St. Petersburg Police Chief Chuck Harmon, Mayor Bill Foster and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced the re-launch of the St. Pete gun bounty program Thursday on the steps of the St. Petersburg Police Headquarters.
The objective of the month-long initiative is to get illegal guns off the streets and guns out of the hands of criminals. The bounty is not a gun buyback program.
"We are interested in getting guns out of bad guy's hands," Foster said Thursday.
Harmon said there are three priorities for the initiative:
- Getting guns that are illegal to possess no matter who owns them off the streets. Those, Harmon said, include automatic weapons and short barrel/sawed off shotguns.
- Secondly, targeting criminals who possess guns intending to commit crimes
- Finally, getting any type of gun away from someone who is ineligible to own one, such as a convicted felon or someone who is mentally handicapped.
The police, along with the Sheriff's Office and Crime Stoppers are offering a $1,500 reward for information that leads to an arrest, recovers a gun and results in a weapons charge.
Citizens must meet all three requirements to be eligible for the $1,500 reward for a recovered assault weapon, and $1,000 for any other firearm. The program only applies to gun crimes within the city limits of St. Pete.
Foster said it is up to the public to help provide tips that lead to arrests that will get guns off the streets of St. Pete.
"Guns are only effective in the hands of the criminals if people know about it," Foster said.
He said criminals are always flashing their guns, posting pictures online of them and making sure people know they are carrying.
"Now I want all of these same people to know that there is a price on that gun," Foster said. "All they got to do is come in with a tip and they can turn that into real money."
All three leaders repeated Thursday that the gun bounty program has no intention of targeting law-abiding residents.
"What we are not trying to do is remove any guns from people who lawfully can possess them," Harmon said. "I’m a very strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment. I believe we have a sheriff and a mayor who will say the same thing. Those who can lawfully posses guns, that’s not what we are talking about."
Harmon said the initial gun bounty program began in 2009 and saw initial success but over time the number of firearms seized saw a sharp decline.
Gun Bounty Program History
St. Pete Gun Crime Statistics (All info Provided by St. Pete Police)
- Between 200-300 guns are stolen each year
- Overall crime is down in St. Pete. 2012 saw a 4.2 percent decline, which is a 40-year low
- In 2008, St. Pete Police investigated 977 gun-related violent crimes. By 2012 that number almost fell in half to 495.
- In 2012, 464 firearms were recovered, which most were semi-automatic handguns.
While those numbers are promising, Harmon said that is not enough. One violent gun crime is too many, he said.
To provide a tip to police, you can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS (8477).
For those wanting to get rid guns, police and the sheriff's office will be at the St. Pete Police headquarters every Saturday in February from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. collecting any type of gun.
At the gun drop off site, citizens can turn in their unwanted firearms and ammunition while also being able to speak with an officer about gun safety. Gun locks will also be available at the drop off site for those wishing to better secure their firearms.