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Miami police announce drug arrests, gun buybacks

With a vow to crack down on gun violence — in part by targeting gangs of drug dealers who are often involved in shootings — Miami leaders on Friday announced more than 100 gang-related arrests and plans for three gun buyback events in the coming weeks.

The arrests, which police said led to the dismantling of three criminal drug-dealing organizations, are the result of three long-term police investigations, one of which dates back to 2010. The criminal charges ranged from drug trafficking to criminal conspiracy to, in one case, attempted murder.

That attempted murder charge is against 20-year-old Jamar Jordan, who is accused of shooting his gun in a crowded Overtown park after an argument erupted. Youth football games were being played in the park at the time, and three people were wounded by stray bullets.

“We are going after all these shootings,” Miami Chief of Police Manuel Orosa told reporters at a Friday morning news conference. Orosa said the city has experienced a string of shootings in recent months and is still trying to gather more information on some of the crimes. If members of the community can share any information they have, it will help police “put this behind us,” Orosa said.

Though Jordan was arrested in September, most of the arrests publicized Friday occurred in late December, police said.

The city’s planned gun buyback days will be Jan. 19, Jan. 26, and Feb. 2 at some local churches. Guns will be accepted on a no-questions-asked basis, with the city offering $50 gift cards for handguns and possibly higher payouts for larger assault weapons.

The gun buyback is being funded with $10,000 in donations from local businesses. By getting some of those guns off the street, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said, “We will be able to at least save some lives.”

Reducing gun violence has been a top priority for local and national politicians after last month’s deadly school shooting in Connecticut. Miami radio personality Enrique Santos, who volunteers as a reserve Miami police officer, has pledged to promote the gun buyback on his morning show that airs on Mix 98.3 FM. That morning show is syndicated and aired in 11 other markets around the country, leading Santos to hope his discussion of Miami’s effort might inspire similar events in other cities.

After the Connecticut shooting, “you feel impotent that you weren’t able to do more, that you can’t do more,” Santos said. “Starting the new year, we can do more ... it’s my responsibility to step up to the plate.”

The city of Los Angeles moved up a planned gun buyback in response to the Connecticut tragedy, and last week collected more than 2,000 firearms — including two rocket launchers.

Supporters of Miami’s buyback called on the public to turn over weapons that may have belonged to a relative who is deceased, or who is now incarcerated.

“We’re talking about that rifle or gun that is collecting dust in a closet or drawer,” Santos said. “These guns have the potential of falling into the wrong hands.”

No matter how many firearms are collected in Miami’s buyback events, a recent surge in overall gun purchases makes it likely that Florida will start 2013 with higher gun ownership rates than ever.

As the Connecticut shooting has renewed calls for Congress to pass gun-control legislation, weapons dealers in Florida and across the country have reported record sales in recent weeks — customers are stocking up on guns in case the federal government enacts an assault-weapons ban later on.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida set a record for gun purchases in 2012, with the state performing nearly 800,000 customer background checks. That’s up 31 percent over the year before.