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White Plains Police Investigate Possible Link Between Burglary, Journal News Gun Permit Map

Also: Some Rockland County Schools Get Increased Police Presence
Journal News gun map (credit: CBS 2 via lohud.com)

Journal News gun map (credit: CBS 2 via lohud.com)

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WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Police in White Plains are looking into whether a home that was burglarized on Saturday was picked because the homeowners are gun owners.

White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong said there is so far no evidence to indicate that the home on Davis Avenue was targeted because it appeared on the Journal News interactive gun permit map.

“Certainly, the homeowner did tell us that he was on the map and that is being taken into consideration,” Chong told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman. “It’s certainly an angle that we’re looking at.”

The burglarized home is one of dozens in the area that show up with a red dot to indicate the owner has a gun permit. But Chong said authorities likely won’t know the suspect’s motives until the burglar or burglars are caught.

But police said the burglars did seem to go after the homeowner’s guns.

“The suspects took some jewelry that was laying around and tried to open up a gun safe,” said Chong. “Their attempts failed. No weapons were taken.”

Chong added that there is no pattern of gun owners’ homes being targeted in recent burglaries.

No arrests have been made so far in the case.

The head of the White Plains Police Benevolent Association released a statement on Sunday regarding the burglary and the Journal News map.

“The burglar attempted to pry open the victims gun safe, but luckily for all of us he was unsuccessful in doing so. But what if the burglar was successful? We would now have a criminal with a gun on the street and would probably see them go from burglaries to robberies or even worse,” PBA President Robert Riley said in the statement.

WEB EXTRA: White Plains PBA Letter (pdf)

Riley went on to say argue that the map is a public safety threat and called for a boycott of the paper.

“I am asking that all of us stand strong together and send a message to the Journal News that such irresponsibility will not be tolerated. Who do they think they are to put our safety at risk to sell papers? If you have a subscription I ask that you cancel until the map is removed and if you advertise, I ask you also cancel until they listen to us and remove the map,” the letter continued.

The Journal News posted the interactive map of Rockland and Westchester gun permit holders on Dec. 23. The map has since received national attention and condemnation from some quarters.

Those who oppose the newspaper’s decision to publish the data argue that it puts private residents at risk. But the suburban newspaper contends the gun permit information is public record and available for all to see.

Another local official panned the newspaper’s decision to run the map in the wake of the burglary.

“It’s absolutely sickening,” said New York State Sen. Greg Ball (R-Patterson) on Sunday.

Ball has been outspoken since the uproar about the map began. He has proposed legislation that would ban the release of gun permit information to the public.

“We’re not surprised,” Ball said. “Criminals have already testified to the fact that this would happen. If this is the case, the Journal News needs to be held personally responsible.”

Ball announced plans to unveil S2132 on Monday, which he said will protect the privacy rights of ordinary citizens, police officers, victims of domestic violence, and private citizens who own guns.

“The same elitist eggheads who use their editorial page to coddle terrorists and criminals are now treating law abiding citizens like level three sexual predators,” Ball said in a news release. “These bills are critical to keep folks safe and fundamentally protect their inherent right to privacy.”

Earlier this month, Putnam County officials refused to release gun permit information. The Journal News had sought the information to add Putnam to its interactive map.

The Journal News posted the map about a week after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in response to the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

In response to the school massacre, some schools in Rockland County now have a beefed up police presence.

A new initiative began Monday in Clarkstown schools.

“Our police officers, as part of their regular tour, will pick one private or public school, stop in front of that school and then go into the school. Introduce himself to the principal, tour the school, and this will be a daily occurrence and we have about 37 private and public schools and we’ll just continue that,” Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack told WCBS 880.

Gromack said the new police presence at schools will help make the students more comfortable with officers and act as a deterrent.

“This initiative was something that we developed after Newtown and this is not one that we’re just putting in place for a few weeks or months. The chief made it very clear, this will go on forever. It will become part of their daily patrol,” said Gromack.

Gromack said Clarkstown parents have overwhelmingly voiced support for the new initiative.

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