Capewide Program Encourages Parents to Request In-Home Gun Searches

Mashpee Police Chief Rodney C. Collins’s mission to eradicate illegal firearms from the streets of Cape Cod reached a new plateau this week.

As of Wednesday, all 15 police chiefs on the peninsula, along with District Attorney Michael D. O’Keefe, signed a memorandum of understanding to participate in the Cape and Islands Consent to Search Program, an innovative initiative to remove guns from the hands of juveniles.

The program has been designed to encourage parents and guardians to work with local law enforcement if they believe a juvenile may be in possession of an illegal firearm in their home. With consent, police will search the home with the specific intent to recover illegal firearms. In exchange for the consent, the district attorney will not prosecute the juvenile or the parents for possession of the illegal firearm.

Chief Collins, who also serves as the president of the Cape & Islands Police Chief’s Association, has been championing adoption of the program across the Cape for several months. He has worked closely with Jennifer M. Balboni of the Curry College Master of Arts in Criminal Justice Program to define and launch the regional effort. Dr. Balboni’s department at Curry College will provide technical support as well as evaluation services to document the implementation of the program.

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“This was a Curry College project that was brought to my attention,” Chief Collins said.

Dr. Balboni confirmed yesterday that the Cape and Islands Consent to Search Program is the first of its kind in New England. “I think it’s wonderful that the Cape & Islands police chiefs and the district attorney’s office have taken on this proactive and forward-thinking program. These types of interagency collaborations tend to be very successful in reducing violence,” she said.

According to a news release, the consent to search program has been implemented in multiple high crime communities and has been studied by the National Institute of Justice as a promising strategy to combat juvenile gun violence. Although juvenile gun crimes on the Cape and Islands are not as acute as in other regions, the Cape & Islands Police Chief’s Association and the district attorney’s office are moving proactively to address the problem. Working with the assistance of the Curry College criminal justice program, the Cape and Islands initiative will build upon the best practices from the program’s implementation in other areas, encouraging community members to work with the police to improve public safety.

“The consent to search program encourages a parent to provide information to the police department that a gun may be in their house illegally, and, in turn they grant consent to the police department to send someone in to the home to search for the gun. If that weapon is found, neither the parent nor the juvenile would face any criminal charges for the illegal possession of the gun. However, if the gun was used for a crime, such as a homicide or robbery, that provision would not apply. Our primary objective is to remove the firearm from the street, dispose of it safely, and prevent an accidental discharge,” Chief Collins said.

Chief Collins indicated that the next step in launching the program will involve designees from each police department to attend a training session for purposes of reviewing the waiver forms associated with conducting the searches.  There will be training sessions on the Upper Cape, Mid-Cape, and Lower Cape. “Once the officers are trained, then the program will officially take effect and parents will be encouraged to contact us to search for firearms,” he said.

As of press time, Dr. Balboni could not be reached for comment.

Mashpee parents who are concerned that a juvenile may be harboring an illegal gun in their homes and would like to participate in the program are urged to contact the Mashpee Police Department at 508-539-1480.

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