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Monday, April 22, 2024

GPD: Guns increasingly frequent in violent crimes

A UF student got a firsthand look into the recent trend of rising gun use early Sunday morning when he was robbed in a downtown club.

Sharvin Berrian, an 18-year-old UF student, was robbed at gunpoint inside the Plasma Lounge on First Street, said Lt. Keith Kameg, spokesman for the Gainesville Police Department.

Witnesses told police they had seen Berrian with a stack of cash in the bar earlier Saturday night.

Berrian told police that two men approached him in the club and stole $300 from him, Kameg said. One of the men hit him in the back of the head, while the other pointed a gun at him.

The incident sent hundreds of people pouring out of the club shouting, "Gun, he's got a gun," Kameg said.

"It's apparent that at some point during the night, these two guys saw him with the money and that set him up as a target," he said.

He highlighted the weekend robbery as an example of the increased number of reported gun use his department has encountered lately.

"We're seeing them on traffic stops," Kameg said. "We're seeing them on bike stops."

In response to an increase in violent crimes, GPD created a temporary Violent Crimes Task Force last year.

Because it was deemed successful and necessary, the department has replaced its temporary group with a permanent one called the Tactical Impact Unit.

Since it was formed in September, the unit has confiscated 21 guns, said GPD Cpl. Jamie Rohrbaugh, one of the unit's 10 members.

In total, GPD officers confiscated more than 200 guns in 2007, Kameg said. Rohrbaugh said GPD officers are seeing a mix of both handguns and rifles.

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In his 22 years as a Gainesville police officer, Kameg said he has never seen as many firearms on criminals as he does now.

"Guns are becoming almost like an accessory to their outfit," he said. "That's a statement on society."

On top of the unit, GPD has also beefed up its downtown presence in part to deter violent crime in the area.

Having officers stationed outside of clubs and bars, where thousands of people congregate at once, allows police to both deter and quickly solve crimes, Rohrbaugh said.

It is not only Gainesville that has seen a rise in gun possession, but many cities and counties throughout Florida.

While data is only available up to the first half of 2007, preliminary statistics show that firearms were used more in 2007 than they were in 2006 in connection with all reported violent crimes, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Web site.

For example, from 2006 to 2007, the number of rapes decreased by 7 percent while the number of firearm-involved rapes increased by 26 percent, according to the FDLE site.

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