Suffolk Exile targets illegal firearms at recreational areas

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 29, 2005

There has been one serious aspect to the Friday evening music, food, and drink during the TGIF concert series at Constant’s Wharf, and that is the kick-off of a new partnership between the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Of-fice and Suffolk Parks and Recreation to target the illegal possession of firearms.

Suffolk EXILE is the name of the new initiative and it’s an extension of the Parks and Recreation’s &uot;Park Watch Pro-gram.&uot;

The message can be seen on signs at Suffolk’s many parks and recreational areas.

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That message boils down to one blunt motto.

&uot;Gun Crime = Hard Time.&uot;

EXILE lets everyone know that consequences for illegal possession of firearms will be swift, certain, and severe.

Carrying a gun in a school equals five years in prison.

A felon and a gun, or a gun plus drugs, means two to five years.

Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips &uot;Phil&uot; Ferguson and members of his staff were at Constant’s Wharf Park and Marina before and during the July 15th concert, answering questions and distributing brochures about EXILE.

&uot;We’re educating the public on what the laws are relative to firearms,&uot; said Ferguson.

&uot;We want people to know, and this is important,&uot; said Ferguson, &uot;we’re targeting only people that aren’t allowed to have guns.&uot;

This point is highlighted further with endorsements of the program from The National Rifle Association and Virginians Against Handgun Violence.

&uot;If you take the guns out of the hands of criminals that aren’t allowed to have them, then you reduce the amount of crimes you have to prosecute.&uot; said Ferguson.

The program is based on a federal program which was introduced in Richmond.

The EXILE signs will also let citizens know that by calling 1-800-LOCK-U-UP, they can add to the effort to get gun violence out of their neighborhoods.