The Utica Police Department's G.I.V.E. grant - "gun-involved violence elimination' - provides $500 cash in exchange for information leading to an illegal handgun possession arrest and confiscation of the gun. The cash can end up in the hands of criminals, with no guarantee it won't be spent on criminal activity. An unsavory, but unavoidable, choice for police.
"We realized early on before we even started the program that we were likely to get information from street sources and street sources are gonna have sometimes, lot of the times, have a criminal background. The way we looked at it is, any chance we can get a gun off the street that could be used against a citizen or a police officer, is a success to us," says Utica Police Chief Mark Williams.
The G.I.V.E. grant has gone by different names in its 10-year existence. It was recently highlighted during Ricky Woods' murder trial in Oneida County Court. A then-14-year-old Woods was given the $500 cash award in 2014. He was convicted this summer of attempted murder and kidnapping. His subsequent murder trial ended this week in a hung jury/mistrial.
"We are taking guns away from known gun offenders whose names a lot of times appear time and time come up during shots fired or shootings," said Chief Williams, of the state grant-funded program. "I mean, there are some realities to the program. We're not going to get the 80-year-old woman that's living in the high crime area to say, 'Jamal's got a handgun'. It's gonna be people on the street, that have street information."