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Free safes to be distributed by Bloomington Police Department

Emily Fennick
Getty Images/EyeEm

The Bloomington Police Department plans to give away more than 300 combination-lock safes on June 10 in an effort to promote firearm storage safety.

Bloomington residents who have a valid Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card may present them to police at the Farmers Market downtown in exchange for a voucher. The voucher can then be exchanged for a Sentry-brand safe at Bloomington Fire Station #5, near the intersection of Six Points Road and Fedor Circle.

Public Information Officer Brandt Parsley said the giveaway is aimed at promoting safe storage of guns.

"The majority of our stolen guns here in Bloomington are guns that are left unsecured. Typically they're left in the vehicle," he said. "Obviously, the hope is if we give people a pretty nice gun safe, they will stop storing them in their car and store them in the nice gun safe that we gave them."

BPD has a total of 312 safes to distribute; vouchers for the safes are available on a first-come, first-served basis during Farmers Market hours from 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. The combination-lock safes are cube-shaped, about 24 inches wide and weigh more than 80 pounds, Parsley said. It's the first such giveaway the department has done.

"We've done initiatives where we gave away the little, tiny gun locks to go through like the trigger guard and that kind of thing, but we've never given anything that was as significant as this," he said.

The safes are free to the public thanks a $500,000 grant to BPD from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Parsley said the safes are just one part of a multifaceted plan to use the funds to increase anti-gun violence programming. Other plans include a youth summer camp and a firearm buy-back program, the details of which are yet to be finalized.

The safe giveaway comes after a rise in shootings in 2022. BPD Chief Jamal Simington told WGLT earlier this year that the department was "dealing with more people that seem to be carrying guns than ever, in the history of the Bloomington Police Department."

In Bloomington last year, there were five fatal shootings, 10 shootings involving a non-fatal injury, and 27 other incidents in which shots were fired but no one was hit. The number of illegal guns seized by Bloomington Police (during traffic stops and other incidents) jumped 54% in 2022, including 81 illegal handguns.

Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.