830002/