Monday, June 24, 2024

LAPD offering rewards for tips leading them to ‘ghost gun’ manufacturers

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The Los Angeles Police Department soon will begin offering rewards for information helping investigators take down an increasing number of black-market gun dealers and manufacturers they fear are operating in the city, officials said Monday.

The rewards could range in value from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the size of the operation the information leads to, said Chief Michel Moore from the department’s Downtown L.A. headquarters.

  • Seized ghost guns on display at LAPD Headquarters during a...

    Seized ghost guns on display at LAPD Headquarters during a news conference to announce a reward program focused on getting unserialized ghost guns off the street. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Seized ghost guns on display at LAPD Headquarters during a...

    Seized ghost guns on display at LAPD Headquarters during a news conference to announce a reward program focused on getting unserialized ghost guns off the street. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

“Ghost guns,” as law enforcement across the country have dubbed the weapons, are firearms manufactured without the federal serial numbers that in a legal purchase would allow them to be traced to those buying and selling them.

The weapons can be built easily using parts and special tools found online. As a result, local police say enterprising dealers are making money from building the weapons, then selling them to people who would want a gun law enforcement can’t trace.

“They’re ending up in the hands of ex-cons who are continuing a life of crime,” Moore said. “Now they can access them by purchasing them on the underground market.”

The point of the rewards is not necessarily to go after those individual gun crime suspects — LAPD wants to find the mid-level dealers and manufacturers they say are fueling a rise in gun crime in the city.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, L.A. has seen more crime being committed using guns. Citywide crime statistics show the number of victims shot rose in 2020 and spiked in 2021 through October of those years, though so far in 2022 the violence has remained lower than the year before.

Moore said robberies are back down to their pre-pandemic levels. When guns are factored in, however, the numbers shift.

“(Robberies) are up nearly 50% if they involve a firearm,” he said.

As the chief spoke, next to him was a table lined with rifles — all ghost guns seized in one police operation in LAPD’s Foothill Division covering parts of the northeast Valley. On the other side was an image of a 3D printer, a device detectives said was seized from a local ghost gun manufacturer.

Detective Pat Hoffman, a gang detective in LAPD’s Valley Division, described the simple process of obtaining building and obtaining unlicensed weapons.

It starts with buying the lower receiver of a gun online, in an unfinished state. The lower receiver houses the trigger, hammer and ammunition feeding slot of a gun.

“It gets sent to your house,” Hoffman said. “You buy some trigger components, a barrel…you can mill it and drill it, and you will have a completed product, which is a rifle.”

To offer the rewards and solicit tips, LAPD is partnering with LA Crime Stoppers. Officials said anyone with information about ghost gun dealers can send tips anonymously to 1-800-222-TIPS or go to https://www.lacrimestoppers.org/.

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