By Tamas Mondovics
Members of the State Attorney’s Office of the 13th Judicial Circuit, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida were all on hand last month to discuss the conclusion of a major criminal investigation that resulted in the seizure of dozens of firearms, illegal drugs and the arrest of multiple suspects in Hillsborough County.
Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee told reporters during the press conference at the HCSO Special Investigation Division, 2224 N. Falkenburg Rd. in Tampa, that the unified effort between the agencies involved resulted in the seizure of 66 firearms from 51 offenders.
Gee said that detectives posed as convicted felons and tried to buy guns from people during the 12-week period, which he said was easy to do as nearly 60 people told undercover detectives that they could get them guns.
When done, the operation seized 42 handguns, 15 riffles and nine shotguns, seven of which were reported stolen.
A total of 188 firearm and drug-related charges have reportedly been filed in connection with the case.
“I can’t say enough about the undercover operation that was done here,” Gee said emphasizing the outstanding work accomplished by the men and women who took part in the hand to hand transactions as the offenders were delivering loaded guns, which Gee said were “really easy to buy.”
“If you want to predict violent crime you can always look at the number of firearms that are readily available on the street that people can just walk up and buy,” he said, adding that the investigation and its success is just the beginning and more work is going to be done. “We are going to put a lot of resources into this during the year.”
According to HCSO, aggravated assault in Hillsborough County has increased about 11 percent last year, a significant increase.
Another concern was the fact that while a large amount of weapons were recovered during the operation, none of them were from the pair of recent gun shop burglaries.
“The firearms recovered during the 12-week operation, a relatively short amount of time, is alarming.” Gee said.
For more information about the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, please visit www.hcso.tampa.fl.us.