SAN DIEGO — As President Biden announced new gun control measures Thursday, here in San Diego, police are seeing a huge spike in gun related crimes, including confiscating so-called ghost guns.
"I've been doing this since 1988. I cannot recall a time where our officers are encountering more firearms in public than ever before," San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said.
The department shared pictures with News 8 showing some of the guns officers have confiscated since the start of this year.
They range from handguns, to shot guns and assault rifles.
According to Chief Nisleit, nearly one in four are ghost guns, meaning they have no serial number, making them untraceable.
"That means anyone who is prohibited because of their mental illness or their prior felony convictions can still purchase a firearm, have it Fed Ex’d overnight and have a gun in their hands the following day," Chief Nisleit said.
In 2019, ghost guns made up 4% of all guns confiscated by SDPD. That number jumped to 12% in 2020.
It’s now at 22% so far in 2021. And that's just part of the problem.
"Another alarming trend we're seeing: Persons that are prohibited, so our persons that are convicted felons. In 2020, we saw a 75% increase in those being arrested that were felons with a firearm," Chief Nisleit said.
Gunshot calls have also spiked. In 2019, San Diego police received 2,249 calls about gunshots. In 2020, 3,473 calls.
That's a 54% increase.
In regards to shooting investigations, January and February 2021 saw a 50% increase -- 24 shooting investigations -- compared to 16 shooting investigations in the first two months of 2020.
Chief Nisleit said there are several contributing factors, with the pandemic being the most obvious one.
“People are out of school. People are out of work, so there's a lot of anxiety and angst about everything,” he said.
Not only that, but with court services reduced or closed, he says criminals feel invincible.
“People feel emboldened to commit crime. They do not believe they'll be held accountable,” Chief Nisleit said.
Chief Nisleit maintains he's working to combat these alarming trends.
Last month, alongside the mayor and other community leaders, he unveiled a new program called ‘No Shots Fired,’ which works directly with gang members in hopes of getting them out of that lifestyle.
He's also putting more officers and investigators on the streets, and planning a gun buy-back event June 5, the details of which are still being worked on.
“No questions asked. You drop off a handgun, shot gun or rifle you'll get a card anywhere between $100-$200,” he said.
For him, it's not just about curbing crime, but making the community feel safe.
“Not only are we trying to drive down the crime but the fear of crime,” Chief Nisleit said.
Currently, the department is 108 officers short. They're actively recruiting for more.
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