By John W. Goodwin JR.
State, county and city officials say the Violence, Gun Reduction Interdiction Program is working, and they laid out the confiscated guns to prove it.
Officers and others associated with the
V-GRIP program displayed multiple firearms in Youngstown City Council chambers Wednesday. They included automatic assault weapons, sawed-off shotguns and handguns, some of which included sight scopes.
V-GRIP is a joint crime-fighting offensive of several Valley police departments working with the assistance of federal officials.
Mayor Jay Williams said the guns, drugs and other illicit items seized during the program, which went into effect July 4, shows the program’s immediate success.
Police have seized 41 guns to date and have made 150 arrests in Youngstown in the past two weeks and 350 arrests this month in Warren.
Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for Ohio’s Northern District, said the program also is responsible for four indictments.
“The police have been out looking for the worst of the worst who have sought to bring chaos and fear to the region, and [the police] have been successful,” Dettelbach said. “Those who carry illegal firearms in our community have to be a primary target.”
Those indicted after V-GRIP arrests are Lori Ivey, 41, of Youngstown and Damien T. Russ, 34, of Warren, both for illegally carrying a firearm; Donna L. Kasza, 49, of Youngstown, for possession with the intent to distribute crack cocaine, illegal possession of a firearm and carrying a firearm during a drug trafficking crime; and Melvin E. Johnson, 25, of Youngstown for illegal possession of a firearm.
Police Chief Jimmy Hughes said confiscating the type of guns found during V-GRIP patrols will likely prevent future gun crimes .
“These are quality weapons we have removed from the streets,” Hughes said. “These types of weapons stay in the system and are reused in crimes, so it is very important to get them off the streets.”
Officials said most of the guns will be destroyed but not before they are used as evidence in court against those being charged with crimes. Some of the guns are slated for DNA testing.
Hughes said officers may encounter a situation where a gun is stolen and returned to its original owner, but that has not been the case thus far.