LAKELAND, Florida - The murder of Lakeland Police Officer Arnulfo Crispin in December 2011 was a wakeup call for the city of Lakeland. The young officer, just 25, was shot in the head.
Crispin's death kickstarted a crackdown on guns. On Wednesday, local and federal law enforcement officials announced the results of a six-month undercover investigation dubbed Operation Smoke and Guns.
"The way the operation was conducted allowed us to really hit hard and heavy, and have a great deal of success in a short amount of time," said Lakeland Chief Lisa Womack.
At the news conference, a table was filled with a variety guns, both handguns and rifles. They were not the actual guns purchased during the operation, but the display represented the types of weapons now off the streets.
Investigators won't say exactly how the operation worked, but it targeted felons illegally in possession of firearms. One-hundred and nine guns are now out of their hands.
"These are the folks using them for violent crimes and for other bad things in our community. We got bad guns off the street," said Womack.
Forty-seven people now face charges, and officers began rounding them up early Wednesday morning. By mid-afternoon, 23 were in custody.
Chief Womack said federal help, both manpower and expertise from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), boosted the success rate of this operation.
Many of those arrested will also face federal charges that carry longer prison terms. "Utilization of statues like that allows us to target the worst of the worst and keep people like that out of the community for a substantial period of time," said U.S. attorney Robert O'Neill.
Along with guns, officers involved in the operation also confiscated a variety of illegal drugs. Now that suspects are being arrested, law enforcement will also begin tracing all the weapons seized to find out where they came from.