Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Pete police re-launch their gun bounty program

ST. PETERSBURG — Police Chief Chuck Harmon stood behind the lectern and held up a gray .45-caliber 1911 pistol.

A foot-long magazine that can hold more than 20 rounds extended from its butt.

"I don't think anybody can explain this to me," he said. "It doesn't make any sense."

In Pinellas County, guns like that one — often owned by felons — are under siege. With dozens of police and deputies at his back, Harmon announced to a crowd of reporters outside the police department that the city is re-launching its gun bounty program as part of a widespread effort to reduce the number of illegal weapons on the street.

The program offers a substantial reward — $1,500 for assault weapons and $1,000 for all other firearms — but the requirements are stiff.

Tipsters, through Crime Stoppers, must offer information that leads to the recovery of a gun, an arrest and a weapons charge. If all that happens, callers get the cash. Those involved may remain anonymous.

"We are interested in getting guns out of bad guys' hands," said Mayor Bill Foster. "Not trying to get guns out of law-abiding citizens' hands."

The mayor, the chief and Sheriff Bob Gualtieri each made that point several times — weapons owned by criminals, not regular folks, are the target of this effort.

The program, funded by a $47,000 grant, is not a new one for the police department.

Nearly four years ago, after a rash of shootings — including one that killed 8-year-old Paris Whitehead-Hamilton — people were desperate for action against gun violence.

City officials unveiled the bounty program in late April 2009, just weeks after Paris' death. That year, 106 tips sparked 43 arrests and 21 seized firearms. Those figures steadily dwindled until, in 2012, it resulted in no arrests or seizures.

Over the last three years, 856 guns have been stolen in St. Petersburg. It's difficult to estimate the number of stolen guns used in crimes, officials said, because the weapons are seldom recovered.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, and amid a national debate about gun rights and regulation, local law enforcement agencies and politicians have wrestled with how best to respond.

In Hillsborough County, authorities have decided to hold a gun buyback. People will be allowed to drop off guns Saturday at various locations in exchange for $75 and a voucher for Lightning and Rays games.

But authorities in Pinellas, including Harmon, are skeptical of the effectiveness of gun buy back programs. They say those programs do more to get old guns out of closets than off the streets. Still, they too are urging people to turn in unwanted firearms from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Saturday in February — although no will get money or sports tickets.

Times staff writer Mark Puente contributed to this report. John Woodrow Cox can be reached at

St. Pete police re-launch their gun bounty program 01/31/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 31, 2013 6:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Two Kissimmee police officers shot to death


    KISSIMMEE — Two police officers were shot dead in Kissimmee Friday night, Orange County mayor Teresa Jacobs said.

  2. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  3. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming


    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  4. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day


    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.
  5. Despite pain, woman in court faces ex-boyfriend who lit her on fire



    Sheron Pasco sat in the wheelchair as her mother pushed it toward the man in the orange jail suit.

    Sheron Pasco, 39, relies on the help of her mother, Tranda Webb, 62, as she recovers from the burns covering her body.