GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The North Carolina Department of Public Safety partnered with ECU Health to host a presentation for the inaugural NC SAFE Week of Action in Greenville on Tuesday.

NC SAFE stands for Secure All Firearms Effectively, a message the NCDPS wanted to spread in the community with the hopes of reducing firearm thefts and injuries in youth.

NCDPS Deputy Secretary William Lassiter said firearms are the leading cause of death in youth in North Carolina, adding the number of youth with firearms is increasing.

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“We’re seeing more and more young people who are possessing firearms when they are committing criminal acts,” Lassiter said.

ECU Health, NCDPS to host NC SAFE Week of Action on Tuesday

The initiative includes a media campaign and distribution of gun locks and safes, along with a digital safe storage map, showing people where they can store their firearms outside of their homes.

“That’s the whole purpose of this campaign is to say that we need to safely secure all those firearms across the state of North Carolina,” Lassiter said.

ECU Health’s Dr. Shannon Longshore also weighed in on the subject.

“If you have a firearm at home, it’s your responsibility to store it safely, it’s your responsibility to your community and to the children of this community,” said ECU Health’s Dr. Shannon Longshore.

NCDPS said firearm theft is an issue across the state. Greenville Police Department Chief Ted Sauls said many guns are stolen out of vehicles.

“In 2022, we had 715 firearms recovered, 222 were stolen and the majority of those were from vehicles, so one-third of the firearms that we recovered were stolen,” Sauls said.

Sauls asked the public to safely store their guns.

“If there’s a gun that needs to be secured and you don’t know how to do it, find us,” Sauls said.

Pitt County Sheriff Paula Dance agreed, adding guns should be properly locked up.

“Please never store your firearm in your vehicle, cars are not gun safes,” Dance said. “Keep your guns in the right hands, yours.”

To learn more about NC SAFE click here.

More information on the Greenville Police Department’s youth outreach programs can be found here.

The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office page can be found here.