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Residents turn in a small arsenal

Police collected 61 firearms during an amnesty drive focused on South Philadelphia.

Police collected 61 guns Saturday during a three-hour "turn-in-your-gun" program at the Chew Playground in the 1800 block of Ellsworth Street in South Philadelphia's Point Breeze section.

Sponsored by a coalition of groups led by the Southwest Community Advisory Group, the no-questions-asked program gave anyone who turned in a firearm a $100 Wal-Mart gift certificate.

Marsha Wall, who heads the community group, said the goal was to raise neighborhood awareness and "make the streets safer."

Residents turned in rifles, handguns, and a sawed-off shotgun, said Capt. Anthony Washington of the 17th Police District. The guns will be destroyed. As part of the program, he said, police agreed not to try to trace or link any weapon to any ongoing criminal investigation.

Residents turning in guns did not have to provide any information about where the weapons had come from.

State Rep. Kenyatta Johnson (D., Phila.) said, "The more guns we get off the streets, the safer the streets are."

Johnson and his staff took part in Saturday's program, which collected 42 handguns and 18 long guns in addition to the sawed-off shotgun.

"That's some artillery," said Johnson, who praised the Southwest Community Advisory Group and the 17th Police District for coordinating the effort.

Wall said it was the fifth time since 2007 that her organization had run a gun turn-in campaign. Saturday was the first time in South Philadelphia. The previous programs have focused on Southwest Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Others who helped organize the event included State Sen. Anthony Williams (D., Phila.), Power 99 FM, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Peace Not Guns Organization.