Firearm Project, Greenville, NC

Brian Freskos filed this request with the Greenville Police Department of Greenville, NC.
Status
Completed

Communications

From: Ben Hallman

Hi,

Pursuant to the state’s public records law, I am a journalist requesting access to and copies of data and others records from your agency as part of a national reporting project on the use of stolen firearms in crimes. I have broken the request into three parts, each of which details the records that we are seeking. As expressed below, the date range for each part of this request is January 1, 2010 to the present:

1) Detailed information on stolen guns

It is our understanding that law enforcement agencies keep detailed records about firearms that were reported stolen by the citizens they serve. We are therefore requesting the following for each case of reported firearm theft in your jurisdiction:

-- The police report number and/or incident number for the firearm theft
-- The serial number, make, model, caliber, type and any other descriptive information for each firearm that was reported stolen

If possible, I would be grateful if this data was collated into a spreadsheet where each row represents one firearm. Here is an example:

If a spreadsheet is provided, please provide the record layout and/or code sheet. If such a spreadsheet is not available, please provide any other records that contain this information.

2) Detailed information about seized and/or recovered guns, any guns in evidence, and/or any gun of which the department has taken custody

Third, it is our understanding that law enforcement agencies maintain detailed records about firearms that were used in crimes, found at crimes scenes or other incidents, seized during investigations, placed into evidence or otherwise under the custody and control of the department, including the make, model and serial number of each gun. We are therefore requesting the following:

-- The following records regarding firearms used in crimes in your agency’s jurisdiction, found at crime scenes, seized during investigations or otherwise recovered or taken in by your agency: the make, model, and serial number of each gun; the date of the crime and/or incident from which it was recovered or seized; the police report number for the crime and/or incident; the type of crime the firearm was used in; and the address where the crime was committed and/or the incident occurred. Please include firearms for all offense and incident types, including homicide, robbery, assault, traffic stops, etc.

If your agency maintains a spreadsheet or database containing these records, we ask that you please provide that database. I would be grateful if this data was collated into a spreadsheet where each row represents one case, the same as part 1) “Detailed information about stolen guns.” If a spreadsheet is provided, please also provide a record layout and/or code sheet. If a spreadsheet or database is not available, please release any other records containing the information we seek.

The date range for this part is also January 1, 2010 to the present.

3) Detailed information on lost, stolen or unaccounted for law enforcement guns

Finally, it is our understanding that law enforcement agencies maintain detailed records about firearms that, while owned by the department or under the control and/or in the possession of their employees, went missing, were lost or stolen, or are otherwise unaccounted for. Therefore we request the following:

-- Any and all records of department-issued firearms that were lost, stolen, went missing or are otherwise unaccounted for.

-- If your department does not issue firearms, then we ask for any and all records of firearms that were lost, stolen, went missing or otherwise became unaccounted for while under the control and/or in the possession of one of your employees.

The records should include but not be limited to the following:

• The make, model, serial number and caliber of each firearm
• The location and address where the firearm was lost or stolen
• The date of the loss or theft.
• The date the loss or theft was reported
• Whether each lost or stolen firearm was recovered
• If the lost, stolen or missing firearm was recovered, the date and location of the recovery
• A description of how the firearm was lost, stolen or went missing
• Whether negligence on the part of the employee is/was suspected in the loss or theft of the firearm
• Whether the employee in control of the firearm retired, was terminated or otherwise left the department, and if so, the date and circumstances of the employee’s departure and whether his or her gun was retrieved and/or recovered.
• Any other individual reports and findings on the individual lost, stolen or missing firearms

The records should include but not be limited to audits, inventory reports, databases, internal reports, memos, internal affairs investigations, emails or other correspondence, and/or any other records.

The date range for this part is also January 1, 2010 to the present.

Please label each record in a clear manner. As a 501c3 nonprofit news organization, we will be making information obtained from this request available to the general public and are not requesting it for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you informed me of the total charges before completing my request. We request that if you send an invoice, you make it out to The Trace.

I would prefer the requested information be sent via an e-mail attachment if available, or a mailed CD-ROM if not. If standard mail must be used, we ask that you send the request to the following address:

The Trace (at WeWork)
Attn: Brian Freskos
428 Broadway
New York, NY 10013

Thank you in advance for your help with this request. I look forward to receiving your response. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact me on my cell phone: (919) 522-6354

Sincerely,

Brian Freskos

From: Donald K. Phillips

RESPONSE TO PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST

Re: "Public Records Law Request: Firearm Project, Greenville, NC"

Dear Mr. Freskos:

Please find attached correspondence regarding your above-referenced public records request.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss, please feel free to contact me.

