Gun Stoppers Program Has No Record Of Any Guns Collected
Police agencies and Crime Stoppers organization have no records of guns collected from highly publicized illegal gun tip program.
Former Gun Stoppers director claims FBI agents investigating alleged pay to play at Columbus City Hall
Columbus City audit flags Gun Stoppers for inappropriate spending.
It was billed as a way to fight rising crime waves and get more guns off city streets and the city’s Gun Stoppers program was announced with much fan-fare.
But 10 Investigates recent review of the program, shows it’s unclear how many guns were taken off the street – if any.
When Mayor Coleman's Office introduced the Gun Stoppers program in 2010, the streets of Columbus filled with people protesting over 70 murders in 2010. Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman pledged action, utilizing a $50,000 federal grant.
The grant paid for Gun Stoppers to be run jointly by the city and Crime Stoppers and gave cash rewards up to $1,000 for "tips that lead to an arrest and the confiscation of an illegal gun."
The program was brought back in the news recently, when former Crime Stoppers director Kevin Miles claimed: "I can tell you there wasn't a single gun turned in but I do know that they reported there was guns that were recovered with money from that program."
Using city, county and court records, 10 Investigates reviewed the program and found Gun Stoppers paid out a total of $19,000 to tipsters. The records, though, never listed any gun that was seized.
Police agency representatives who made the arrests associated with the tips said they were not directly involved with the program and said have no records of guns associated with the Gun Stoppers program.
Crime Stoppers also says they don't have any information on guns collected by their Gun Stopper program. However, they did provide a list of arrests made in connection to the tips.
However, court records show that not all the crimes even involved guns.
One award was paid for information that led to the arrest of Michael P. Reilly. Reilly was charged with multiple counts of aggravated robbery and robbery. Court records, though, show the weapon used was a knife, scissors or sharp instrument.
Another case involving the arrest of Darrian T. Cordell, where a gun was found in a car stop. The trooper testified that he stopped the car because it was following too closely in the early morning hours.
And three tips paid out exceeded the program’s $1,000 cap. (Note: those payouts were for $3,000, $3,500 and $2,500.)
Case files show that some of the cases were where no guns were used in commission of the crime.
Columbus Public Safety's Deputy Director could not give an exact answer. When asked how many guns were taken off Columbus streets through Gun Stoppers, Dan Giangardella answered, “I don’t have an exact count for that. Dozens?”
Mayor Coleman once gave public congratulations for Gun Stoppers. Now, Giangardella described Gun Stoppers: "We could say it was a mildly successful program.”
Gun Stoppers was a two-year program. On Jan. 27, 2012, Crime Stoppers Director Kevin Miles stepped down amid allegations of poor financial record keeping.
City records show that payments associated with the program continued through March 2012.
10 Investigates found an internal city audit where Gun Stoppers was tagged $7,000 in inappropriate spending. Miles admits he used money to buy bicycles for the program, saying it was in protest. He said Lee Roberts, a staff member in the mayor's office and former campaign manager for the mayor, told him to spend the money on ads with Outlook magazine. Miles says Outlook magazine got the majority of Gun Stoppers ad dollars because they supported the mayor.
The Buckeye Firearms Association opposed the Gun Stoppers program since its beginning. Gerard Valentino with the Association’s board said, "This whole program is designed to take illegal guns off the street, yet their own actions show us it must not be that big of a problem because they're using the money inappropriately and for completely different issues."
Miles says FBI agents recently asked him about allegations of corruption inside Columbus City Hall. Columbus Council President Andrew Ginther stood at Mayor Coleman's side during the 2010 Gun Stoppers rollout. He rejects the claims made by the former Crime Stoppers director.
"They seem a bit bizarre to me. And interesting to me they come about some 5 years after the fact. We all know of the situation with Mr. Miles departure from Columbus and the fact that some things were done under his watch with Crime Stoppers that kind of beg the question , why now and why in this type of approach?" said Ginther.
In an email late yesterday, Columbus Deputy Safety director provided more information. Giangardella clarified that the program was changed in 2011, more than a year in the running, so that it “no longer require confiscation of guns” and that tips were for jurisdictions other than Columbus including Blendon Twonship, Ohio State Highway Patrol, and the US Marshals.
He added that the money used to buy bicycles was refunded. The city sold the bicycles after Miles stepped down.
10TV Research Joel Chow contributed to this report.