City of Miami Police collect guns during buy back drive

Erick Johnson | 5/8/2014, 9 a.m.
Police check in three sawed-off shotguns during a gun buy back event in Little Haiti Saturday

With crime increasing in the city’s Black neighborhoods, police officials Saturday hosted a gun buy back drive in Little Haiti hoping to reduce violent crimes that have claimed the lives of innocents victims in recent months.

There were sawed-off shotguns, rifles and handguns returned at a police branch located at Little Haiti’s Soccer Park, 6301 NE 2nd Ave. The drive started at 10 a.m. and ended at 2 p.m. Residents dropped off the firearms under a tent in the building’s parking lot, where police cleared the guns of bullets with special devices. Gun owners who were unable to travel to the branch were able to call police to have their firearms picked up.

Police encouraged the drop-offs by communicating a “no-questions asked” policy for gun owners wishing to return firearms without fear and retribution. In exchange, gun owners were given gift certificates to various stores and businesses for their participation.

As of 1:45 p.m. police collected a total of five firearms, compared to 174 guns received at a similar drive in Little Havana last year. Despite the number at Saturday’s event, organizers were not disappointed.

“Even one (returned weapon) is good because it means less weapons are on the street,” said Reverend Jerome Starling of Jordan Grove Baptist Church, who helped organize the event.

Starling and city officials hope the event will help stem rising gun-violence in the community. Less than a block from where the event was held, Marquis Sams, 20, and Wilneka Pennyman, 19, were killed after being gunned down during a drive by shooting a month ago outside a home at 151 NE 63rd St. In recent weeks, there were also similar shootings in Liberty City and Little River. No arrests have been made in any of those shootings.

Starling urged residents to come forward and help police catch criminals.

“People are not getting involved in their community,” he said. “Blacks don’t realize that if they don’t tell police about crime, they may end up dead too.”

Another gun buy back event is being planned for Allapattah later this year, Starling said.