HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Criminals who can’t buy guns still find ways to get them. So, after a spike in violent crimes, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has had enough
Deputies launched Operation: Gunbox following a string of violent crimes. Most of these crimes were committed with guns in the northern part of the county.
Col. Donna Lusczynski with the sheriff’s office told News Channel 8 73 percent of the homicides were the result of firearm violence. “We felt we needed to get out there and protect our community,” Lusczynski said.
Undercover deputies carried out a four-month sting operation, trying to buy as many illegal guns on the street as they could. In the end, they bought 20 stolen guns.
“Often times we trace the guns and find out they were stolen, but because the owner didn’t have the information to provide to police they couldn’t be entered into the national crime base as stolen,” assistant special agent Dave brown with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said.
“What we asked them to do was go into situations where we know there is a gun, usually we may suspect where we are trying to buy firearms or drugs, so the guns are right there already,” Col. Lusczynski said.
Arrest warrants were issued for 64 people. Most of the suspects were taken into custody this week. Some of them have been in trouble with the law before.
Most of the suspects are facing state charges, but eight are charged with federal offenses which could land them behind bars anywhere from 5 to 40 years.
Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober offered a warning. “If you possess a gun and should not, we are going to come after you. We are going to be as stringent as we can be because the rest of the community deserves to be able to walk around safely without fear of violence,” Ober said.
In addition to the guns, deputies recovered cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin.