By Kevin McKenzie The Commercial Appeal
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — During roll call at the Memphis Police Department’s Old Allen Station, the "gun wall" serves as both motivator and reminder.
Each year since 2009, police have posted a photo of every gun seized in the city’s busiest precinct, which covers North Memphis, Raleigh and Frayser .
Last year, police recovered 445 firearms in the precinct, about one-fourth of the 1,845 guns collected in all nine of the city’s precincts.
The precinct’s gun-wall focus on seizing weapons dovetails with a decade-old collaborative effort known as Project Safe Neighborhoods that targets gun violators for possible federal prosecution.
"I’m really an advocate of Project Safe Neighborhoods, and we wanted to push guns out of the streets," said Col. Bishop Mays, commander of the precinct, noting that guns often are involved in serious crimes including homicide, robbery and assault.
"It’s also, in my opinion, a reminder of how dangerous it is in certain areas out there in the street where we have all of these guns," he said.
About 3:15 a.m. on Thursday, Old Allen Station officers Michael Hinton and Issac Coleman were on North Hollywood near Eldridge when someone tipped them about guns, according to a court affidavit.
The officers pulled over a gray Oldsmobile Cutlass – a passenger wasn’t wearing a seatbelt — and found an unlicensed driver with no insurance as well as a loaded Para-Ordnance handgun , according to police.
The Memphis driver, Damien Rainey, 25, and his passenger, Kavious Rainey, 35, both denied that the pistol was theirs. Both landed in Shelby County Jail for unlawful carrying or possession of a weapon, and police had another photo for the gun wall.
Under the banner of Project Safe Neighborhoods — a Bush Administration concept for U.S. attorneys targeting gun crime — since 2002 each arrest in Memphis and Shelby County that includes a gun seizure is reviewed for possible federal prosecution.
Possessing a firearm if you’re a convicted felon, convicted of domestic assault, are an illegal immigrant or know the weapon is stolen can trigger the federal law, which calls for up to 10 years in prison. Even possessing ammunition is included.
Officers have called Project Safe Neighborhood to report that suspects are willing to take a drug charge, but not one for having a gun, said Memphis police Sgt. Robin Hulley, with the Project Safe Neighborhoods unit.
It includes 11 Memphis Police Department investigators, one from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and federal agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Weekly meetings are held where investigators and federal and state prosecutors scrutinize gun-seizure cases. As of Thursday, there have been 19,081 of them since 2002, including 5,885 felons, Hulley said.
"We definitely have a full job just keeping up with the firearm cases," she said.
At the Old Allen Station, Mays, who arrived at the precinct in 2008, said officers working on the 5 p.m.-1 a.m. "delta" shift are particularly aggressive about targeting guns. The gun wall, which includes the names of the officers who seized the weapons, helps spread the spirit.
"Here’s the thing, if our officers are aggressive and checking suspicious activity and the bad guys know this, then they are less likely to walk with weapons on them, drive with weapons in their car," Mays said.
Last year, a total of 1,845 firearms were recovered in nine police precincts in Memphis.
Old Allen Station, 445
Raines Station, 326
Tillman Station, 220
Airways Station, 213
Mt. Moriah Station, 211
Union Station, 162
Appling Farms Station, 124
South Main Station, 84
Ridgeway Station, 60
Source: Project Safe Neighborhoods
Copyright 2012 The Commercial Appeal, Inc.
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