HILLSBOROUGH CO, FLA. — The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office launched a new task force to combat gun violence in the area.
The task force is called “gunfire response investigations team,” or GRIT. It is comprised of four deputies, four detectives, and a supervising sergeant.
“I believe this new centralized and proactive approach will curb gun violence and save lives,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister.
This move comes as gun violence is on the rise in the Tampa Bay area, and across the country.
“Overall, [the] number of shootings that have killed or injured at least one individual exceeds the first six months of 2020 which finished as the deadliest year of gun violence in the past two decades,” said Chronister.
According to the Associated Press, gun deaths in The U.S. increased by 25% from 2019 to 2020. Closer to home, Sheriff Chronister said this has led to an increase of non-fatal shootings as well.
According to the sheriff’s office, non-fatal shootings increased from 44 cases in 2019 to 72 cases in 2020. And so far, this year, there have been 34 non-fatal shootings in unincorporated Hillsborough County.
“I am deeply committed to doing everything possible to reduce and eliminate violent crime,” said Chronister.
GRIT’S sole focus, according to the sheriff, is “pulling resources, working with our federal and state partners to identify violent offenders and increase the probability of non-fatal shootings being solved.”
The unit will work with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. They will use technology like National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, also known as NIBIN, to analyze ballistic information and search for links between weapons used to commit other crimes.
GRIT has already solved several crimes since launching in June.
“I’m extremely proud of this new unit,” Chronister said. “To see the success that they’ve already had as they hit the ground running.”
Chronister is also reminding people that this is a community effort, especially gun owners.
“Being a responsible gun owner means storing your firearm in a safe location,” he said. “Storing your firearm in an unlocked vehicle is not a safe location.”
According to the sheriff’s office, 290 guns were stolen from locked and unlocked vehicles last year, and 170 so far this year.
“These are crimes of opportunity that have significant consequences,” Chronister said. “These criminals are using your firearms to commit violent crimes in our community.”
In 2019, Florida had the second most registered weapons in the nation at 497,098. In 2019, the NICS background check system ran background checks on 28,369,750 people In 2020, the NICS background check system ran 39,695,315 checks
In 2021, the NICS has run 22,243,220 background checks, putting Florida on pace to hit 44.4 million for the year, an all-time record. If you add up all background checks for weapons since 1998, NICS has conducted 394,942,601 background checks for firearms.
Meaning if all of those weapons were sold, there's more than enough guns in the United States to give every man, woman, and child a gun and still have about 70 million left over.