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Trade-in takes hundreds of weapons off city's streets in just four days.

A Christmas-time plea to trade guns for toys, in New York's crime-plagued Washington Heights section, yielded the surrender of hundreds of weapons and inspired local and national leaders around the country to talk of replicating the program elsewhere.

The program was to run for a few days leading up to Christmas, but the response was so positive that it has been extended through January 6.

Gun owners lined up outside their local police station to turn in weapons and receive $100 Toys 'R' Us gift certificates in return. Police accepting the guns took no names and said they would not test the weapons to determine whether they had been used previously in commission of crimes.

While many localities have gun surrender programs in place, some of which offer money in exchange, few can approach the dramatic success of the Washington Heights effort. Even New York's Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, originally a skeptic, was both impressed and surprised by the outcome. "I'm converted," he said. "I'm a believer."

"Every city," NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Chavis said, "needs a toys-for-guns proThe idea for the toy exchange came from the 14-year old son of Fernando Mateo, a carpet store owner who donated the first $5,000 in gift certificates. Becanse of the response was greater than anticipated, the initial gift certificate supply was depleted before Christmas and IOU's were handed out in their place.

Companies participating in the effort have pledged $35,000, according to program managers.
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Title Annotation:New York, New York's guns for toys program
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Jan 3, 1994
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