ATLANTIC CITY — City officials, law-enforcement officers and community organizers announced a new program Monday that will pay people to turn in guns with the goal of reducing firearm violence in Atlantic County.
Atlantic City, Pleasantville, the Atlantic County’s Prosecutor’s Office and a variety of companies and groups are working together for the area’s third Gun Surrender Program.
The guns will be collected at locations in Atlantic City and Pleasantville starting Oct. 16 and 17 from noon to 6 p.m. Police will ask for no identification and no arrests will be made at the events.
AtlantiCare made a $25,000 donation, which will be redistributed as cash for each weapon anonymously turned in.
“This is a long-term commitment,” said Atlantic County Sheriff Frank Balles in AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s sixth floor atrium. “Our goal is to stop the violence in Atlantic County.”
Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel said such efforts, which Atlantic City organized before in 1996 and 2005, have proven successful there and in other cities, saying that if one less gun saves one life it should be considered worth it.
In 1996, officers collected 540 guns, and in 2005 nearly 750 guns were surrendered.
Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford, Pleasantville Mayor Jesse Tweedle, the police chiefs from both cities and other officials teamed with community members such as Sharon Kelly, president of the New Jersey Chapter of Mothers in Charge.
Kelly’s 31-year-old son, Jermaine, died in 2003 after being shot in Philadelphia, and she subsequently helped form the local chapter of the group that encourages mothers to talk to their children to reduce violence.
The man who killed her son received a life sentence, Kelly said.
“But you know what? I was sentenced to life too,” the Pleasantville woman said, referring to a life of pain and tears.
Police will pay $50 for each rifle or shotgun, $70 for each pistol and $100 for each assault weapon turned in. The weapons will then be destroyed.
Besides AtlantiCare, sponsors as of Monday included The Ingerman Group, the Pleasantville Housing Authority, The United Way, the Goldenberg Mackler law firm and Galloway attorney Ernest Aponte.
Officers in Atlantic City and Pleasantville also have confiscated hundreds of guns this year in stepped-up efforts to stop shootings. The two departments responded to dozens of gunfire reports and a combined 14 homicides so far this year.
“It’s an epidemic,” Atlantic City Deputy Police Chief Ernest Jubilee said.
The effort is one of several recently organized to curb crime and inspire locals to do what they can to stop the violence around them, along with newly formed special law-enforcement units and community rallies.
A gathering at the Mount Zion Community Life Center on South New Road in Pleasantville will kick off the program, featuring presentations by students and local leaders, entertainment and other events.
Mayor Tweedle thanked the various groups working together to support and run the program, and honored the two recent winners of a Stop the Violence T-shirt design contest that Pleasantville, Atlantic County Crime Stoppers and The Jump-Off clothing store.
Nine-year-old Sinlena Maldonado and 14-year-old Shaheed Black, both of Pleasantville, sat in the back of the room. As Pleasantville Police Chief Duane Comeaux listed his city’s most recent crime statistics, Maldonado leaned and whispered in her mother Evelyn’s ear.
“What’s a homicide?” she asked.
Her mother whispered back, and Maldonado nodded that she realized it meant murder.
Those wanting to participate in the program may drop off weapons from noon to 6 p.m. Oct. 16 and 17 at the following locations:
_Atlantic City Fire Station #1, Maryland and Atlantic avenues
_Atlantic City Fire Station #2, California and Atlantic avenues
_Pleasantville Fire Station, Washington Avenue and First Street
The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office’s Mobile Unit will pick up weapons at homes as well. Call 609-909-7800 to schedule a pick-up. To schedule an after-hours drop off, call Atlantic City police at 609-347-5780 or Pleasantville police at 609-641-6100.
To make a monetary donation to the program, send a check made out to Atlantic County Crime Stoppers Foundation to P.O. Box 262, Northfield, NJ 08225.
Contact Lee Procida: