Departments offer $50 gift cards in exchange for guns
By Chris Fish
Rockledge and Cocoa police departments are sponsoring a gun buyback, in partnership with Central Florida Crimeline, on Thursday, Aug. 16.
“The program allows for people who have guns to drop them off, no questions asked,” said Barbara Matthews, public information officer for the Cocoa Police Department. “We do ask that people stay in their vehicles (during the buyback). If they know how to unload the gun, we ask they put the ammo and gun in separate bags in the trunk of their cars. If they don’t know how to unload their gun, we ask they put it in the trunk and tell the officer it is loaded. We want nothing on the front seat.”
The event starts at 7 a.m. at Byrd Plaza on 801 Dixon Blvd., Cocoa. In exchange for the guns, the department will be handing out $50 gift cards for places, such as Publix and Winn Dixie. There is a limit of the number of gift cards available, so the event is on a first-come, first-served basis.
“People should get there as early as they can. Last year, we had a line of five or six cars before 7 a.m. We are also limiting the buyback this year to two guns per vehicle,” Officer Matthews said. “We have had people in the past clean us out (when they bring in a bunch of guns). It’s a great event. We collected about 256 guns last year.”
Ilene Manzo, an officer for Rockledge Police Department, said the event hopes to curb the amount of gun involved crimes within the area.
“It’s an awesome program to help keep the streets safe,” she said. “These guns could potentially be involved in a crime.”
Officer Matthews said she agrees that event helps curve gun violence, but it also serves as another valuable option.
“A lot of it is also for people, who have guns in their homes, and they don’t know what to do with them,” she said. “Sometimes, an older person in their family will pass away, and the family will feel uncomfortable about having a gun in their home.”
Officer Matthews said the gun buyback could also prevent burglaries in residents’ homes.
“Bad guys break into places they suspect have guns,” she said.
The buyback will also accept pellet guns, but the departments are still working on compensation for these items.
“We are hoping to get Subway gift cards for pellet guns,” Officer Matthews said. “Some pellet guns look very, very real. Sometimes, people don’t even realize it is a pellet gun.”
Officer Manzo said members of the departments have been doing all they can to raise awareness for the event.
“We have been putting information out through our email and by sending press releases,” she said. “We have also talked about the event in some of our neighborhood watch meetings, and we plan on advertising it through lighted signs.”
The gun buyback event is also being held throughout Central Florida on the same day, at the same time, including the city of Palm Bay and 11 other locations in Orange and Seminole counties.
For more information about the gun buyback, contact Officer Matthews with the Cocoa Police Department at (321) 637-6309 or the Rockledge Police Department at (321) 690-3988.