Chattanooga police gun team receives federal crime intelligence award

Chattanooga Police Department / On Thursday, Sgt. Josh May of the Police Department's gun team holds the Excellence in Crime Gun Intelligence award that was given to Chattanooga police.
Chattanooga Police Department / On Thursday, Sgt. Josh May of the Police Department's gun team holds the Excellence in Crime Gun Intelligence award that was given to Chattanooga police.

The gun team at the Chattanooga Police Department last week earned federal recognition for its work on gun crimes and ballistics.

Chief Celeste Murphy traveled to Washington, D.C., to accept the Excellence in Crime Gun Intelligence award — a mounted glass handgun — from Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director Steven Dettelbach. Police departments from New Haven, Connecticut, and Miami also received the award, Murphy said.

(READ MORE: One more homicide reported in Chattanooga than this time last year, data shows)

Chattanooga's gun team was formed in 2018 and grew from five to 10 people in 2021, Sgt. Josh May, who oversees the team, said in a briefing Thursday. The team investigates crimes that involve guns, tracking things like where the firearms come from, whether they were stolen and who bought them.

"Gun violence is very complicated, it is not just laws," May said. "You're dealing with a lot more socioeconomic issues when you deal with gun violence."

  photo  Chattanooga Police Department / Chattanooga Police Chief Celeste Murphy accepts the Excellence in Crime Gun Intelligence award in Washington, D.C., on June 22.
 
 
The Chattanooga team has helped teach more than 40 other agencies, including police and sheriff's offices in Texas, Colorado and Mississippi, how to approach gun crimes.

(READ MORE: Amap of Chattanooga shootings reported in 2022)

The department started using evidence-gathering and reporting technology from the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network in 2016, May said. Technology, feedback and cooperation from the community, May said, help officers close cases and focus their efforts.

"It's extremely important to have those individuals who are out here affected by gun violence on various levels," May said. "You don't have to be struck by a bullet to deal with the ramifications of gun violence in your community, in your neighborhood."

(READ MORE: Chattanooga police reach high homicide clearance rate, decline for other violent crimes)

May said his unit primarily works to target "prolific shooters" who pose a danger to Chattanooga residents.

"We want those individuals either off the streets, doing good things, being multimillionaires and just never hearing from them again except on TV," May said, "or if it means we have to unfortunately lock them away, then so be it."

Contact Ellen Gerst at egerst@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6319.

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