SARASOTA, Fla. -- Nearly 100 criminals and dozens of guns are off the streets of Sarasota thanks to an undercover operation targeting illegal sales of drugs and firearms.
"I saw an uptick in shooting into vehicles and cars and other individuals being shot," said Bernadette DiPino, Sarasota Police Chief.
Chief DiPino says a rise in gun violence in the city of Sarasota last year triggered action.
"We knew right then and there that we needed to do whatever we could to make sure that our community was safe," said DiPino.
So Sarasota Police partnered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for Operation SURGE (Sarasota Unified Reduction Gun Crime Enforcement).
From January to September, officers worked undercover to purchase drugs and guns from suspected dealers.
"There was so much courage and heroism with the individuals that were actually working undercover," said DiPino.
DiPino says their bravery resulted in the arrest of 95 people who had a total of more than 2,500 prior arrested.
Chief DiPino says she’s proud that more than 80 illegal guns were recovered and she believes crime will go down because of it.
"You count the number go bullets in those guns and the number of guns, you’re talking hundreds and hundred of lives that were spared and I’m not just talking death. Lives can be damaged by injury and by threat of violence. Those guns were going to do harm to people in the community and we’re glad that they’re off the street now," said DiPino.
Officers are continuing to look for the remaining 11 individuals who are wanted as a result of Operation SURGE.
- J Oliver Fort, 08/28/1973
- Robert Hicks 08/19/1963
- Bobby Hudson 04/15/1986
- Reshond Keno 07/12/1991
- Tammy Lilley 02/27/1990
- Renardo McCray 01/27/1981
- Susan Rice 06/28/1962
- Barbara Schnurr 03/03/1978
- Natron Sellers 12/04/1997
- Jaron Sheppard 12/10/1991
- DeMario Thomas 08/08/1992