MEXICO CITY, March 27 (Reuters) - Police who have raided vice-ridden Mexico City neighborhoods in a push against drug violence hope to take guns off the streets by offering to swap them for computers and video-game consoles.
Launching the program on Tuesday in the notorious inner-city barrio of Tepito, which police stormed last month, city police chief Joel Ortega said anyone who turns in a high-caliber weapon like a machine gun will get a computer.
Owners can swap smaller guns for cash or Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox video-game consoles under the plan.
Newly elected Mayor Marcelo Ebrard has moved quickly to restore order to the chaotic capital by going after well-known crime dens and clearing the city’s narrow streets of informal vendors whose stalls have blocked sidewalks for years.
His moves echo those of new conservative President Felipe Calderon, who since December has ordered the military into several states infested by ruthless drug gangs who killed about 2,000 people last year.
Last month police stormed Tepito, a warren of scruffy homes and market stalls a few blocks north of the capital’s main square, seizing a tenement complex known as "The Fortress" -- reputedly a major cocaine and marijuana distribution center.
"This area is a symbol of crime," said police spokesman Ricardo Olayo.
Organizers say they have 100 computers ready for the first wave of the program, each worth 8,500 pesos ($769) and equipped with software donated by Microsoft. On the first day, Olayo said the city received 17 guns, including 12 from Tepito.
If successful, the program will be extended to Iztapalapa, another area targeted by police where last week 800 officers expropriated a six-block neighborhood filled with stores selling parts torn from stolen cars.
Guns that are handed over will be destroyed by the army. The city promised to protect their owners’ anonymity.