St. Pete, Pinellas will pay you to report illegal guns - FOX 13 News

St. Pete, Pinellas will pay you to report illegal guns

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As the gun control debate rages on in Washington, communities here in our area say getting illegal weapons off the streets isn't just a priority, it's a necessity.

It's a one-month gun bounty program. All you have to do is give Pinellas County Crimestoppers a confidential tip that results in an arrest. If they then recover an assault rifle that leads to a weapons charge, you would get paid $1,500.

"We are interested in getting guns out of bad guys' hands," said Mayor Bill Foster. "That's what this is all about."

You'll also get $1,000 for every other type of illegal gun recovered.

"This is a kel-tec 9 mm that was taken from a student in high school last week," said Bill Proffit with the St. Pete Police Department, showing us a handgun among the many confiscated over the last several days.

"What lawful use somebody might someone have for sticking a 30-round clip in a 45 not designed to carry?" asked St. Pete Police Chief Chuck Harmon as he held up the weapon.

The chief was flanked by an impressive wall of law enforcement, a joint team effort between the city and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to take back illegal weapons.

"This is a great partnership between the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and The St. Petersburg Police Department," said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

He and Harmon told how this team, working 7 days a week, will coordinate this bounty program to get guns off their streets.

"What we are not trying to do is remove any guns from people who lawfully can possess them," said Harmon.

We followed officers Ron Sparrow and Terrence Bell as they went door to door on Paris Avenue South, leaving fliers in every door where someone was not home.  They connected with as many people as they could, explaining the program.

"And what we're doing is trying to get guns off the street from criminals," said Bell to a group of women who were walking down the street.

Paris Hamilton, 8, died on that street in a drive-by shooting back in 2009.

"In this room right here," her Aunt, Shenita Williams, pointed to the brick wall in front of her house. "The guys that came, they were looking for someone who doesn't live here."

And those four men began shooting more than 53 bullets into her house.

"That's one of the bullets right there," she said, as she stuck her fingertip into one of the now-filled-in holes.

Paris' death triggered the program.

The street was re-named Paris Avenue South not long after her death, and the family said seeing all those guns on the table at the department just tells them that many more families won't be suffering the way they have the last four years.

"So the bad guys, they're always flashing their gun," Foster said. "They're always on Facebook with a gun. They're doing things with a firearm and people around them know it."

If you see someone flashing a weapon on any social media, you can text or call it in and that could mean one less gun in the hands of criminals.

"Great, wonderful!" exclaimed Williams. "They're off the streets. We saved some lives."

Police said this is totally different from any gun buyback program. The focus is finding criminals and recovering those illegal guns. Police said it's the best way to get dangerous weapons out of your neighborhood, to keep you and your family safe.

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