Gun search offer withdrawn

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Beloit Police Chief Norm Jacobs speaks at a town hall meeting dealing with violence Friday at the Eclipse Center. Jacobs said police needs the help of the community to solve some of the recent homicide cases in Beloit.

Amidst backlash from the public, the Beloit Police Department withdrew its offer to inspect homes for illegal firearms about a week after it announced the program.

City Manager Larry Arft sent out a press release on Tuesday afternoon citing numerous concerns from individuals worried that their homes would be searched as a result of the program. The program has been referred to the city’s legal office for further review, the release said.

The program received national news coverage, and the voluntary inspections came under fire from gun rights advocates. Police Chief Norm Jacobs was interviewed by Fox News for a story on its website, and was featured on the cable new network’s morning show Fox and Friends.

Jacobs said he hoped the program would give the community an opportunity to address the violence seen in the city this year. The city has experienced 51 shots fired incidents and six of the eight homicides this year were gun related.

“The public portion was canceled because we’re getting a lot of negative feedback from a number of different sources that affect how we do business in the city,” he said. “The message we were trying to make 10 days ago got out well. We had some positive feedback, but once it gets outside our area the message gets convoluted. People read a lot more into it than we meant.”

He added he didn’t anticipate receiving many phone calls from residents for police to search the homes, but hoped citizens would become more aware of what they can do to prevent crime.

The police did recover one gun during a voluntary inspection, Jacobs said. The homeowner was aware of the firearm and wanted it removed from the home, Jacobs added.

The point of the whole program was that safety starts in their house,” he said.

“Most people in Beloit get that. They know they need to take responsibility. We never expected to do many searches. It’s up to the people in the community to be responsible for the safety in their houses and into their neighborhoods.”

The program was voluntary and written consent from the property owner was needed before any search would be conducted.

Jacobs said while the official program has been canceled the idea still remains. He added residents can always call police to their homes if they believe there is something dangerous in the house.

“Just because we put a name to it doesn’t mean it was any different than what we could have done before,” Jacobs said. “I’m hoping that more people in the community will come up with ideas to make their neighborhoods safer.”

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