Waterbury Police team up with local church for gun buyback program Saturday

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Waterbury Police teamed up with a local church for a gun buyback program Saturday.

Police said a total of 32 long guns and handguns were exchanged for gift cards.

Waterbury Police would like to thank those attended the the event to turn in an unwanted firearm and this is one step toward a safer Waterbury.

It’s been a tough year for most of Connecticut’s large urban areas. COVID-19 isn’t the only problem spreading in many of those areas. So has gun violence. 

According to the Waterbury Police Department, through the end of May, there have been 55 “shots-fired” incidents in the city compared to 64 at this time last year.

Here are more gun violence gun stats in Waterbury:

  • 22 people have been shot in the city this year compared to 18 at this point last year.
  • 4 people have been killed by gunfire compared to 2 at this point last year.

This weekend, police pray many residents will go to Grace Baptist Church Saturday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and turn in their unused or unwanted guns at home.

“We don’t want them to end up in the wrong hands,” said Waterbury Police Sgt. Robert Davis. “Any gun turned in is a success.”

If using a church for something like a gun buyback sounds strange, Pastor Kristopher Reese tells News 8 it was actually his idea that he took to Waterbury Police.

“As a pastor over these past 18 years, I’ve buried at least 33 young people under the age of 25 who have lost their lives due to gun violence,” said Pastor Reese. “And 20 years ago, I lost my brother who was shot and killed.”

The spokesman for the Waterbury Police Department tells News 8 Pastor Reese carries a lot of weight in the Waterbury community. He’s been instrumental in getting many in the city’s African-American community to get their COVID shots.

One of the first mobile clinics was held at his church.

“We partner a lot with our community leaders,” said Sgt. Davis. “I know Pastor Reese. He’s had a huge impact on the city of Waterbury with his community work.”

And they’re hoping a little divine intervention can help them get guns off the streets and reduce gun violence. If you turn in your gun tomorrow, you’ll get gift cards to area grocery stores. The amount goes higher depending on the type of gun you turn in. 

The event isn’t just a gun buyback. Pastor Reese will also turn this into a community fair — complete with food and music. The Waterbury Health Department will also be on hand offering free vaccines for COVID-19 and HIV.

Again, the program is Saturday, June 5th from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at Grace Baptist Church, located at 65 Kingsbury Street.

The last gun buyback done by the Waterbury PD two years ago netted close to 100 guns. They hope to top that this year.

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