05/05/2007

"Operation Spring Cleaning" nets dozens in Alaska

Plainclothes officers, undercover Feds crack down on violent criminals

By MEGAN HOLLAND
Anchorage Daily News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — More than 75 individuals accused of violent crimes and suspected gang members were arrested in a novel three-day sweep by federal agents and local police seeking to stem an upsurge in street violence, authorities announced Friday.

In what they dubbed “Operation Spring Cleaning,” agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Anchorage Police Department and other state and federal agencies arrested 40 people on felony charges, 35 on misdemeanor charges, and are investigating another 70 people.

They also seized 25 guns and unspecified amounts of cash and cocaine. The raids began April 26 and ended April 28, an ATF official said. “We were attempting to prevent as well as investigate crimes,” said ATF resident agent in charge Brad Earman. “If we can stop something from happening. If we can stop a murder, that’s more successful than bringing a murderer to justice.”

The sweep - several months in preparation - was prompted by the surge in gun violence recently.

“It is alleged there will be trouble this summer,” Earman said. He said one person contacted during the raid said two street gangs “would be going to war this summer.” Following local police policy of not releasing gang names, Earman would not say which ones.

“It is most likely over drugs, turf, social incompatibilities,” he said.

Authorities looked at where crime occurs in Anchorage, where illegal guns are recovered, and put extra officers on the streets in the sweep. Parts of Mountain View, Muldoon, Spenard and Fairview were among the areas hit. Authorities also had a list of people with arrest warrants and tried to hunt down those individuals.

Some of the arrests were made on offenses that took place while officers were patrolling the high crime areas.

There were plainclothes officers, undercover agents and lots of surveillance, Earman said.

Earman said that those arrested were taken in on a variety of charges. “Of the people that were arrested, if you took a look at all the crimes they’ve committed as a whole, that’s a real good chunk of the criminal element that was picked up over those three days,” said police Sgt. Ken McCoy, who heads the robbery and assault unit.

Workers at the state crime lab will test the illegally possessed guns to see if they are linked to any unsolved shootings.

While those arrested were taken in on state charges, Earman said they could still face federal charges, which generally come with harsher penalties. “We will see who is the worst of the worst and go after federal charges,” Earman said.

The operation - not unlike many law enforcement crackdowns - was also about sending a message. “We’re going to have a strong police presence out there (this summer),” McCoy said.

Other law enforcement agencies involved in Operation Spring Cleaning included the U.S. Marshals Service, Alaska State Troopers, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Earman said there will be more crackdowns.


 

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