Anti-crime initiative succeeds in getting criminals off streets

2222That was the warning several months ago from Steven M. Dettelbach, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, as he launched the 2011 edition of the “Violence — Gun Reduction and Interdiction Program,” or V-GRIP. The anti-crime campaign has been a literal life saver in some parts of the cities of Youngstown and Warren.

Fast forward to Nov. 29, when Dettelbach was back in the Valley to close out the crime-fighting campaign.

“Every single federal and state law enforcement agency involved here demonstrated over and over again that they care only about getting guns and criminals off the streets — not about turf,” the U.S. attorney said.

Joining him at the press conference, during which he revealed that 250 arrests had been made in the two cities, and 147 firearms seized, were representatives of the law enforcement agencies that participated: FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, ATF and DEA, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Adult Parol Authority, Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office and Sheriff’s Department, Youngstown and Warren police departments, Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force and Trumbull County Probation Department.

They and other law enforcement agencies are the key to the success of the V-GRIP program. Without such a concerted effort, the campaign against violent crimes in the two cities would not be as successful as it has been.

To be sure, the homicide rate, especially in Youngstown, is higher than what residents would like, but every arrest made and firearm seized is a positive development.

We have supported V-GRIP, going all the way back to 2003 when the concept of a full-scale war on crime was discussed and mapped out.

Each year, we have applauded the launch of a new campaign, and then have heaped praise on law enforcement at the end of the season.

This year is no different. All the agencies that participated have earned the appreciation of the residents of the Mahoning Valley.

Crucial role

The federal government’s role is crucial because not only does it have the manpower and financial wherewithal to ensure an effective program, but heavier sentencing guidelnes in federal court send a strong message to the criminals.

Although this year’s V-GRIP program has ended, the U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland is working on an anti-gang initiative in Youngstown that includes “Operation Forecast.” It involves the Youngstown Police Department, the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority and social-service providers sharing data to track crime trends.

There are persistent reports of some Valley criminal gangs having Facebook pages through which they communicate with their members. The federal government has the ability to investigate such activity on the Internet.

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