Crime Beat & Public Safety

By Tamas Mondovics

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Gun Swap Post Great Success

Dozens of stolen weapons, rocket launchers and thousands of guns, collected by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies during “Operation Gun Swap” held throughout the county earlier this month, proved the department’s continued successful effort of getting unwanted and illegal guns off the street.

The effort by HCSO deputies isn’t new, but in the wake of the recent surge of headlines involving gun-related violence throughout the country, the time to make an extra effort is as appropriate as any.

According to HCSO spokesperson, Samara Sodos, the appropriately named event received an overwhelming response.

“Operation Gun Swap was an enormous success,” she said. “Deputies collected 2541 firearms – including at least 11 stolen guns, and hundreds of illegal weapons.

Sodos explained that every one of the five drop-off or gun swap locations produced lines of cars waiting to get into the event and, once inside, lines of people were waiting to swap their guns for $75 cash and game tickets.

Deputies reported that two rocket launchers were also turned in. The first of which was at the Dover area location – the IGA grocery store at 14720 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and a second one just 30 minutes later at the HCSO Progress Village substation location.

Upon receiving the rocket launchers, HCSO bomb technicians, on hand, inspected them and determined that they were not loaded.

Deputies at each post reported that since response has been so robust, the originally offered cash and Tampa Bay Rays ticket supplies were quickly depleted, so deputies began distributing vouchers that  guaranteed the same $75 and same game tickets.

Those with vouchers were asked to visit the department’s Ybor City Operations Center, located at 2008 E. 8th Ave. to exchange the vouchers for the cash and tickets.

“Since the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the department has been overwhelmed by phone calls and emails by residents who are interested in turning in their guns,” said HCSO Lieutenant, Chad Chronister.

HCSO wanted to thank the participants in this event for their patience and overwhelming support.

For more information about gun swap, please visit www.hcso.tampa.fl.us/Articles/Articles/Operation-Gun-Swap.aspx.

HCSO Honored For “State’s Best Crossing Guard Program”

That school crossing guards play a vital part in the safety of students was recognized last month during an awards ceremony held at the Sheriff’s Operation Center, 2008 E. 8th Avenue in Tampa.

The Florida Department of Transportation presented the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office with an award for Florida’s best crossing guard program.

It is estimated that crossing guards monitor 238 crossings that serve 99 schools throughout the county and assist more than 15,000 school children daily during the school year.

FDOT District Safety Programs Director Dave Skrelunas was on hand to present HCSO with its well-deserved honor and award.

The sheriff’s office also took the opportunity to name Iris Rodriguez as the 2012 Crossing Guard of the Year.  She is a dedicated crossing guard who has worked the same post for 33 years and has assisted several generations of families to safely cross the street.

“While greeting the elementary students with a warm smile, she takes their safety to heart,” said HCSO Major Sankar Montoute, while presenting the award to Rodriguez. “By not allowing inclement weather to sway her commitment, she is always on post and ready to serve and protect.”

The award of Crossing Guard Supervisor of the year went to Benny Albano who has been serving the community for 12 years.

Montoute said that Albano is supervisor who is well respected by his peers, embraces the concept of teamwork, and exhibits a “can do” attitude.

For more information please visit www.hcso.tampa.fl.us.