ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- We know robberies were up last year in Rockford, but what about people illegally using guns?
23 News has been investigating the issue and has a breakdown of the numbers.
Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson said, "The city of Rockford’s priority going forward for 2012 is firearms."
That’s because in 2011, 251 guns were confiscated for being linked to crime.
Epperson said, "Our goal is to go after people that is illegal, people that don't have a FOID card that are a habitual criminal, that have either been revoked and they are out preying on citizens of rockford with robberies, home invasions, selling drugs, etcetera."
A federal program called Project Safe Neighborhoods started in Rockford in 2005, with a goal to end gun violence. Since 2005 an average of twelve cases a year have been prosecuted.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says most of those cases involved armed career criminals--people with three violent felonies. Most end up spending a minimum of fifteen years in federal prison, but that's only a fraction of gun cases in Rockford. For example, at the end of 2011 109 firearms were confiscated by Rockford Police--26 in September, 37 in October, 24 in November, and 22 in December. Only five of those were considered for federal prosecution.
Winn. Co. State's Attorney Joe Bruscato said, "We meet jointly to decide who's going to take a firearms case and once that determination has been made then that's the agency whether it be the state's attorney or the US attorney who proceeds with the prosecution."
These days more gun cases get prosecuted locally, but every gun is kept track of.
Just to be clear, taking a gun case to federal court doesn't necessarily mean there will be harsher penalties. State law changed about four years ago so the State's Attorneys Office can also get pretty stiff sentences.