Bosnians try their luck with weapons trade-in raffle
Stars and Stripes June 5, 2003
BRCKO, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Turn in a gun, win a car.
Stabilization Force troops have come up with a way to get Bosnian residents to hand over illegal weapons as part of the ongoing Operation Harvest. Normally, troops go door to door asking residents if they have weapons to turn over to peacekeepers.
But under the new program, called Harvest Rewards, Bosnians who turn in weapons are given raffle tickets with a chance to win prizes such as dinner for two, or even a new car.
“We wanted to come up with a way to reward them for acting on their civic duty,” said Capt. Robert Ford, Camp McGovern’s public affairs officer.
The idea first came about in a meeting that Ford had with the members of the local media. Ford asked what could be done to improve the weapons turn-in and most came up with a similar idea: a raffle.
“People here love to play fortune games,” said Dragan Djukic, TV Hit information program editor.
Ten TV and radio stations worked to develop the rewards program, which has created a buzz.
Harvest Rewards started May 19, and so far, the program can be considered a success, Ford said.
SFOR troops are on pace or ahead of last summer’s weapons harvest. In just two weeks, they have collected 230 weapons, 1,265 hand grenades and 110,324 rounds of ammunition.
Not all people who are turning in weapons know about the raffle, Ford said. But they still get a chance to win.
When police and troops knocked on Marko Mendes’ door, he handed over a hand grenade. He had just learned about the raffle.
“Maybe I’ll get lucky,” Mendes said.
The program will run through June 17. Seven towns that participated in Harvest Rewards will hand out a total of 210 daily prizes, ranging from dinners, 30 liters of fuel, or baby care packages.
The TV and radio stations found sponsors for the daily awards, and the participating town mayors gave 1,000 euros, almost $1,200, each toward the main prize, a new Volkswagen Polo Classic. A local gas company and auto dealer, Brcko-Gas, made up the difference on the price of the car.
The raffle helps promote police goals, said Dragan Gluhovic, a Brcko police officer who went door to door with the troops.
Although residents have had many opportunities to turn in weapons, many responded this time around by giving up the weapons hidden under couches and behind cupboards.
One woman turned in a mint-condition AK–47, 400 ammunition rounds and three hand grenades to Sgt. 1st Class Bradley Ericson of Troop B, 1st Squadron, 167th Cavalry Regiment. She said she had held onto it as a memory of her son, who died during the war.
“There really is no typical situation,” Ericson said.
At another location, a group of soldiers had set up a turn-in point. They had one person come to them three times to turn in weapons. The troops suspected he was going around collecting weapons himself so he could get more tickets.
“He’s doing all the legwork,” said Sgt. Robert McMullen.
Many know exactly how many raffle tickets they get for their turn-in — five for each weapon, three for each grenade and one for every 20 rounds of ammunition.
One lady showed up at the collection point with three hand grenades, finger-motioning the number and repeating “Tri bombe” (three bombs) to make sure she got her tickets, McMullen said.
Although the citizens who have never owned any illegal weapons, or have already turned theirs in cannot participate in the raffle, Djukic said all are winners.
“This is the only reward game where everybody wins. The big award is not the car. It is the safe environment.”