Thank you.
Donald

Donald K. Phillips
Assistant City Attorney
P.O. Box 7207
Greenville, NC 27835-7207
Tel: (252) 329-4426
Fax: (252) 329-4626
Email: dkphillips@greenvillenc.gov<mailto:dkphillips@greenvillenc.gov>
Website: www.greenvillenc.gov<http://www.greenvillenc.gov/>

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From: Brian Freskos

Hi Donald,

Thank you so much for supplying this information. And please pass along my thanks to anyone who may have also assisted. One thing that's vital but we're missing in that spreadsheet are the serial numbers for those guns. We're trying to explore the nexus between stolen guns and crime and can't do that without the serial numbers. We've also collected this data from Cary, Durham and Greensboro. Would your agency be able to provide the SNs?

From: Donald K. Phillips

Mr. Freskos:

As stated in my March 27, 2017 letter to you (Response to Public Records Requests), “[a]s for any remaining items or information requested in your public records request that are not identified, discussed, or otherwise included in the attached materials herein, the City declines to provide these materials to you because the information sought either does not exist or is statutorily protected, and no waiver applies to the protection. See N.C.G.S. § 132-1.4 and N.C.G.S. § 160A-168.”

Accordingly, the as requested serial numbers of firearms are not public record and will not be provided.

Thank you.
Donald

Donald K. Phillips
Assistant City Attorney
P.O. Box 7207
Greenville, NC 27835-7207
Tel: (252) 329-4426
Fax: (252) 329-4626
Email: dkphillips@greenvillenc.gov<mailto:dkphillips@greenvillenc.gov>
Website: www.greenvillenc.gov<http://www.greenvillenc.gov/>

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From: Brian Freskos

Hi Donald,

Thank you for your reply. However, I disagree with the application of North Carolina's public records exemptions in the release of serial numbers on stolen and recovered firearms. I know you're familiar with the law but I'm going to quote it here for convenience:

N.C.G.S. 132-1.4 states that that the "time, date, location and nature of a violation or apparent violation of the law reported to a public law enforcement agency" is a matter of public record. When it comes to cases of reported theft, a description of the property stolen is part of the nature of the violation, and therefore is public record. When a firearm is stolen, there is no description more important than the serial number. Incident reports -- the first pages of which are public record in North Carolina -- commonly contain at the bottom of the page a list of the property that was reported stolen. When a gun owner experiences a theft and reports the serial numbers of his or her firearms to the police , those serial numbers will often be included in that portion of the incident report.

I was reporter in North Carolina for five years and am now working on a story about a group of individuals who broke into several gun stores in Wilmington and surrounding areas and trafficked the stolen weapons to New Jersey. We have been tracking the recovery of those weapons using serial numbers listed on the public incident reports, which were provided by the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office, the Duplin County Sheriff's Office, the Sanford Police Department, the Dunn Police Department, and the Clinton Police Department. In theft cases, the serial numbers of the weapons, when known by the police, are a matter of public record.

When it comes to guns seized during investigations, 132-1.4 also states that "a description any items seized in connection with the arrest" is a public record. When a firearm is seized, the serial number is the most important piece of descriptive information. In my experience, serial numbers are sometimes but not commonly listed on public copies of North Carolina arrest reports. They are, however, listed on public copies of the arrest warrants, search warrants and indictments.

In the story involving the theft of firearms from gun stores in Wilmington and surrounding areas, we have matched more than dozen of the stolen firearms to crimes in Fayetteville and surrounding areas through interviews with police officials and by obtaining copies of arrest warrants, search warrants and indictments. (The burglars lived in Fayetteville and sold firearms to their associates before trafficking them to New Jersey). Some departments -- most notably the Kinston Police Department -- have also provided arrest reports with portions of the narrative summaries containing serial numbers of the firearms that were seized and information about the circumstances under which the offender was arrested.

This request for serial numbers on stolen and seized/confiscated/recovered guns is part of a project to examine the nexus between stolen guns and crime. We have so far gathered serial numbers and other descriptive information from more than 80 law enforcement departments around the country, including the Cary Police Department, the Durham Police Department and the Greensboro Police Department.

Thank you and your staff with your help so far with this request. I'm really hoping we can get serial numbers to conduct this important research.

Thank you,
Brian

From: Donald K. Phillips

Mr. Freskos:

To reiterate the final position of the City of Greenville regarding this matter, the serial numbers of firearms that you have requested are not public record and will not be provided.

Again, as stated in my March 27, 2017 letter to you (Response to Public Records Requests), and my below email from March 29, “[a]s for any remaining items or information requested in your public records request that are not identified, discussed, or otherwise included in the attached materials herein, the City declines to provide these materials to you because the information sought either does not exist or is statutorily protected, and no waiver applies to the protection. See N.C.G.S. § 132-1.4 and N.C.G.S. § 160A-168.”

Thank you.
Donald

Donald K. Phillips
Assistant City Attorney
P.O. Box 7207
Greenville, NC 27835-7207
Tel: (252) 329-4426
Fax: (252) 329-4626
Email: dkphillips@greenvillenc.gov<mailto:dkphillips@greenvillenc.gov>
Website: www.greenvillenc.gov<http://www.greenvillenc.gov/>

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