Authorities work to remove illegal guns from streets
Crime Stoppers is teaming up with Southwest Florida law enforcement agencies to emphasize the importance of getting illegal guns off the streets, offering up to $1,000 in reward money for citizens with information about illegal guns.
The program, dubbed the “Illegal Gun Bounty Program,” was spearheaded by Fort Myers Police Chief Doug Baker in response to a growing volume of illegal firearms not only in Fort Myers but throughout Lee County.
In Fort Myers alone, 342 illegal weapons were seized by the Fort Myers Police Department in 2008, Baker said.
“There’s a tremendous amount of weapons on the streets, in my opinion, that are carried both legally and illegally, but it’s just the sheer volume,” Baker said during a news conference Monday. “We want to make sure that we’re protecting our citizens and protecting our officers, but more importantly we do not want these weapons to fall into the hands of a child.”
Baker said that due to the crackdown by the department’s Violent Crimes Task Force, Fort Myers has seen a 15 percent drop in violent crime and a 50 percent drop in the murder rate in 2008.
“(However) I still don’t think that’s enough,” Baker said.
He said it is not just Fort Myers that is affected by illegal guns and violent crime, but instead that the problem exists throughout Southwest Florida.
“I think it’s incumbent upon all of us as either officials or residents to be participating, and I think it’s important we all have the responsibility to reduce (violent crime),” Baker said.
Police are hoping that along with the economically-motivated tipsters, some civil-minded citizens also will step forward.
“I think you’ll have an even mix of people that will do it for the dollar associated with it and also because they’re looking to participate in something greater than themselves, and they’re looking to preserve their quality of life and protect their families as well,” he said.
Trish Routte, a local Crime Stoppers coordinator, emphasized Monday the importance of residents taking an active role in the reduction of violent crimes.
“With this Illegal Gun Bounty Program we’re trying to remind (residents) that we really need information on fugitives in possession of illegal weapons or simply illegal weapons in our community,” she said. “We want people to have the confidence to know that when they pick up the phones to call Crime Stoppers, they’re protected. Even if they have some question about whether it’s legitimate information or not, make the phone call and let detectives follow up.”
For information on illegal firearms or knowledge of other crimes, contact Crime Stoppers at 800-780-TIPS (8477). Calls are anonymous and may lead to a cash reward of up to $1,000.
Additionally, tips can be made online at: www.swflcrimestoppers.org.