By Matt Kyle | Staff Writer
The Waco Police Department said it has seen a steady rise in gun violence for the past five years.
In late January, the department issued a press release and posted gun violence statistics to its Facebook page. According to the statistics, the number of gun-related crimes and calls for discharge of a firearm has steadily risen each year since 2017, with 264 gun-related crimes and over 1,600 calls for discharge of a firearm reported last year.
Waco PD spokesperson Cierra Shipley said the department wanted to speak out against gun violence before the problem grows worse. She said many of the gun-related crimes involved people carelessly firing off their weapons into the air.
“We wanted to talk about just the increase in gun crime, the increase in discharge of firearms and also the increase in stolen guns,” Shipley said. “The biggest problem with discharge of firearms is sometimes people that might be goofing around, they might be under the influence. That bullet, it can go anywhere, and it can hit anyone.”
Pasadena senior and co-president of Texas Rising Ayla Dodson-Hestand said she feels the current gun laws in Texas contribute to the increase in gun-related crimes.
“Our politicians decided to make it easier for people to get a gun, and it was already not too difficult to get a gun in Texas,” Dodson-Hestand said. “Now, they don’t even require training for people. You don’t have to have a license to carry.”
Dodson-Hestand said she feels conversations are necessary within communities so that people can understand how big the problem is. She also said many gun owners are resistant to new gun regulations because they believe the laws would be more extreme than they actually are.
“In Texas, it is a very controversial topic,” Dodson-Hestand said. “You mention gun regulation, and someone’s going to freak out because they’re going to say, ‘You’re trying to take my gun,’ even though that’s usually not at all what’s happening.”
Shipley said she urges gun owners to keep their firearms secured, as many of the crimes reported involved stolen weapons. She said last year, over 300 guns were reported stolen in Waco.
“Sometimes when we find a stolen gun and we contact the original owner, they don’t even realize that it was stolen in the first place,” Shipley said. “They misplaced it. They didn’t think that someone stole it at the time. We just tell people, if you’re missing your gun, if you can’t find your gun, it’s very possible that it was stolen, especially if that gun the last time you saw it might have been in your car or in a public place. Please report that to us.”
Shipley said residents can submit anonymous tips to Waco Crime Stoppers, and if the tip leads to an arrest, that person will receive a $2,000 reward.