JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Gene Paul Smith says his small agency has seized more illegal guns than almost any other agency in Northeast Florida.
It’s part of his push to make the coastal community safer.
Since he took over as the top cop in 2019, Jacksonville Beach police officers have made 141 firearms-related arrests, worked 457 gun cases and seized 392 firearms, according to numbers the Jacksonville Beach Police Department released. He says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Jacksonville office said that’s the second highest number of seized firearms from a local agency, other than the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
On Tuesday, he’ll present those results to city leaders.
News4JAX rode with Cpl. Misty Brossart, who patrols Jacksonville Beach. She knows her next call could bring anything, and she can’t let her guard down.
Officers said most of the gun cases began as traffic stops for minor violations.
“People that are driving in, most of the time there’s something that they are doing that is illegal,” said Sgt. Tonya Tator.
She emphasized officers are only looking for illegal firearms or weapons in the hands of people who aren’t legally allowed to have them.
“You have to search and go through all the steps,” she said. “That goes back to training on the officer’s part so they understand what they can do and what they cannot do.”
Tator said the guns are taken as evidence. Police team up with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and ATF to run the serial numbers through databases and test fire the guns for a national bullet catalog called National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, which connects guns used in violent crimes.
Photos from gun busts show an AK-47-style rifle, high-capacity magazines and weapons with the serial numbers scratched off. Officers said they seized them from admitted gang members and juveniles alike. A large percentage of the cases also involved illegal drugs. Tator said most people arrested were not Jacksonville Beach residents.
“We want you to come out and visit and enjoy our beaches and our businesses, but we want it to be in a safe manner,” she added. “So if you’re coming here with ill- intent, bringing illegal drugs if you’re in a criminal gang, if you have an illegal firearm, we don’t want you out here.”
In April, 2 men were injured in a shooting in the city’s nightlife district. Police arrested one of the injured men on a charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.