Topic:
FIREARMS; LEGISLATION; GUN CONTROL; STATISTICAL INFORMATION; CRIME; PUBLIC SAFETY DEPARTMENT; STATE FUNDS;
Location:
WEAPONS - GUN CONTROL;

OLR Research Report


August 31, 2006

 

2006-R-0490

GUN TRAFFICKING TASK FORCE

By: Veronica Rose, Principal Analyst

You asked for background information on the Statewide Firearms Trafficking Task Force.

SUMMARY

The Statewide Firearms Trafficking Task Force is within the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Its role is to enforce the state's gun possession and trafficking laws. Specifically, it must investigate illegal gun transfers, possession, and transportation and trace guns that law enforcement authorities seize. A policy board oversees the task force. The number of officers on the task force has ranged from a high of 9 in 2001 to a low of four in 2005. The task force currently has five officers.

By law, the comptroller must deposit money the state receives from publicly auctioning seized guns in a special General Fund account for the task force. But, because the state discontinued gun auctions before the act creating the task force took effect, no gun auction money has ever been appropriated for the task force. In the first two years of operations, the task force received $500,000 annually in state funds. Most of this money was from DPS' operating budget. Only $76,000 was new appropriations. Since FY 2003, the state has appropriated no money for the task force, which has been funded by money from the department's operating budget and federal grants. In the last three years, three bills to provide additional funding for the task force have died in committee.

Since its inception, the task force has conducted 329 criminal investigations, made 189 arrests, seized 495 illegal guns, and executed 149 arrest warrants.

ESTABLISHMENT OF TASK FORCE

PA 00 -192 created the Statewide Firearms Trafficking Task Force of state and local law enforcement officers to enforce the state's gun trafficking and possession laws. The task force is located within DPS.

The task force may (1) conduct statewide investigations the law authorizes; (2) seek and accept federal, state, and local help, including temporary personnel assignments, to perform its duties; (3) enter into mutual aid agreements with other states to address interstate gun law enforcement matters; and (4) consult and exchange information and personnel with other states' agencies on such matters.

The task force must (1) review illegal gun trafficking and its effects on the public and implement strategies to address the problem, (2) identify illegal gun traffickers and focus resources on prosecuting them, (3) track guns sold or distributed illegally and implement strategies to take them from illegal possessors, and (4) coordinate its activities with other Connecticut law enforcement agencies.

POLICY BOARD

The act created a policy board to direct the task force's policy formulation and operating procedures, and it allows the board to apply for, and administer, local, state, federal, or private appropriations or grant funds available for task force operations. The board is within the State Police for administrative purposes only. It consists of the public safety commissioner; the chief state's attorney; the agent in Connecticut in charge of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association president; and five police chiefs the association designates, including one from a town with 100,000 or more people. Each police chief serves one year.

TASK FORCE PERSONNEL

By law, the task force must include both state and local, and may include federal, law enforcement officers.

In its first year of operation, the task force consisted of eight officers. At its peak, in 2001, it consisted of 9 officers, including two court

inspectors, an ATF liaison, and a local officer. Today, the number has declined to five officers. Table 1 shows the number of officers on the task force, by year, since 2000.

Table 1: No. of Officers on the Task Force (Calendar Year 2000-August 2006)*

 

Lieutenant

Sergeant

Trooper

ATF

Liaison

Court Inspectors

Local Officer

Total*

2000

1

1

3

1

2

 

8

2001

1

1

3

1

2

1

9

2002

1

1

5

     

7

2003

 

1

4

     

5

2004

 

1

3

     

4

2005

 

1

3

     

4

2006

 

1

4

     

5

Source: DPS

* Since 2001, the task force has also included a secretary.

TASK FORCE FUNDING

The Law

By law, the state may publicly auction guns the court determines to be a nuisance or contraband (CGS 54-36e). The comptroller must deposit the revenue from the auctions in a separate nonlapsing General Fund "forfeit firearms account" for appropriation to the task force. But the state discontinued gun auctions in 1992 (see Attachment 1—DPS and Department of Administrative Services directives). Hence, no gun auction money has ever been placed in the account.

Practice

The “forfeit firearms account” was established in FY 01 with a $500,000 budget (Office of Fiscal Analysis 2000 session budget book). Of this, $424,000 came from the DPS existing “Personal Services” account to pay for seven state troopers, and the remaining $76,000 was new funding to pay local officer stipends ($2,000 per month to participating municipalities). The task force received the same level of funding in FY 02. In FY 03, the firearms account was eliminated. Since then, funding for the task force has come from the department's budget (“Personal Services” and “Other Expenses” accounts).

In addition to the above funding, the task force also received some federal grant money (the Byrne Memorial grant) in FYs 02 through 06, according to DPS. Information on the amount of (1) grant funds and (2) DPS funding from FY 03 through 06 is not readily available. But task force expenditures are available. Table 2 shows the expenditures for FYs 01-06 (see Attachment 2, which shows detailed expenditures by account and from federal grant funds).

Table 2: Task Force Expenditures (FYs 01-06)

Fiscal Year

Expenditures ($)

01*

385,977

02*

245,411

03**

N/A

04

421,213

05

302,973

06

355,555

* The department lapsed approximately $114,000 in FY 01 and $255,000 in FY 02 from the Statewide Firearms Trafficking Task force account.

** Information provided by DPS from the comptroller's reports for FYs 01 and 02 and from the CORE-CT system for FY 04 through FY 06. FY 03 figures are not in the system and were not available (CORE-CT is a computerized accounting system).

Proposed Funding Legislation

Since 2003, three bills to provide additional funding for the task force have died in committee. HB 5306 and HB 5299 proposed $500,000 in funding for FY 03. The committee took no action on the former bill; it referred the latter to the Appropriations Committee, which took no action on it. A 2006 bill (HB 5116) proposed appropriating $1 million for the task force in FYs 07 and FY 08. The Public Safety and Security Committee heard the bill but took no further action on it.

TASK FORCE ACTIVITIES

Since its establishment, the task force has conducted 329 criminal investigations, made 189 arrests, seized 495 illegal guns, and executed more than 149 arrest warrants (see Table 3). Most of the gun seizures occurred in 2000, the first year of operations. In 2005, the number of gun seizures declined to 24 (see Attachment 3 for details of task force activities relating to drug activities).

Table 3: Task Force Activities (Calendar Years 2000-2005)

 

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

Total

Investigations

56

67

58

48

67

33

329

Search Warrants

12

15

35

5

8

1

76

Arrest Warrants

15

20

23

22

46

23

149

Arrests

35

35

28

29

29

33

189

Firearm seizures

379

51

20

6

15

24

495

Gun Dealer Inspections

0

21

69

31

49

34

204

Source: DPS

Gun Trace Statistics

The task force has conducted traces on 9,198 guns, an average of 1,533 per fiscal year. In FY 02, it conducted the biggest number of traces (2,165); in FY 06, it conducted its lowest number (1,135). Table 4 shows the gun trace statistics for FY 01 through FY 06.

Table 4: Fiscal Year Gun Trace Statistics (FYs 01-06)

Year

Total

FY 01

1,292

FY 02

2,165

FY 03

1,745

FY 04

1,593

FY 05

1,268

FY 06

1,135

Source: DPS

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