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Sheriff To Trade Athletic Shoes For Guns

By MIKE WELLS The Tampa Tribune

Published: Jul 15, 2007

TAMPA - To curb a recent upswing in armed robberies, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is holding a gun buy-back program Saturday in north Tampa.

"Kicks for Guns" is about taking unwanted firearms out of homes and keeping families safe, said Deputy Chad Frisco of the sheriff's Crime Prevention Unit.

Residents can turn in guns in exchange for a new pair of Nike athletic shoes. The event will be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the University Area Community Center, 14013 N. 22nd St. Organizers have gathered about 50 pairs of shoes in sizes for all ages and hope to collect additional pairs from sponsors, Frisco said.

Deputies will run background checks on the weapons to see whether they have been reported stolen or used in a crime, Frisco said.

Proof of ownership is not required to turn in a gun, but participants will need to submit their names and other identifying information, Frisco said.

Handguns and long guns are eligible, but BB guns and knives are not.

The sheriff's office last held a gun buy-back program in 2001, with other law enforcement agencies across the Tampa Bay area. Deputies melted some of the weapons to make the star monuments in front of the sheriff's office headquarters, Frisco said.

Sheriff's officials decided to bring back the idea after robberies started increasing in recent years, especially in the District I area, he said.

"Robberies, both with a weapon and without, have been prevalent in [north Tampa]," Frisco said.

In 2006, at least 1,320 robberies were committed with a weapon in unincorporated Hillsborough County, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said. That's nearly a 27 percent jump over the previous year. As of June 30 this year, deputies have investigated 836 robberies in which a weapon was used.

Last July, Orlando police collected 116 firearms and 31 pellet guns at a buy-back at the Citrus Bowl Stadium, according to a city news release. The city's annual "Kicks for Guns" event also exchanges guns for sneakers. Three of the guns were previously reported stolen.

For information about the upcoming Hillsborough event, call the sheriff's Crime Prevention Unit at (813) 247-8115.
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