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Monday, 11 April 2011

Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples roundup of 122 people suspected of gang and drug activity in five Mississippi Delta counties.

06:51 |

Some of those arrested had ties to the Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples.

Also, 45 firearms, more than $26,000 in cash and more than $25,000 in illegal narcotics were confiscated, according to Christopher Felix, supervisory inspector of the U.S. Marshals Service Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force.

"A clear message was sent. We will not tolerate gang violence within our community," said Jeff Woodfin, acting U.S. marshal for the Northern District of Mississippi.

After getting complaints, the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District came up with a small town initiative to target Delta areas and requested assistance from the Gulf Coast Regional Fugitive Task Force. The task force narrowed the counties to the area that requested assistance the most.

North Mississippi-Operation Triple Beam targeted gang activity in Bolivar, Coahoma, Leflore, Sunflower and Washington counties.

The arrests, revealed this week, culminated a two-month operation by the U.S. Marshals Service and more than 50 federal, state and local law enforcement officers.

Washington County Sheriff Milton Gaston Sr. said he appreciated having the extra manpower. "I don't feel we have a big gang problem, but we have some wannabes."

Gaston said he can't say all the crimes committed by the young people are gang related.

"I'm not saying we don't have gang members," Gaston said.

Indianola Police Chief Tommy Moffett said the operation has been "extremely effective in reducing violent crime" in his city, and he hopes it will continue.

When he became chief a year ago this week, Moffett said, "we had a number of shootings."

But after the Marshals Service "started to put on so much heat as far as constantly tracking down people," crime basically dropped to typical domestic calls and handling juveniles dealing with autos, Moffett said. "You could see a tremendous difference."

Felix said gang activity in the Delta may be a symptom of high unemployment and lack of opportunity.

"Some feel like this (gang activity) is their only hope," Felix said.

Also, gang members know the resources in the Delta are limited, said Ridgeland Police officer Victor Mason, who has studied gangs for more than 20 years.

"There are fewer officers on the streets compared to larger cities, such as Jackson," Mason said. "Then you have to look at jail space."

Mason, a former Jackson police officer and Hinds County sheriff's deputy, said small town police forces have to make choices on whom to lock up, "a gang wannabe" or someone who actually commits a felony."

Mason, who is headed to Belzoni on Tuesday to do a gang-orientation session with medical personnel, said gangs in general are on the rise "all over the state - black gangs as well as white gangs."

He cited as a major factor people "on the wrong side of the law moving to the South to escape justice and where the lifestyle is much slower and calmer.

"There is not much crime in Mississippi as compared to other major cities, so they come here to hide," he said.

He also noted the generation of wannabe gang members is getting younger. "Now we are seeing them in elementary school," he said.

"We have to constantly remind ourselves to think outside the box, but not outside the law."

Among those arrested in the roundup:

•Michael Jordan, 37, of Friars Point, who was wanted for failure to appear on underlying charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Jordan allegedly associates with members of the Gangster Disciples in the Friars Point area. Subsequent to the arrest, authorities said they seized illegal narcotics, $5,820, a stolen vehicle, false identification and five firearms, including a stolen law enforcement weapon.

•Edward Howard, 47, of Clarksdale, on charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a stolen firearm. Howard is an alleged member of the Flying J Motorcycle Gang from Cleveland. When arrested, authorities said he had two firearms, one of which was stolen, $3,400 and four grams of crack cocaine.

•Scottie Abney, 39, of Sunflower, wanted in Sunflower County on aggravated assault and witness intimidation charges. Abney and his uncle allegedly attempted to kill a known government witness, according to court records. When Abney was arrested, he was out on bond for a separate murder case.

•Latavion Perryman, 20, of Clarksdale, who was wanted in Clarksdale on a murder charge. He is an alleged member of the Gangster Disciples.

•Roderick Williams, 24, of Itta Bena, an alleged member of the Vice Lords. Williams was wanted on two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of felon in possession of a firearm, and burglary. He has an extensive record that includes arrests for assault, burglary and weapon offenses. He was in possession of firearms when arrested.

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